Poly Rhythm was created during the Covid Pandemic in the summer of 2020.
After reaching out to the youth in our community, we asked them how best we could support them and help them during a very difficult time.
Their answer was with music. They told us that they had no access to musical instruments while schools were closed. That music helped them connect to others in positive ways like skill sharing, teaching others and was very inclusive. That many of them simply couldn’t afford to buy instruments, even 2nd hand ones. And then they added that `Playing music really helped them chill out during the exam period and the stress that the exams brought`
With these main issues in mind, we came up with the idea of a musical instrument library, a free library that offered a range of instruments for all ages and abilities. Later it would offer lessons when safe to do and workshops on repairs and setting up various instruments.
As we are based in an area of real deprivation and rural isolation, we felt this simply was the best answer and solution to the problem. We could understand their problems and we could use our experience in community work to help bring solutions to their needs.
During August of 2020, instruments were bought, lend engines – the software for libraries were developed and the first items went on offer to loan in September of that year.
Within a short period of time, we had our first customers and sign ups and we let them lead the way through open feedback channels and conversations in the shop we had taken over. We let them make up the inventory for the shop as we were unsure what instruments to stock, through monitoring what they loaned out, listening to what they would like to see on offer and taking into account the safety aspects of `Blowy Instruments` during Covid we let them decide on the stock for the library. We found that the wider community also gave great support through donation instruments to the project. These same instruments have helped us to teach our volunteers and young people how to maintain and set up instruments. A win, win for all.
By Christmas, just as it was picking up, we found ourselves in another lockdown and had to close the doors on the shop. Lends and loan continued during the lockdown but it wasn’t until May 2021 when we saw things really progress.
As we reach June now over 40 instruments we can loan out and with over 60 members to the library we think we have really created a youth led musical instrument library. We average 12-14 loans each week and violins seem to be the most sought-after instrument so far.
In June we also took the decision to set PolyRhythm up as a CIC. We had some project funding via the wonderful people at The Lottery Community Fund and the Covid fund to set up initially but this funding finished in March 2021. As we all have a shared desire to continue with the library it was voted on to do all we can to keep it going. The CIC model was chosen as so we can take it to the next stage towards sustainability and start to refurbish instruments that can be sold later to the public. The learning from this will really help some of the youth involved in understanding business and commerce on the high street.
We have a core group that come to the shop 2 – 3 days a week to learn how to maintain and set up a plethora of instruments and we find that they are now also looking to up skill themselves as we take on the task of offering lessons and workshops to the public.
The next few months will include a whole lot of fun as we start to work with other community groups across Cornwall. First stop is The Community Orchard in St Ives where we get to go to run a music workshop, eat pizza from the wood fired oven that looks over St Ives Bay and generally chill in the summer sun with a group of dedicated people who just want to play music and give access to all.
Other events are planned for IntoBodmin, The Lighthouse cic in Liskeard and The Old Bank in Camelford who we are working in collaboration to give wider access to the library and workshops we are developing for each community group.
What we have found is that from reaching out, listening to our youth and working with them to create their vision really has made our community just that little bit better. The 60 members of the library are better for it, the youth feel more empowered for it and have really gone on to use the library with vigor, the landlord is happy in the town center as its not another closed shop and the wider community will be happy when we rock up to their place and make Poly Rhythm a little more mobile.