Silver Darlings

Youth Music Group Case Study

                         by Gemma McGregor, YMF Orkney, August 2009


Name of Project

Stronsay Silver Darlings

Agencies involved

Stronsay Junior School

Silver Darlings committee

Description of work


The Stronsay Silver Darlings were formed by leaders Gaynor Smith Mike Holland and Janice Maxwell on 28 November 2005. Gaynor is an accordion player who had spoken with one of the teachers at the Stronsay school who had been giving accordion lessons during the lunch hour. They along with the school’s string instructor and head teacher agreed that it would benefit all of the young people to be able to attend a music group regularly. Invitation letters were sent to parents and Disclosure Scotland checks arranged. The school agreed that one of their rooms could be used for practises on the condition that a ratio of at least 60-40% adults to young people is maintained.

The group usually consists of 2 accordions, 2 keyboards, 2 cellos, 2 guitars, 1 bass guitar, 1 tin whistle, and 6 fiddles. Players of all ages and levels have been welcomed from the start and musicians can learn tunes by ear or from folders of sheet music. Most of the music is traditional Orkney, Shetland and Scottish tunes.

With the advice of the head teacher and the local Voluntary Action Group, the leaders invited people from the community to form a committee in 2006. Having a constituted committee with named office bearers has helped with being eligible for funding. The office bearers have assisted with raising the profile of the group and attracting local support. Fundraising events on the island helped to raise money for recording a CD alongside funding from “Awards for All”.

One of the strengths of the group is its practise of including all ages and abilities. This means that as young people finish school and move away to work or to study, there is always a new batch of young ones being trained up. Former members are always welcomed back when they are back on the island for a tune.


Time Frames

The group meets weekly during the Autumn and Winter school terms. The group meets when necessary during the Summer, usually prior to a performance.


Geographical Context

Stronsay is one of the Orkney islands – it is 7 miles long and 3.5 miles wide.

Socio Economic Context

Stronsay has 350 inhabitants and there are approximately 60 children at the school which provides education for primary 1 to senior 4 students. Mainland Orkney is 2 hours away by ferry.


Total cost of the work

Weekly meetings do not cost anything. Travel for the group to mainland Orkney costs about £200.00 return.

Where did the funding come from?

Initially revenue only came from performances. Orkney Islands Council provides a travel grant of £6/per person if the group attends events on the mainland. The CD recording was backed by Awards for All funding.





How many staff members (incl. Volunteers) were involved in delivering the work?

3 musician group leaders and a committee of 5. All volunteers.






Positive outcomes identified by the young people in the group


1.     Having somewhere to socialise with other young people weekly

2.     Visiting new places

3.     Having new experiences when travelling

4.     Learning from other musicians when collaborating e.g. Working with Kirkwall City Pipe Band

5.     Beginners are given the opportunity to play alongside experienced players and learn from them.

How did you measure the above outcomes?


A register of attendance at sessions, performance and trips has been kept alongside a portfolio of programs of festivals and events.

Young people are asked for feedback about what they value from the experiences with the group.


Were there any Child Protection Considerations?

All staff had Disclosure Scotland checks before starting work with the group.

Were there any Health & Safety Considerations?

Parents were asked to accompany their own children on trips with the group. Before every performance/trip, letters detailing the activities were sent to parents.

Were there any Equalities Considerations?

All are welcome at Silver Darlings and less able players and a player with a hearing problem have been included.


How does the group meet Curriculum for Excellence targets?

Successful Learners

Players have learned to play in a group and the music that they have learned has helped them fulfil the practical requirement of their Standard grade music exams. The desire to play with the group has increased motivation to practise and to be regular with instrumental lessons.

Confident Individuals

Travel has broadened their social experience and meeting new people and performing has helped with confidence and communication. Working with a sound engineer for the recording provided a learning opportunity for focus and concentration.

Responsible Citizens

The group supports one another during long ferry rides and while on stage. Experienced players help newer members to learn the music.

Effective Contributors

The Silver Darlings perform regularly at island events including dances and weddings, the Church Of Scotland’s Watchnight Service, and this December will be playing during the annual Treelighting ceremony at Kirkwall Cathedral.


Focused Learning Point


Tips for other youth music organisations:

·      Keep a register of attendance with members contact details

·      Have a committee with at least some of the members who are not players or parents who are likely to have a more neutral perspective.

·      Get help to draw up a constitution

·      Make the stated aim of your organisation broad enough to include all activities that it might be useful to list in future funding applications.

·      Get universal parental permission re. Photos and publicity right at the start

·      Don’t list children’s names alongside photos in media

·      Get a website

·      Make an events folder to record and celebrate your successes

·      Have long term goals

·      Have a volunteer who is also a key holder at your rehearsal premises (in this case the school)

·      Ask for advice from your local head teacher and music staff at your school

·      Give set lists out before gigs

·      Consider collaborations with other groups










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