A Dosoco grant in 2015 enabled Cambridge Community Arts to expand its range of courses for adult learners to include guitar lessons. To date 60 people have benefited from the opportunity, with the grant supporting two of Dosoco’s key aims – music access and music education. In our first 'insider' case study, we take a look at the brilliant work that CCA carries out, and how our funding has helped.
About Cambridge Community Arts
A not for profit company limited by guarantee, Cambridge Community Arts (CCA) offers a programme of accredited and non-accredited courses across the arts, including visual (drawing and painting, photography); performing (drama); and music, including music production.
The organisation is underpinned by the belief that being creative improves well-being, so it provides an accessible, affordable and safe environment where people can explore their creativity. Courses are open to everyone; however, the majority of learners are adults with experience of mental ill-health. They may also be people with addictions, physical or learning disabilities, or experience of homelessness – some participants are people at risk of social exclusion.
Learners are often signposted by Cambridge and Peterborough Foundation Trust Mental Health services and other third sector organisations that recognise the benefits of getting creative. So far (since starting in 2014) CCA has worked with more than 300 people. As well as courses, the organisation supports former learners to set up and run ongoing clubs to maintain their creativity.
To date all courses have taken place in Cambridge, where they are run in community centres including Arbury, Buchan Street, the Meadows, Norfolk Street Community Room and St Philips Church Centre.
On the accredited programme, almost all learners receive means-tested benefits, which enables CCA to access adult learning funding through its partnership with Cambridge Regional College (CRC). The non accredited programme is funded variously by grants, for example from the city and county councils, and more recently via a partnership with the WEA (Workers Education Association).
Seeking to improve and expand its offering, CCA applied to the Dosoco Foundation to meet a specific need – namely, to purchase instruments so that the organisation could provide guitar tuition for beginners.
CCA used the Dosoco grant to purchase eight guitars in 2015. It has since run several beginner guitar courses.
“It gave me a kick-start back into life.” - Learner, Beginners’ Guitar 2015
The initial beginners’ course attracted nine learners, but the guitars have been used by more than 70 people now. CCA’s Beth McCabe says: “We ran several beginners’ guitar courses and they have proved immensely popular. Because private music lessons are so expensive, it's brilliant for people to be able to access lessons at marginal cost – the most anyone paid for eight weeks' tuition was £25.
“The courses have attracted a really wide range of people with different motivations, including a man of pension age who wanted to learn guitar so he could teach his grandson.
“Whatever the background, the outcomes are very similar. As well as learning the guitar, the courses improve confidence and enable participants to meet new people.
“For a lot of those we work with, it's as much about the social aspects as the actual learning. We are not a mental health organisation, but we are supportive and understand the challenges faced by people with mental health conditions.
“We provide a safe and supportive environment where people can be creative, but it is never a ‘mental health’ art group; it's about the music, the drama or the drawing. What comes out can be beautiful and lovely but for us it is the process – the outcome is a bonus. Doing the thing and what you get from the doing is more important.”
Says Beth: “The really fantastic thing the Dosoco grant allowed us to do was to offer a former learner the opportunity to teach for us. He took Music Production in 2014 and it turned out he was an amazing guitar player. We encouraged him to take a Level 3 teaching qualification. After volunteering with some of our music groups and benefiting from some mentoring by some of our other music teachers, he went on to teach beginners’ guitar and is now teaching our accredited music course!
“All our tutors are active artists as well as teachers. Putting practising musicians or visual artists in front of learners adds an extra layer; it helps to inspire and encourage people.
“All courses are supported by both a tutor and a volunteer, and we have several courses where prior learners have now come back and volunteered. Another former learner also volunteered on the Dosoco guitar course.”
Making a difference
“The Dosoco grant has meant masses to us. It has helped us reach people we wouldn’t otherwise have been able to reach. What’s really great is Dosoco didn’t make us jump through hoops of fire – applying for the grant was an easy process. In this sector you feel like you can spend your whole life filling in forms and evaluating things, which can be off-putting, even though we know it is important.
“It’s great to know that there is another organisation that believes the same thing we do – that music and creativity improve well-being. So let’s help more people.”