Despite lockdown Beatroute Arts are keeping a community connected. The pioneering charity in Balornock, North Glasgow provides a wide range of arts and holistic activities for its community which are developed in direct response to local need. Founded in 1990 within the ten per cent most disadvantaged regions in Scotland, Beatroute started by providing music lessons for young people. The unique participant led approach has been the backbone of the charity’s success and also the key to the transformative results as young participants gain so much more than music skills. Assistant Director, Daniella Kidd, spoke with The Fountain about their adapted approach.

TF: You continue your good work, how have you found moving the classes online?

Initially it was really challenging and a steep learning curve. Our team reached out to all of our members to work out who needed help in getting online and from there we applied to various funding streams to ensure that anyone who wanted to engage but didn’t have a device or internet connection was provided with one. There was lots of logistical ‘back room’ work that took place, looking at what platforms we should use to deliver activities or how our safeguarding policy should be adapted to ensure that everyone was being kept safe online. From an activities perspective, our freelance staff were amazing at quickly finding their feet teaching remotely and continuing to provide a high quality experience for our members. It was a huge team effort that has really paid off. 

TF: What are the key challenges that you face from doing it this way?

As a community-led organisation, we are used to working face to face with our members so moving into lockdown and bringing our services online felt really alien. I would say the main challenge has been on the technology side of things – for many of our older participants this is the first time they have used platforms such as Zoom or tablets and other tech so this was a huge barrier to overcome but with the help of our staff they are really thriving in the online environment. Many of our low income families have needed support to get online and we’ve been delighted to provide devices and mobile wifi dongles to those that need them. The pandemic has really shone a light on the digital divide and we hope that the Government will ensure that the work in closing this gap continues long after we find ourselves out of this current situation.

TF: It’s fantastic that you can move it all online, what success stories have you encountered so far? 

In a general sense, getting people online and connecting individuals, many of whom are isolated, has been incredibly rewarding. We had to adapt the timetabling of our activities when we went online which has meant that members now get longer one to one lessons. The development in our members skills as a result has been incredible- they’ve been coming on leaps and bounds! One of our yogis recently commented:

‘ We really need this group, it’s so important that it was all set up so fast because it’s a weekly reset-be it family, work, the stress of not being able to leave the house-to start and finish the week with yoga is hugely beneficial. Beatroute should be proud of the goodness it has brought to our lives’

TF: What is your plan for the remainder of the year, remain virtual or do you see that in real person classes will happen again soon?

We are currently working on scenario planning for our return to the building and are doing so in line with Government recommendations. We’re also consulting with our members about what their concerns are returning to the building so that we are taking everything into consideration in order to take responsible next steps. We’re also keen to hear our members’ suggestions when it comes to returning to the centre….our main priority is the safety of our members, staff and volunteers so even though we are all desperate to return to the building we will only do so when it’s absolutely safe. 

The current situation has definitely opened our eyes to the prospect of delivering elements of our programme online and by doing so ensuring that we continue to engage with people who for whatever reason can’t leave their homes, and to open our services up to those who don’t live in our local community. There is definitely scope for the online element of our services to continue and develop which, given current circumstances, has turned out to be completely vital.