The Amy Winehouse Foundation celebrates its five-year anniversary today (September 14), on what would have also been the late singer’s 33rd birthday (which is in turn being celebrated at Camden Market with food and live music). One of the Foundation’s arms, Amy’s Yard, is a 12-week programme that provides vulnerable 18 to 25-year-old artists with the skills to become self-sustaining musicians, and the participants – who are dealing with a variety of issues such as homelessness, mental health, unemployment or substance misuse – leave the course as self-sufficient artists. NME spoke to two graduates of the programme.
Kenan Kián, 19
“I’ve just finished the programme. I was referred by the Roundhouse – I did a six-week course with them called On Track and after that they were suggesting things we could do after, so I applied. The programme was really eye-opening to things in the industry. Before I went on the course I wasn’t thinking of being an artist business-wise, I was just thinking ‘Oh I’m gonna do this and maybe this will happen’. Being on the course has made me think about how I want to integrate myself as an artist and how I want to portray myself to people that are going to see me perform. It’s made me think business-wise as well as artistry-wise.
“We went around London going to masterclasses. They taught us how we can earn money from the tracks we make, how copyright works, just giving us an insight into what the industry is like, if we pursued it as a career. It was really fun. We also had vocal lessons, and we learnt about recording. Throughout the whole 12 weeks we were in the studio writing and coming up with our own original sounds. We ended up performing that in the last week and it was absolutely amazing.
“I’m from Windsor and I recently moved into London. It was really fun to travel around London and get to see the city as well as going to these masterclasses. I’m now working on a project called Static and hopefully in October I’m going to release something but that’s going to be a taster, so it’ll be for free, a Soundcloud thing, to let people know that I’m doing stuff and this is legit, I’m taking it seriously.”
Shamus Sigola, 22
“I’ve always been musical but I wasn’t too confident as an artist. I found out about Amy’s Yard through a referral by my youth team – social workers in Islington. They felt that music would help me as a pastime with the difficulties I was facing at the time with not having a day-to-day – not being in education, not having a job.
“It was a rescue, really because it opened up my eyes to the fact that I can do music and I’m very good at it. I can sing, and at that stage I couldn’t. Since then I can’t look back, and it’s all thanks to Amy because she’s left a legacy which helps people feel better about themselves for free and have an experience that actually does cost a lot of money.
“I finished the programme three months ago and since then I’ve joined D/A Music group, it’s a platform which gets my music out there. They promote my music for me and put it on YouTube. I’m currently recording there, I’ve done a recording contract with them. I’ve been able to do composition as well. Before I was just singing on other people’s instrumentals. In the course I had to feel like the pressure is on to make my own original music and I’m doing that right now. It’s all my song and my vocals. That’s credit to Amy Winehouse and her legacy that I was pushed and pushed.
“On the programme we learnt about the logistics of the music industry, how artists get misguided if they think it’s all music and nothing to do with money. You need to be aware of certain things and have certain things in place. My favourite part of the programme was performing at the end in front of Amy’s mum and all the people that respect Amy. It just reflected that I can do what I’m trying to do, I can push through and find a way. It was a hurdle I overcame that day.”
Check out more tributes from participants and workers at the Amy Winehouse Foundation below in these photos by Jordan Hughes: