Music Unlimited was an innovative youth-led enquiry, the first of its kind for Space Unlimited, funded by Creative Scotland’s Youth Music Initiative.

Students from The Royal Blind School and James Gillespie’s High School worked together between June and November 2014. More than 20 students, around half of whom had complex additional support needs, participated in a youth-led enquiry to explore the question:

How can young people with additional support needs access inspiring music-making opportunities in the Community?

All of the students involved in the youth-led enquiry told us that they could access high-quality music-making experiences in their communities. However, in their experience, music-making opportunities for ‘mainstream’ students were offered entirely separately from those for young people with additional support needs. The Space Unlimited project was their first experience of composing and performing music in a much more inclusive way.

The experience proved challenging for everyone involved and at several levels: different school cultures and norms, intra and inter-group dynamics, and differing capabilities and communication styles. Over time, it became clear that young people with additional support needs were bringing skills, learning styles and even attitudes to their music-making that were different from and complementary to those of the young people from mainstream education. As the young people came to recognise and value the differences within the group, the creative experience became richer for everyone.

In their recommendations to an invited audience at the end of the enquiry process, young people from the Royal Blind School called for the development of more youth-led, music-making experiences where very diverse groups of young people can come together to socialise and compose and play music. They envisaged a genuinely inclusive forum, where there is no perceived ‘right’ way of playing and no exclusive entry standard - where the desire to play music is simply the ‘glue’ or the purpose that brings the group together to learn from one another.

The young people envisaged the development of a new community-based, youth-led music-making programme that would be truly inclusive in all its dimensions, building young people’s confidence to participate in music-making activities and simultaneously nurturing relationships that support greater social cohesion in the communities where they live, learn and play.

  • "I think there is an elitism about music – that sheet music is somehow better? There’s still an attitude that if you couldn’t read music you didn’t have as much to offer."

    young person

  • "What is the line between having additional support needs and not? We all feel disabled sometimes?"

    young person