Music studios open doors to kids affected by gang violence in a nation-wide contest

Peace Mix is a new lottery-funded initiative giving vulnerable kids access to studio time across the country in a series of regional heats.


Words by: Ruth Saxelby

Hinging on the simple universal truth that music brings people together, Peace Mix is a new initiative to give vulnerable kids in communities fraught with gang violence the chance to express themselves through music.

Thanks to lottery funding, studios across the UK will be reaching out to even more young people this summer, providing crucial access to “positive creative spaces” and giving them routes in to pursuing a career in music.

“At each studio, Peace Mix will find the finest new music talent – by giving local acts the chance to record their own peace song and show off live to our VIP audience,” explains the press release. “One winner from each local studio will then play our regional Peace Mix Play Off final at Cornwall’s Eden Project on 16 August – where bands, soloists and MCs will tussle to win a spot supporting our special guest headliner at the Peace Mix Presents finale, held at London’s Roundhouse on August 28.”

The seed of the idea for Peace Mix came from Birmingham-based collective New Day Foundation. Set up by former gang members, its goal is to tackle gang violence and help change attitudes.

“We’re very excited to be part of Peace Mix and to be promoting the studios and facilities as a way of uniting young people and giving them access to new opportunities,” says Sharif Cousins, founding member of New Day Foundation and a former gang member. “I’m personally passionate about peace, to make a change, not just in my community, but across the country, and ‘remix’ public opinion – changing people’s view, and stopping conflict. But ultimately my main goal is to stop as many people going to prison as I can – I’ve been in prison six to seven times, and want to save people from going down that road.”

Sharif’s cousin and fellow NDF co-founder Uanjuma Joseph Thompson is clear on the difference they can make: “The biggest misconception about kids in gangs is that they are bad kids. They’re loving and caring: you give them a hug and you’ll feel the intensity and love from them. Inside of the circles they’re involved in you’ll see that clearly – but outside of that you won’t even glimpse it. They’re on the other side of a wall – impenetrable. NDF wants to show these kids that you can still be strong and be part of a team, part of a family. But you can also part of something good and positive – which is just as entertaining and rewarding as being in a gang. You can still make money and express yourself.”

Noisettes singer Shingai Shoniwa is helping to front the campaign: “I’m so happy to be here supporting Peace Mix because it is helping to give young people surrounded by negative environments a positive space to grow their talent,” she says. “It gives people the time to think and be creative and become the next generation of music.”

Find out more about Peace Mix and how you get get involved.