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Engaging ‘hard to reach’ families with young children through music

Article first published on Youth Music Network - click here to read

Download the pdf. version by clicking here

Soundcastle and Creative Futures are two organisations that use music to reach and connect communities. Here we explore our learning from recent projects on how to access and engage families who fall within the often-cited and hugely diverse ‘hard to reach’ category.

Queen's Park Families - gathering drum

Queen's Park Families - gathering drum

What do we mean by ‘hard to reach’?

The National Foundation for Youth Music commissioned a detailed report[i] into Early Years music-making with ‘hard to reach’ families in 2013, which gives a good insight into the wide array of definitions of ‘hard to reach’, ranging from those from specific ethnic or socio-economic groups to those whose voice is not heard or who prefer to remain unheard. It is a term used frequently to categorise groups of the population, often with targeted funding or interventions attached – for example by local authorities or Ofsted.

For arts organisations such as Creative Futures and Soundcastle, ‘hard to reach’ is a broad term too, often meaning different things in the context of different projects. Within both organisations’ Early Years programmes there are multiple definitions, for example families that face barriers to accessing musical and artistic activities, whether financial, linguistic, location based, or to do with the day to day challenges of caring for a large family; families who engage little or not at all with any type of pre-school activity with other children; and families who self-identify with a number of descriptions such as ‘lack of support’, ‘low income’