We interviewed Mark Pollock, the founder of Agitate Music, a new initiative that supports young homeless people to gain experience of the music industry. Their first session, at the end of 2017, supported two young women, Sarah Browne-Emile and Luisa Phillips (‘Dutch S’) who wrote and recorded their own songs alongside Joe Fox, who recently toured with ASAP Rocky.
What inspired you to start Agitate Music?
Agitate stemmed from my time managing a hostel for young people in Islington. Our young people faced real hardships and creative arts often fell down the priority list. As a hobby musician, I would bring my guitar into the hostel and encourage the young people to learn a few chords and write songs. Once I heard some of the talent that the young people had been hiding, I realised that they needed to be heard by the music industry. The project hopes to give young homeless musicians the time, space, and networks to develop their careers in a way that would normally only be afforded to people from much more privileged backgrounds.
What do young people gain from the project?
I think what separates our project from similar initiatives is that we have a real connection to the industry. I’ve worked in collaboration with key industry figures, professional musicians and marketing experts to shape the project and give young people a viable route into recording and releasing their first tracks. With our ‘agitate sessions’ young people have the chance to write and record a track with a famous musician all in the space of a day. All of our young people are also referred to our mentoring scheme, where a successful person from the industry will be able to help answer their questions and guide them through what can be an intimidating and precarious business.
You launched just one month ago, what was the first session like?
The first session was brilliant. Two of our young people were given the chance to work with Joe Fox, an incredibly talented artist who had just returned from a world tour with ASAP Rocky. Watching the group bounce ideas off one another was a real privilege. I know from speaking to Joe afterwards that he was really impressed with the sheer creativity our two girls brought to the table. A professional film of the day will be released shortly along with the audio track of the song they recorded.
Why is a project like this important?
I know from working in the hostel system that there is a lot of negativity in the way we support young people. Support staff and social workers have to push their young people into full-time work and education, as this is the most conventional way with which to gain independence. However, this means that creativity is often overlooked, as there is simply no time or budget to nurture it. We want to instil a belief in our young people that they can and will make a living doing things they genuinely want to do.