Raw Sounds

Raw Sounds

Raw Material is a music and media education organisation in Brixton, South London

  • UK winner of National Positive Practice Awards for Arts, Mental Health & Wellbeing 2014
  • Arts Council England ‘National Portfolio Organisation’ 2015-2018.
  • Raw Sounds is our programme for people with lived experience, developed since 2011 in collaboration with mental health teams and units of South London & Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLaM). Raw Sounds provides music workshops and performances at our Robsart Street base, in the community and in mental health hospitals. 300 people have or are participating in Raw Sounds.
  • Context:
  • Lambeth is the most unequal borough in London (Runnymede report, 2016).
  • Lambeth Primary Care Trust 2012-13 Annual Report reported approximately 4,000 people with severe mental illness are registered with GPs in Lambeth – nearly three times the national average.
  • 65% of people admitted to the borough’s acute psychiatric wards are from African Caribbean backgrounds - but 20% of the local population.
  • Aims and objectives:
  • Bringing music workshops to those – often detained - in mental health hospitals: to promote their psychological recovery – and reduce their length of hospital stay;
  • Engaging people while in hospital so they come to Raw Sounds at Robsart Street base during their admission, and after discharge. Post-discharge engagement in creative programmes to reduce the risk of social isolation and relapse;
  • Increasing access for people from BME communities with lived experience to creative mental health initiatives;
  • Providing for young people with lived experience - not in education, training or employment – ‘urban’ music programmes which are relevant to their lives and aspirations.

Funding sources: Comic Relief, People’s Health Trust, Lloyds Foundation Trust, Arts Council England, Goldsmiths Company, Garfield Weston Foundation.

Timescale and delivery dates:

Raw Sounds delivers at Robsart Street, three music workshops each week, 36 weeks each year, in three terms. We also hold 12 music workshops a year on hospital wards. In addition, we produce four community music performance events yearly, reaching audiences of 200-300 each.

Description of the arts activity

Raw Sounds is a programme of music workshops for people with lived experience, aged from 16-65. We have high quality mobile music facilities, and our four-story music studios at Robsart Street. Workshops are led by professional musicians and facilitated by peer mentors. Participants gain skills and confidence to play, sing, rap, perform, create and record their own music.


  • Robsart Street: The atmosphere is inclusive, supportive and fun. With five years of experience, the staff have skills to encourage engagement and overcome barriers to participation for those who have faced many challenges and setbacks. We recognise people as unique, diverse and resilient, and teach new creative skills through collaboration, peer leadership and exchange. We have learnt a flexible and – above all – optimistic approach is key. A person’s psychological growth so often amazes once they’ve found their artistic voice.
  • Ward sessions:  These are significant events for the patients living on often challenging wards. Bringing music in often creates a party, with barriers between staff and patients lowered as people dance together. They serve as a bridge to recruit people to attend Robsart Street while in hospital, and to continue after discharge. 70% of participants at Robsart Street are from BME backgrounds, and 40% are under 30.

Details of the project participants

We work closely with Lambeth and Maudsley hospitals, and across SLaM. Referral by ward staff, attendance to Robsart Street from the wards and referrals from Community Mental Health Teams are our entry points. With such good working relations with the local mental health provider, SLaM, we are accessible to our target population, local people with lived experience. Our Patron, Dr David O’Flynn is a senior Consultant Psychiatrist at Lambeth Hospital.

Mental health professionals send referral forms with to Raw Sounds. New referrals visit for an introduction, a tour and an assessment. We receive a high volume of referrals:  currently we have a waiting list of 30.

Project management

Raw Material Music & Media Education Ltd: Charity no. 1020066.
Audited accounts submitted annually.

Raw Sounds had two project managers (job-share), who liaise with SLaM staff, organise the programme schedules and staff, manage assessments, and work with the finance officer on project budget. They report to Raw Material CEO, Mr Tim Brown. The managers meet for monthly supervision with Consultant Psychiatrist, David O’Flynn.

Evaluation methods and findings

Raw Sounds created a monitoring and evaluation framework in collaboration with researchers from the Institute of Psychiatry’s ‘Health Inequalities Research Network’, and Challenging Circumstances Music Network. Reports are complied every six months - with an annual report published. Data extracted from last interim report:

Outcome indicator  Progress, 6 months to April 2016
No of participants readmitted to hospital after community discharge  4% of participants readmitted.
No of referrals making the transition out of hospital to living in the community 75 people referred – yet to monitored how many were inpatients at time of referral.
Level of engagement with staff and other participants 71% reported increase in their social confidence.
70% surveyed increase in confidence in group work.
Increased no of support networks 90% could name 3 places for mental health support.
No of young people attending mainstream activities 65% regularly attending, engaging in a mainstream activity. 12 young people are working towards a qualification.
Ability to identify new skills learnt 100% named 3 new skills learnt.
Partner organisations Tate Britain, Tate Modern’s Young People’s Programmes, Amy Winehouse Foundation and  Creative Society.


  • CCMN, March 2016: Training for music teachers working in mental health settings,
  • AESOP, January 2016: First national Arts in Health Celebration and Showcase.



Supported using public funding by the Arts Council England