Fantastic for Families Award 2022 Case Study

Connecting families at SAGE Gateshead through music

Eleanor Mooney tells us about how Sage Gateshead’s Family Programme overcame challenges to reach new and existing families throughout the pandemic in innovative ways. Eleanor shares how the programme helps families and music leaders to develop musical skills, create positive experiences, develop confidence, enjoy social time and most of all have fun making music together. 

The programme was shortlisted for Best Family Arts Activity in the 2022 Fantastic for Families Awards. 

What is in the Family Programme at Sage Gateshead? 

Sage Gateshead’s Family Programme consists of weekly open access Make Music classes including ‘Baby Love’ for pre crawlers, ‘The Kids Are Alright’ for 0-5s, ‘We are Family’, our weekend session for families with 0-7s and termly sessions for children aged 7-11 and their families. Alongside, we’re proud to have recently celebrated 10 years of our Youth Music funded Loud and Clear programme, making music with regional care experienced young families in partnership with Newcastle and Gateshead Local Authority Fostering Teams, Adopt North East, and Adoption Tees Valley. 

It was fantastic to see families, music leaders and partner organisations come together to celebrate at a musical party. The event premiered the Loud and Clear 10th birthday song, written, recorded and performed by music leaders and families from across the programme. 

Debs, a Foster Carer who’s been making music with Loud and Clear since the beginning, tells us she proudly promotes the programme at every fostering event and course she attends.  

“It’s an amazing little group with lovely staff, amazing resources and lots of variety in the songs and activities we do. We sing songs everywhere we go and now bring new ones to the sessions and teach them to the musicians!” 

How did we overcome the unchartered challenges of COVID? 

As we returned from furlough during the pandemic, we were determined to bring the Family Programme into the digital world, it being so important to continue the connection with families in such a challenging, isolating time.  

We held two weekly live virtual family music making for 0-5s, created four family music videos hosted on YouTube and held three weekend live virtual Half Term House Parties for all ages, ensuring there were as many ways as possible for families to make music in whatever time and way suited them best.  

Our team of music leaders tackled virtual co-delivery, adapted existing pieces of music and created new and innovative ways to bring music into homes from our own.  

We continue to hold one weekly live virtual family session called ‘Feels Like Home’. Lauren, who lives in rural Northumberland with her young family and began attending in the pandemic, tells me how she values the classes. 

“As a home-educating family, we provide experiences ourselves,” she says. “It was a relief when I discovered the Zoom music sessions. I am so appreciative of Sage Gateshead and what it provides for all manner of people.” 

“As a home-educating family, we provide experiences ourselves… I am so appreciative of Sage Gateshead and what it provides for all manner of people.” 

How will we keep growing, learning and flourishing? 

Since reopening the building in September 2021, we have listened to families and continue to provide weekly virtual and in-building sessions. Sage Gateshead has evolved over the last few years, and I’m happy we can connect with more people through innovative music making opportunities. 

Reflecting on the learning from our care experienced focussed programme, with peer support for families in mind, we’ve changed the timings of Make Music sessions enabling a relaxed start and finish and space for informal socialising and relationship building during a short mid-session break. We’ve welcomed families back to Sage Gateshead after the pandemic and it’s great to meet old friends and new, lots coming to the building for the first time.  

To be nominated for a Fantastic for Families Award is excellent for all of us at Sage Gateshead and for our committed team to receive recognition for our work and dedication through such unexpected times. Of course, the awards represent the great work happening across our country and the quality experiences families can access.   

I’ve always believed in the power of music. I love working with my inspirational and compassionate colleagues, creating quality sessions with musicality, enjoyment, and connection at their heart, and I’m excited to continue. 

Image credits: Mark Savage

03 February 2023


Eleanor Mooney

Eleanor Mooney, Family Programme Leader, Sage Gateshead

Hi, I’m Eleanor from Sage Gateshead. As Family Programme leader, I oversee the Family Programme for ages 0-11. I’m passionate about family music making, using music as a tool for fun, engagement, confidence and enriching relationships. 

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