Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to 105 Barking Road, the home of Community Links. It is a pleasure to welcome you all to this event marking the launch of Links Studios. Thank you all sincerely for making the time.

As I stand here before you – I am aware that there’s so little that we can take for granted these days. The mere fact I am speaking with you in person, and not hosting a Zooms or Teams webinar is testament to this.

Nevertheless, we take our responsibility to host a covid safe event seriously, which is why I am grateful for your patience and understanding with all the measures we have put in place to keep everyone safe. It is also why Neighbours Hall, where you are sitting today, is not as full as it would otherwise be. The last big event we held here was when the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Extreme Poverty, Professor Alston, stood where I am now and heard evidence from our community about the devastating impact of austerity.

Clearly, today is a very different event, under very different circumstances.

Austerity might be a distant memory for some, but the last 18 months or so has been challenging for a whole different set of reasons, considering the global pandemic.

But as we move from the pandemic response to recovery, it is clear that young people are being left behind in an ‘uneven recovery’. Recent statistics from the ONS reflects this.

It is against this backdrop, that I am extremely proud to welcome you all to celebrate the opening of Links Studio.

The Studio will host a spectrum of activities for young people. At one end, it will host open-access workshops where young people can explore their creativity and celebrate their heritage through performing, podcasting, music production, sound engineering and so on. There is a strong body of evidence that shows that this sort of activity is invaluable when it comes to mental health, resilience and tackling serious social issues such as youth violence and criminality.

At the other end of the spectrum – I am delighted to announce today that Links Studio will form the foundation of a fully accredited vocational study programme in Music Technology, which we will launch in January 2022. What makes these sorts of qualifications special, is that while music tech is the “hook” – so to speak – and will form the core part of the qualification, it will sit alongside functional skills like GCSE qualifications in Maths and English. It will also have an emphasis on developing transferable soft skills like teamwork and communication. As part of the programme, we will also be able to leverage the support of colleagues in Catch22’s employability directorate which has ready-made relationships with a range of employers of all sizes. Therefore, the study programme – made possible by Links Studios – will be a much-needed resource for young people seeking employment, not only in the creative industries but further afield.

In making the case for Links Studios, we recently published a policy paper arguing for a Place-based Approach to Tackling Social Issues. Today – to coincide with the launch of Links Studios – we published a report on Arts as a Youth Intervention. I hope you will take the time to read these publications which outline the ‘thinking’ behind our ‘practice’.

Let me now conclude my opening remarks by saying that our new strategy “Driven by Dreams, Judged on Delivery” will be launched next month. Alongside our other thematic activities of advice, health, community and policy work, the studio will form an exciting foundation of our youth work for many years to come. Thank you all again for coming along tonight and being part of this very special event.


Thank you to the young musicians who kept us entertained tonight; Allan, Mohammed, Ania and May who are part of Stage Ready Performing Arts founded by Bernice Jeffrey. Edward, Lilly & Chantel from Ambition, Aspire, Achieve. Performers from Iroko theatre who played the drums as you came up the stairs into the Hall.

There are so many people to whom we owe our deepest thanks for Links Studios. Far too many to mention in one speech, but I will name a few.

The architect Dan Jones.

Dean Hollington and everyone at Olli Construction.

Venu Dhupa who project managed the build, and Paul Williams, Javid Cante and Alan Lazarus who provided oversight.

Ian Robinson for his tireless dedication to making the studio and the launch a success.

The two charitable trusts who made some of the work you heard earlier possible: these are a Family Trust and the Fidelity Foundation.

Our generous funders Gregory Elias, and Rodrigo and Mariana Mudrovitch who we met via the Rolling Stones connection.

Above all, we express our most sincerest and heartfelt thanks to: Ronnie and Sally Wood, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Charlie Watts, collectively known as the Rolling Stones, for their generous support. We are also immensely grateful to Joyce and Michael Smyth, from the Rolling Stones Management, for making their support possible.

Collectively today you have helped to give our young people the chance to dare to dream about their futures. Thank you.