Leading access to music organisations join forces in major research project to help improve provision of music services for disabled children and young people.

A consortium of Arts Council funded organisations is calling on musicians, music educators and the parents of disabled children across the UK to help them gather data on the barriers facing disabled people with regard to access and participation in music.

The Department for Education’s National Plan for Music aims for “equality of opportunity for all pupils, regardless of race; gender; where they live; their levels of musical talent; parental income; whether they have special educational needs or disabilities; and whether they are looked after children.” But, the consortium asks, how well are these objectives being met, and what can we do together to make music more accessible for all?

Recent statistics published by the Musician’s Union show that increasingly children in state schools and particularly those from low-income families are unable to access the opportunities available to their more affluent peers. More worrying still, there are no national data sets available that describe the experiences and particular barriers faced by disabled children and young people with regard to participation in music.

The consortium (comprising Creative United, Drake Music, Open Up Music, The OHMI Trust and Youth Music) is aiming to address this gap by conducting a series of surveys targeted at music makers, educators and retailers that will help build a detailed overview of the current provision of accessible music services across the country.

Findings and stories will be made publicly available on the Creative United website and shared with educators, funders, and policymakers across the UK to inform the planning of future projects and investment.

Today’s national call out coincides with Purple Tuesday, the UK’s first accessible shopping day. Mary-Alice Stack, Chief Executive of Creative United, which runs the Take it away scheme said: “We are determined to ensure that disabled people of all ages are given every opportunity to participate fully in music, and that both the music education and retail sectors are better equipped and prepared to respond to the access needs of disabled customers. But in order to achieve this, it’s essential that we understand more about the way in which disabled people are currently being supported. That’s why this research is so important.”

Surveys will remain open until 15 January 2019. Members of the public who complete the ‘Music Makers’ survey have the opportunity to be entered into a £100 prize draw.

About the Take it away Consortium

Creative United, Drake Music, OHMI, Open Up Music and Youth Music came together in March 2018 to form the ‘Take it away Consortium’ with the joint aims of improving access to music. Their aims include:

  • Improve our collective understanding of the potential demand for adapted and specialist musical instruments
  • Enable existing prototype adaptations to be taken further into small-scale batch production for wider distribution and use
  • Enable the development of bespoke new accessible musical instruments to meet the needs of an individual, and the documentation and sharing of designs in the open source model
  • Explore ways in which we can develop and train a workforce that has the knowledge and skills to introduce and demonstrate adaptive instruments located in ‘centres of music retail excellence’ around the UK
  • Provide financial assistance to families and individuals that need access to these types of instruments by providing a combination of grants and loans to ensure equality of access for all
  • Raise the profile of music making by disabled children and adults, increasing awareness of the opportunities and sources of support available to enable more people to access music.

This survey is the first step to achieving these longer term aims.

Matt Griffiths, Chief Executive Officer of Youth Music said: “There’s been lots of good progress made in the last few years to open up music opportunities for disabled people. To grow this at scale we need to have strong partnerships in place, more readily available accessible instruments, good knowledge of the disabling barriers that exist. This research is vital, as its only by understanding these barriers that we can remove them. We’re excited to be a member of this partnership which we hope will grow musically inclusive practice and start to bring accessible and adapted instruments more into the mainstream.”

Carien Meijer, Chief Executive, Drake Music said: “We are proud to shout about the value and importance of access to music for everyone in our society. Music of all forms enriches our lives and culture. Disabled people need a broader variety of accessible instruments to open up new avenues of musical expression. Working together on initiatives like this and innovating with new technology will lead us to a future where everyone can make music, using instruments which haven’t even been imagined yet.”

Stephen Hetherington, founder of OHMI said: “In music, progress towards full access for disabled people lags far behind just about every other area of life. Creative United’s initiative in bringing together government and key organisations to try to understand and address this issue is a most important step forward.”

Barry Farrimond MBE, CEO, Open Up Music said: “It’s often said that music is the universal language, but unfortunately, a great many disabled people continue to be left out of the conversation. Music is strengthened by the diversity of those who make it and it is absolutely essential that anyone who wants to make music has the instruments and opportunities they need to enable them to progress.”

About Creative United & Take it away

Creative United is an independent Community Interest Company that provides finance-based products and services designed to deliver economic growth to the arts, creative and cultural sectors. Creative United receives regular funding from Arts Council England as a Sector Support Organisation within its National Portfolio.

Take it away is a Creative United initiative that gives music-makers the backing they need. With subsidised interest-free loans for musical instruments, equipment, software and tuition, we help to support musicians at every level. Take it away is funded by Arts Council England and Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

Drake Music

Drake Music are leaders in music, disability & technology – breaking down barriers to music for 25 years working with disabled people at every level, from school children to professional musicians.

Drake Music work to create opportunities and instruments that make music fully accessible, to increase participation in music-making at all levels and to build a musical culture where disabled and non-disabled musicians can work together as equals.


The OHMI Trust is a UK-based charity pioneering the development and adaptation of musical instruments for those who are physically disabled. Any deficiency or disability in one hand or arm makes traditional instruments unplayable to any reasonable standard. As a result, millions across the world are excluded from music-making for the lack of suitable instruments.

This includes people with congenital disabilities, amputees, those who have suffered a stroke, developed arthritis, cerebral palsy and hemiplegic. The organisation was established in 2011 by Dr. Stephen Hetherington, who began his career as an orchestral musician. It was Stephen’s own hemiplegic daughter, Amy, who alerted him to the lack of instruments available to disabled musicians.

Open Up Music

Open Up Music empowers young disabled musicians to build inclusive youth orchestras. Together they develop accessible musical instruments and repertoire, challenge expectations and forge new progression routes through the creation of great music.

Youth Music

Youth Music are a national charity investing in music-making projects for children and young people aged 0-25 to develop personally and socially as well as musically. The charity works particularly with those who don’t get to make music because of who they are, where they live, or what they’re going through.

Youth Music believes in practical, creative music-making of every possible genre, style and technique. Projects funded by Youth Music help to break down barriers at all stages – helping children develop and early love of music, providing diverse role models, introducing young people to a wide variety of potential career paths, and working with the music industry to make its practices more inclusive.