Pure M chats to… IYMA Director Barry Lennon

Youth Work Ireland’s Irish Youth Music Awards (IYMAs) marks its ten-year anniversary this year and returns this year to Croke Park for its all ages National Day festival on Saturday April 22, 2017. The Irish Youth Music Awards will feature performances by young musicians, aged 12-19, performing across two stages throughout the day and connects ticket holders, and performers, with Ireland’s top music industry personnel at the IYMAs Education Hub via workshops and panels.  We spoke with Barry Lennon, director of the IYMA about this weekend’s event:

Tell me about the awards: How did they come about and what have you achieved in the last 10 years?

The Irish Youth Music Awards (IYMAs) is an all island youth music educational programme run by Youth Work Ireland we work with young people through our member youth services, clubs and projects and we partner with other youth services like Youth Action Northern Ireland in the north and work with Crosscare and CDYSB in the south to try reach and support as many young people as we can.

The IYMAs happens in youth clubs and services across Ireland, each region holds a local live selection event and chooses an act and original song to represent their region at the National event which is happening in Croke Park this year on April 22nd. All the other regional performers then form a team around the representing act, and learn a range of new skills such as recording, marketing, social media and public relations they must set up a Facebook page to post evidence of their work.

The idea behind the programme is to teach young people skills around the creative and music industries as well as creating a space for young and up and coming bands. Through the programme we have direct links to the creative and music industries through our partners IMRO, Music Maker, Linkedin and this year we have a media partnership with RTE 2FM who will be broadcasting live from the day. We also launched a musical support bursary this year with our partners BIMM Institute Dublin. This is for young people that participate in our programme and then get accepted to a full-time course in the college.

Each year one region is selected based on team work and performance at the National event which is judged by an industry mentor panel which this year includes Mark Crossingham MD of Universal Music Ireland, Niall Byrne of Nialler9, Lorraine Boshell of IMRO Ireland and IYMAs recipient act 2015 Jake McArdle.

Last year’s IYMAs album which was physical and digitally released entering the Irish compilation charts at number 5 and featured nine original tracks. Acts we have worked with have gone on to support The Strypes, Little Green Cars and we have provided a space to support their development on this journey.

The programme was set up as a need was identified to establish an all island youth music education programme which has grown and evolved significantly over the last few years with this year being our biggest yet.

The National Day in Croke Park is an all ages event and is a celebration of the work that has gone over the previous year through our regional events in our IYMAs hubs as well as being a large youth music festival which is all ages. We will have two stages of up and coming acts playing throughout the day and a large education hub to support attendees learn news skill with a selection of top industry professionals.

Tickets for the event can be got from www.iymas.ie and those attending can sign up to workshops on arrival and visit our market place with information about the creative and music industry as well as seeing lots of great up and coming bands.

How does the nomination process work and who ends up deciding on the winner?

We host regional events in youth clubs and services across Ireland each region holds a local live selection event which is a gig where each act performing must perform one original song. After this event an act and original song to represent their region at the National day is selected. This selection process is overseen by myself and involves the acts deciding via a private vote who they put forward as the songwriter and performing act then these two acts work together to adapt the original song to the style of the representing act which teaches young people collaboration and song writing skills.

All the young people that perform at the regional event then form a team and take on a selection of jobs including PR, Stage management tasks and recording and must take on set tasks around these jobs such as making a music video, writing a press release or recording the song of their representing act. Evidence of this work is posted on a Facebook page they set up for the programme and fifty per cent of the marks of the programme are based on this work and the other fifty per cent is given by a mentor panel on the day who watch all the acts and vote in private this year these panel includes Mark Crossingham MD of Universal Music Ireland, Niall Byrne of Nialler9, Lorraine Boshell of IMRO Ireland and IYMAs recipient act 2015 Jake McArdle.

We also have a second award on the day which is the songwriter award and this is entirely decided on by our mentor panel and the awardee gets the opportunity to record one track on the IYMAs album which we produce during the summer in a professional studio.

Have you a contingency plan in case of any Oscars-style foul up when announcing a winner?

Ha, we are working on this at the moment.

It must be very satisfying to watch young musicians flourish. What has your proudest moment been so far?

Yes, its brilliant I think we have such a rich music scene in Ireland and we got to provide more supports like this programme and further support existing programme to create spaces for young people to nourish these skills as I believe music is a very important tool for self-expression, empowerment and is generally a lot of fun as well as being a vital cultural export and benefit to the economy.

I think the proudest moment is getting to travel around Ireland meeting so many talented and passionate musicians and having the opportunity to support their enthusiasm. It was also brilliant to get last year’s IYMAs album into the Irish compilation charts at number five last year.

From feedback you have received, what is the main thing that performers take away from your show?

As it’s a yearlong process to get to the final event there is so much and the feedback is so diverse. It’s great to see JANAJ who were the recipient act last year now be at the point where they are releasing their debut EP just days before our event in Croke Park which they will be playing at. They also have invited an act from Newry called Ariel to support them at their launch in Galway who they met at the National event last year.

The feedback is so diverse from each young person but the main things are confidence, knowledge of the music and creative industry’s and getting the opportunity to meet other like-minded people their own age which has led to exciting collaborations and provide the building blocks of developing networks for these new bands.

What is the state of the current music scene in your opinion?

I think it’s healthy but the hard thing is spaces for young bands as the focal point of live music is usually bars or venues which are generally over eighteen so I see this as a difficultly for young performers we work with but it’s nice to see them using the IYMAs hubs and spaces to create their own scenes and nights which they are in control of.

What makes certain music “good”?

I think everyone’s interpretation of making music good is entirely different for me its general two things seeing an act perform and when they walk off stage wanting more or listening to a track or album and hitting play again as soon as the last note fades away.

Personally, who would your favourite musicans be?

I can never lock down one act or acts as I listen to everything and constantly try find new music from hip hop to rock to electronic to everything in between really.

And are there any musicians/genres that you “just don’t get”?

There definitely is, but for the sake of diplomacy I will just have to say “no comment”.

What can people expect to see when they attend the award show?

A great opportunity to see some brilliant musicians from across all of Ireland across our two stages and I think attendees will have a great time visiting and attending our Education Hub which features an industry panel with Director of Music Content at RTE 2FM Alan Swan, BIMM tutors Mick Roe, Artist and Label manager at Faction Records (All Tvvins, James Vincent Mc Morrow and Jape), Liza Geddes, Music Publicist for Choice Music Awards, Domino Records and Hard Working Class heros, James Byrne, founder of the label Any Other City (Girl band and Villagers) and Paul Kenny (Session drummer who has played on Jools Holland, The Sydney Opera House and Coachella festival).

We will also have workshops for individual musical disciplines throughout the days these include a drum workshop with Paul Kenny, who has toured with James Vincent McMorrow, Jape, and German band Get Well Soon. Danny Snow, who has toured extensively all over the world with Villagers and Cathy Davey, will be offering a bass workshop. Vocal workshops are courtesy of Shelley Bukspan who has collaborated with and arranged backing vocals for artists such as Mary Black, Bronagh Gallagher and many indie and contemporary young Irish acts. Ray Boyle who has collaborated and played with a broad range of artists, including Baby shambles, Suede and the virtuoso violinist Cora Venus Lunny will be hosting a guitar workshop. Colm Quearney will be hosting a Songwriting Workshop, Colm has co-written songs with Jerry Fish, The Pale and Bronagh Gallagher as well as performing as a session guitarist with Cathy Davey, Damien Dempsey and Mundy.

We are also very excited to have RTE 2FM broadcast from the day.

Tickets are available via Eventbrite here or at www.iymas.ie