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Three Minute Heroes: The album amplifying young people’s voices

From mates busting shapes to muffled melodies in sticky venues, right through to your uncle trying to memorise the Macarena at a family wedding, music makes us feel good. And even when it’s not making us feel good, it’s still giving us all sorts of other fierce feels. Music is powerful. That’s why The Warren Youth Project is harnessing it to help young people express themselves. Marrying music and mental wellbeing, CALM chatted with the team behind the Three Minute Heroes albums to hear more.

Maybe there’s a band you turn to when you need to get shit done, or a melody you lean into when you just want to wallow – whatever your relationship with music, there’s no doubt it can connect, console, or even cheer us up on a crap day. In fact, 88% of people use music to improve their mood and mental wellbeing, with 40% saying they turn to music when they’re struggling. 

Three Minute Heroes is a campaign tuning into exactly that, giving young people a platform to talk openly, confidently and safely through the medium of music and creative writing. Elle Douglas from the team told CALM a little more about the project: 

“Three Minute Heroes is a music and mental health project that helps young people use creative writing to get thoughts out of their head and onto paper. We then anonymise their writings and give them to local musicians and singer/songwriters to turn them into original music, creating albums with an authentic youth voice. We see how music, through our studio and rehearsal spaces, can be an amazing outlet for young people.”

Following the success of the first Three Minute Heroes album, the team decided to work on Volume 2, which was released September 2020. Picking up praise from 6 Music and XFM, the album is being recognised not just for its musical talent, but also for the impact it’s having on the emotional health of young people. The project’s counsellor, Emma Wilkinson, explained:  

“It’s incredibly important for young people to find creative ways to express what they’re experiencing. Expressing our thoughts and feelings in a supportive environment helps us work things out, learn how to be in healthy relationships and helps us grow. Imagine writing something about how you feel, perhaps for the first time and then having those words sung out loud and heard by others – what better way to have your experience validated.”

Many of us can relate to the sensation of listening to a song that seems to echo how we’re feeling, whether it’s those bleak breakup songs when a relationship ends, or even Dolly’s 9 to 5 when we’re getting pumped for the working week (go on, admit the guilty pleasure). 

A lyric or melody can stir up some pretty deep stuff and songs can reassure us that we’re not alone in what we’re feeling. Elle realises how helpful this can be to young people, especially during such a lonely year:

“The pandemic has caused young people to feel isolated and confused with the ever-changing situation. Having no end date to this ‘new normal’ is causing very high bouts of anxiety and depression. Unemployment for young people is extremely high and some young people have had their education disrupted or put on hold. Mental health projects like Three Minute Heroes are needed more than ever and we’ll continue to support young people to ensure their voices are heard and their wellbeing is recognised and nurtured.”

A variety of upcoming artists have been part of the project and the album crosses many different genres. Full of new wave indie, funk rhythms, angsty rock, underground punk, and even spoken word, Volume 2 opens up many different themes. Holding Three Minute Heroes sessions, the team created a supportive environment where young people felt safe and comfortable sharing their thoughts and feelings, Elle says:

“In sessions, issues such as bullying, self harm, family problems, health problems, domestic abuse and body image issues were all brought up by young people. These were addressed and supported by our staff and counsellors, as well as the staff within the school. Students began to understand each other’s feelings and emotions and through the process a united vibe was established which was so powerful to witness.” 

Slacker punks, Serial Chiller, feature on both the first and second volumes. With hooky riffs and raw lyrics revolving around mental wellbeing, the trio were keen to be involved with the project:

“In the current political climate, the voice of young people is crucial, this project has allowed us to dig deeper than ourselves and to proudly present the voice of a generation who are often at the brunt of political decisions. With our song ‘Brexit Is A Swimming Pool’ we’ve collaborated with young people to create a track that criticises the childlike discussions of the Brexit debate. Having seen the strength of young people across the album, this project has given us a confidence to express ourselves openly and in unison with a generation that’s open about mental health and political change.”

With intricate lyrics that touch on feminism, politics and personal wellbeing, Alice Clayton has played at BBC Introducing and was a natural fit for the album. She saw it as a chance to amplify young people’s voices:

“Increasingly, youth is used against people as a way to discredit their views as being immature or underdeveloped, but that’s not the case at all. When I was reading through the lyrics I was so overwhelmed and inspired at how honest, pertinent and in tune they were with my own views on what’s currently happening in the world. Projects like this are vital to give young people a platform to speak but to also feel empowered to share their feelings and views.”

Reminiscent of influences Pulp and New Order, Brosnan are a funky fusion of British indie and new wave. The band were blown away by Three Minute Heroes: 

“We’d all listened to the first Three Minute Heroes and had been astonished by the words and topics covered in those songs, so when The Warren asked us to be involved we instantly accepted. Our song ‘Being Alone’ covers loneliness, which is a huge problem for young people, especially at the moment when they’ve spent months isolated from their friends. We hope the song can help people realise that they’re not alone and offer a way for young people to get their feelings out.”

Wanting to keep the momentum going, The Warren Youth Project already has plans in the pipeline for the next volume of Three Minute Heroes. Counsellor, Emma, realises just how important music and creativity is to mental wellbeing:

“Music has the power to unite, to help you find your tribe, to make you feel like you belong. It’s also vital that we validate each person’s experience as they find their way through life. Young people bring vitality, humour, challenges and an energy that we can all benefit from if they have the chance to share it.” 

You can listen to Volume 1 and 2 on the Three Minute Heroes website and find out more about this important project and the artists involved. 

It can be tricky to make sense of our emotions, especially when you’re struggling, but CALM has got your back. Our helpline and webchat service is open every day from 5pm until midnight. No matter what you’re going through, our trained helpline staff offer free, confidential advice.

Need support? Worried about someone? CALM’s free, anonymous and confidential helpline and webchat are open every day, 5pm-midnight. Get access here.

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