[REVIEW] Songwriting Workshops (Hatfield and Stevenage)

girl writing

Workshop Leader Suzi Bowden shares her review on her songwriting workshops at Stevenage Music Centre.

Last October half term I co-ran two workshops showing young people to come along write, record and perform a song in one day. The groups were quite large with about 25 young people per workshop, with an age range of 8-18.

Fostering ideas with young people

Challenging aspects of the session were combating ‘writers block’ brought on by the insecurities of the individual or a lack of knowledge as to where to start. However, this is easily combatted by having some appropriate resources, such as a page of popular idioms, to hand to start things off. Really important to these sessions is how we present ourselves and build relationships with the young people. The best approach I have found is through being gentle, interested, validating and having an easy manner when communicating. Plus a bit of good humour! Treating each young person as an individual – with specific interests, needs and ways of working. This promotes creativity.  

For us as leaders and for the students it’s important to understand the group’s dynamics and strengths and weaknesses. The most important skill we try to promote to the students is listening and that the contribution of each member is valued. We try and reinforce these skills in how we interact with groups as well. However, with younger members it can be tricky to monitor what happens when we are not around! It was delightful to see students writing some truly interesting lyrics and being proud of what they had written. The emphasis was put on the use of idioms, metaphors and generally interesting wording and the use of a thesaurus on day two seemed invaluable.

“Songwriting allows students to delve into and expand their current understanding and perception of music as a whole”

Another brilliant moment was when we saw a greater understanding of more advanced song components and seeing that come through in the end product e.g including a middle 8 or pre chorus, 7th chords etc. Some of the best memories of the sessions were seeing those students who had demonstrated a real anxiety about performing or singing in front of the group, go on to perform. I believe this was achieved by encouraging the participants to talk about their anxieties and share thoughts on how to combats nerves and techniques to help performance. Songwriting allows students to delve into and expand their current understanding and perception of music as a whole. It allows for strengthening of identity, emotional expression, and development of self-esteem – setting small, supported goals can leads gently to genuinely big achievements! The workshops were filmed for MusicNet East by Light Gap Productions – watch below!


For more information on HMS’ Songwriter programme, click here.

Changing Tracks is a programme of peer support and learning for and with music services wanting to improve equality, diversity and inclusion. It is run by Hertfordshire Music Service and funded by Youth Music as part of the Alliance for a Musically Inclusive England. It was previously called MusicNet East. We help music services to be more inclusive by providing a peer network facilitated by Music Mark, funding for action research, support and challenge, advice and resources.

Find out more about us, or check out the other resources and blogs on this site for more help for music services, or visit the AMIE Musical Inclusion Resource Hub for more inclusion tools and guidance, blogs, videos, and case studies, to help you break down barriers to music-making.

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