This edition of the BRIT Trust Diaries comes from Antonia Lines of Come Play With Me (CPWM), a Leeds-based non-profit music development organisation which specialises in supporting people from marginalised communities to further their careers in music. Lines is programmes manager at CPWM, which was among the winners at Music Week’s Women In Music Awards in 2022. Here, Lines tells us about their work to fight for an equitable, inclusive and diverse music industry…
For many of us starting out in the music industry, the odds can feel stacked against you. Although the most recent UK Music Diversity Report suggests that things are starting to change in the make-up of the music workforce, the people I work with every day will still tell you there’s a long way to go until music is a career that is fully open to everyone.
Come Play With Me exists to remedy that. We are a non-profit music development organisation. Our mission is to fight for an equitable, inclusive and diverse music industry. We specialise in supporting people from marginalised communities to access a career they love in music by providing tailored career development for individuals through our events, workshops, label, podcast and magazine. We do this while pushing for structural change in the industry more widely.
I’m Antonia, the programmes manager at CPWM. I look after a number of projects that help marginalised people build skills, networks and opportunities in different parts of the industry. From Come Platform Me, which supports new promoters and live industry professionals, to our podcast Connected Sounds and magazine Bound, both of which ensure marginalised peoples' stories are told honestly and on our own terms.
As a queer, working-class person, my experience of the music industry has been varied. I’ve worked in retail, events, music festivals, venue bars, marketing, press, packing Bandcamp orders in a windowless room… You name it, I’ve probably done it! My journey through those jobs hasn’t always been easy. When you know no one in the industry and aren’t even sure what jobs exist, it’s hard to imagine building any kind of career. Couple this with structural issues of classism, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny and for others, structural racism, ableism and more; it’s sometimes difficult to feel like this is an industry in which you can thrive.
When you know no one in the industry and aren’t even sure what jobs exist, it’s hard to imagine building any kind of career
The thing that got me through is finding a community. Finding others who have similar experiences and understand why you’re tentative about being in certain spaces or you’re tired of being talked over in meetings can be transformative.
At Come Play With Me, collaborative working and building networks are absolutely fundamental to our work. For us, building an equitable and fair industry means starting small and being adaptable, providing what the communities around us need. It’s about making sure we are always co-creating and working in lasting partnerships.
Last year, we won the Music Week Women In Music Awards Company Award for Diversity In The Workplace for our work around LGBTQ+ inclusion in the industry and shortly afterwards, announced our partnership with EMI North, who have opened a regional imprint just down the road from us in Leeds. Since then, our team has grown in exciting ways. We’ve doubled our number of board members, increased staffing in our project teams and we’re in the process of setting up a Youth Advisory Group that’ll be at the centre of setting the strategy and direction of our programming going forward. We focus on building a team with lived experiences of the issues we’re here to challenge, so hiring a Label Assistant recently through AIM & Women in CTRL’s Amplify apprenticeships, as well as currently looking for an events assistant through The Mo Siewcharran Fund, allows us to build the internal culture that we’re advocating for externally.
As I type this, we’re not long fresh from the muddy fields of Deer Shed Festival in North Yorkshire, a family-run music and arts festival focused on community. We love it and not just because it’s up the road! We’ve been working with them and PR agency Hanglands for a few years now. Part of that is running a special Deer Shed edition of our magazine. We’ve been able to increase our reach and audience but, more importantly, also give our young writing team the opportunity to tell the stories of established performers like The Big Moon, Bridget Christie and The Delgados.
We are as keen to learn from others as we are to share our own knowledge
Our annual conference, I Know A Place, is a key date in our diary that brings all of our work together. I Know A Place champions diversity in the music industry with a full day packed with panels, workshops, keynotes and conversations covering a variety of topics. This time we’ll be focusing our attention on learning and networking, creating spaces where people can connect, learn and share with one another in a safe and supportive environment. We’ll be running for the eighth year in Leeds, at the Brudenell Social Club on January 19 2024 and for the first time, bringing our conversations to London at Samsung KX on October 26 this year.
Collaboration is at the core of what we do. We are as keen to learn from others as we are to share our own knowledge, fostering positive community spirit and solidarity across the music industry.
We work to build relationships with regional, national and international partners, furthering our reach and supporting our peers to mutual benefit. We value the support of The BRIT Trust.
If you’d like to get involved and support our work, we would love to hear from you. And if you’d like to hear more from us, you can sign yourself up to our mailing list.