Express & Star

Wolverhampton's Beatsabar Studios want to help their community further - unsigned column

The slogan 'music is the answer' has been repeated countless times over the years as an act of defiance to many problematic situations.

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John Paul, far left, and some of those benefitting from using Beatsabar Studios

But for John Paul, of Wolverhampton-based music studio Beatsabar, it really could be for so many of the city's disaffected youth and those struggling with disability, mental health issues and loneliness.

"We want more schools and companies getting involved and helping back and use our services," the 36-year-old director and CEO of the studio and foster parent says. "We need more studio space so that we can grow and provide more services for the community. I have a passion for the creative arts as I've always been in them and for business.

"I just want to push Beatsabar out there as much as I can and make it better."

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The small studio is based in the Newhampton Arts Centre on Dunkley Street and operates as a Community Interest Company, or CIC. They rely on grants, donations and backing from businesses and other benefactors impressed by what they do. As a result of their set-up, they have to offer voluntary services for those around them and put money back into the community. And this is something Paul is more than happy to do.

He was working for the Express & Star at the time in advertising, selling adverts in The Ticket, the predecessor to current entertainments pull-out What's On. But on the side he was running an even smaller studio trying to make a difference, until one day Beatsabar rang to place an advert with the paper.

"I was taking calls away from my desk and I realised I had to make the jump and do this full-time," he recalls. "Then Beatsabar called looking to advertise. And they also needed an engineer."

Paul had for a while been working with Dominic Laird, an MC, DJ and producer, in his current venture - so put him forward for the Beatsabar role.

"It was based in Bilston but wanted to move so we drew up a business plan, approached the landlord at Newhampton Arts Centre and pitched to them in March 2014."

They were accepted, and Paul, Laird and the founding Beatsabar director Mitch Crane moved to their new home.

The Mayor of Wolverhampton, Councillor Claire Darke, gets stuck in on the drums during the recent Beatsabar Studios open day at Newhampton Arts Centre

From there they have gone from strength to strength. And although Laird is leaving his role as a director with Beatsabar's blessing to set up his own commercial studio they are on the one hand happy with what they are currently providing, but on the other eager to do more.

"There's so much we do," Paul adds. "We help out kids with disabilities, there's a group in here as we speak banging drums and making a lot of noise, having a great time.

"I get such job satisfaction working this way. The guys we help often come from disadvantaged backgrounds and we want to show them what is out there. Moving forward, we can work as a sort of 'feeder club', to liken it to football. We can bring them in, get them ready and then push them towards Dom's studio to get their music out there commercially.

"We offer bespoke and tailored workshops to all abilities. We've got a new starter today, a kid who's in trouble at school. They're helping provide six weeks of lessons towards music production so he gets to try his hand at everything and even produce his own song. The idea is he has to stick at it and see it through and prove people wrong.

"We help people with mental health issues such as SNAIL - sadness, neglect, anxiety, insecurity and loneliness - helping them to value themselves. It's a successful project, but again we really need to find more funding for it.

Co-director Mitch Crane, from Wolverhampton, in the Beatsabar studio

"And then there's another idea I had, Music Business 101," he adds - the last of these having happened at the end of January. "It's a networking event explaining to anybody whose interested how the industry works and where they can get what they need. We don't only want to take money off people, we want to help people learn about the business.

"We started up cyphers and open mics as a networking opportunity. We've got the Beatsabar Presents events giving live performance opportunities.

"We also had our own radio show on WCR.FM to play the music of artists who either have come through the studio or are just from the wider Wolverhampton community. You can still get those shows on either YouTube or Spotify.

"And now we've started our own podcast too, with episode one out recently and already hitting 1,000 streams."

They also hosted their latest annual open day on February 7 to promote themselves to the community. As well as "50 or 60" people coming through the doors they also had the Mayor of Wolverhampton Councillor Claire Darke and new Wolverhampton South West MP Stuart Anderson drop in to show support for them from the city council who help them out with grants applications and point them in the direction of funds.

Last summer's Beatsabar Music project's Music Business 101 event at Newhampton Arts Centre

It's a dream that continues to come true for Paul, who arrived in Wolverhampton aged 18 with his parents. Born in Dallas, Texas, he had also lived in London before settling in the Black Country, taking a business management course at Bilston College. Religion is also a big part of his life, and he attends the New Life Fellowship Church on the corner of Broad Street and Alice Street every Sunday and Wednesday where he also helps out youth groups.

But he is keen to point out this isn't his story. And with the city's help, more of its youngsters can benefit from the Beatsabar experience.

"It's all about the Beatsabar brand," he adds. "More people need to know about us. More people need to know about what we are doing. Who wants to work with us?"

To offer financial support or services to Beatsabar, or find out what services they provide to help your music career and book a session, contact them via their website. Their latest events are also broadcast via their Twitter handle @BeatsabarMusic and Facebook page @Beatsabarmusicproject. Their past radio shows can be viewed on their YouTube channel, and the work of artists who have used the studio can be heard on their Spotify profile.