Neil Phillimore is the founder of BIRD, an Islington based charity providing one-to-one musical mentoring for 16-25 year-olds. His vision is to use creative processes as a way of building relationships with young adults and helping to develop their self-esteem and well-being.
“The idea for BIRD had been building in my mind for some time. Then, one day whilst on a decorating job, there I was rolling the walls and it suddenly hit me like an air bag. Creativity can be a catalyst for self-discovery and growth,” he says.
Neil has been writing and recording music his whole life and has a diploma in sound engineering. His mentor sessions use these skills to explore the four key tenets of BIRD – Brilliance, Integrity, Relationship and Delight. These ideas are used to inspire young people’s creative output, helping them to make music that reflects different aspects of their personal lives.
The charity has been operating since 2015 and now has a working model that Neil hopes to expand across London. Talented young people are referred to BIRD by partner organisations and receive 24 mentoring sessions, giving them the opportunity to work in a professional studio.
“Because our sessions are one-to-one, we can only work with a small number of young people at a time. So we work with referring partners, who can identify those with talent who are going to benefit the most from individual mentoring and who might not otherwise have access to professional equipment,” Neil says.
The young people take the lead and decide what they want to focus on for each of the two and a half hour sessions. Neil takes on a producer role, perhaps helping to structure a song or providing musical accompaniment.
“It’s really important that the young people have the chance to control their own art, but still have access to a professional recording setup,” Neil says. “They often can’t believe that the opportunity is there for them to come to the studio, have a session and experiment. They learn a lot from that, but it’s something they couldn’t afford to do in a commercial studio.”
Once they have completed the mentoring scheme, young people are equipped with a portfolio of work, as well as having developed confidence in themselves and their music. Neil has recently recruited professional actress Suzanna Hamilton who will be mentoring young actors and actresses. He has plans to offer mentoring in creative writing, filmmaking and stand-up comedy in the near future.
There are loads of ways you can support BIRD, including donating, volunteering or referring a young person.
To find out more, visit their website.