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Tonight, we will fill The O2 for the 77th time

Young Voices CEO Ben Lewis invites the industry to join the world's biggest children's choir on its most ambitious year yet

18 Jan 2024

To mark the launch of the Young Voices’ 2024 programme, the world’s biggest children’s choir’s CEO Ben Lewis explains the critical need to engage young people in music from early on and invites the industry to join the UK organisation on its most ambitious year yet…

Following the busy festive season of events, celebrations and year end reflections, January is typically considered a quieter period for the live music sector. But not for Young Voices. Tonight, we will fill The O2 for the 77th time, with 9,000 primary school pupils coming together to sing under the roof of one of the world’s most iconic arenas. In doing so, we will be helping to generate the stars, fans and creative workforce of the future.

As the world’s largest schools’ choir, with no fewer than four Guinness World Records and the keys to The O2 (a rare honour held exclusively by just seven other acts, including Prince, Drake and Take That, to mark the milestone of 21 performances at the arena), Young Voices has engaged 2.5 million young people over the last 28 years and captivated audiences of 2.3 million in the UK and internationally.

Our core commitment is to introduce children to music early on in their lives and provide unique opportunities for youngsters to perform in world famous venues – which they have the power to sell out alongside some of the biggest stars on the globe – gaining invaluable stage experience and confidence, which they carry into their teenage years and beyond. For many, it is their first opportunity to sing, their first experience of a concert and their first performance in public.

Over the years, many household names have joined our young people on stage, from Gary Barlow, Tony Hadley and Alexandra Burke to Joss Stone, Katie Melua and Katherine Jenkins. One Young Voicer you might be familiar with, Ruti Olajugbagbe, went on some years later to be crowned winner of The Voice UK. This week Ruti was part of our announcement of a team of new ambassadors – the BPI’s YolanDa Brown OBE, AEG’s Emma Bownes, and Ivors Academy board director, Anna Phoebe – who are lending their support to the Young Voices mission to give young people access to music in their formative years, recognising that waiting until the point of GCSE selection is simply too late.

“We invite the live music sector to support Young Voices by providing access to more performance spaces across the country for our choirs”

In 2024 Young Voices will embark on our most ambitious programme yet, with 30 concerts planned across the UK and three across New York, giving 200,000 young people (including 700 new schools) the opportunity to experience the benefits that music can bring. We will ignite passion, excitement and enthusiasm in young people, empowering teachers to be champions and allies for creative subjects while planting seeds of ambition in the stars of the future who will go on to fill our arenas, top our charts, and preserve the UK’s position as a world leader in music. At Young Voices, we may not be A&R executives, but we are developing talent, feeding the pipeline and initiating the journey that many of our future stars will go on.

Our approach is a sustainable, self-sufficient model for the future of music in the UK that comes with social value at the heart of it. Research published today shows that our 2023 programme, which saw 175,000 children from 4,000 UK primary schools take part, delivered an almost 6x return in economic impact across the host cities of Birmingham, London, Manchester, and Sheffield. It generated more than 33x social return, resulting in increased confidence and skills and improved wellbeing – not just in the children, but also in their teachers, parents and caregivers – underscoring the tangible outcomes of our efforts.

A good result, but we can be bolder. And that’s where the music industry can play its part.

I hope that 2024 will be the year where we can strengthen our relationships with the music industry and work collaboratively to protect and preserve the UK’s defining status as a musical nation. To realise our ambitions, we invite record labels and managers – along with their artists – to join us in engaging with schools to inspire new generations of performers and professionals; we invite writers, composers and publishers to explore with us how we can streamline and simplify access to musical works in education, ensuring the value of music is upheld and respected; and we invite the live music sector to support Young Voices by providing access to more performance spaces across the country for our choirs.

As an industry, we can work collaboratively to give children more confidence and routes into the creative jobs of the future as well as inspiring generations of audiences and music lovers. The foundations we lay now will build the music industry they inherit in the future.


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