The Liam Colgan Fund was set up in 2020 in memory of a talented young, Inverness-based singer-songwriter whose disappearance and untimely demise in Hamburg in 2018 attracted national publicity.
Our aim was to assist and support other young people in the H&I, like Liam, to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to build a career in music whether on the creative, production or business side.
Outside of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, most people associate the region as a tourist destination with stunning scenery. However, this has always been a place that inspires artists and music remains a major part of the creative arts sector in the region.
The live music scene in particular is vibrant, exemplified not only by the world-class centres of excellence in traditional music, but the abundance of music festivals set in some of the most spectacular locations to be found anywhere.
Aspiring young people living in remote rural areas like the Highlands, whilst as keen as any to get into the music industry, face particular challenges and barriers, lacking access to the training and support infrastructure more readily available to their urban peers.
From the outset, it was our aim to explore ways to address this issue. Since our launch in 2020 we’ve been active. We released a charity album to mark our launch and raise funds, organised workshops for young songwriters, sought the views of young people on where funds should be best spent, created awards for local musicians and sponsored a local music festival to showcase local talent.
We’ve also set up a Friends Of The Liam Colgan Music Fund group, organised fund-raising events and have been fortunate in securing much-needed donations.
We place particular importance in partnering with others involved in youth music and have a close working relationship with the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI), providing work experience opportunities and placements for graduate students. The university has reciprocated with students helping to create a promotional video and a social media marketing campaign for our charity album, whilst the university’s data science department has assisted in analysing the Fund’s young musicians’ survey data.
"Youth music initiatives in rural areas have a role to play in linking directly into the music industry’s talent pipeline"
Our link to the BRIT Trust began in 2021 through another initiative we helped launch following an approach from Roz Preston, widow of the late John Preston, former chairman of the BPI. Roz wanted help to set up a memorial fund here in the Highlands, in John’s memory.
Reflecting John’s distinguished career as a highly successful music business executive, committed to finding and supporting emerging talent, we helped establish two annual music graduate awards - the John Preston Music Business Award and the John Preston International Music Award at the university, and we continue to manage this fund on Roz’s behalf. More recently we helped establish a hardship fund for local music students struggling in the face of the economic crisis.
The welcome receipt of a donation from the BRIT Trust spurred us into refocusing on our educational and training role. This in turn has led to our current project, one of the most interesting and exciting we have organised to date, and more closely aligned with the original aims and remit of the Fund.
In June next month we are piloting a one-day training workshop titled Setting The Stage’. It is for young people (16-26 years) who are interested in getting into the world of live events as a technician or event organiser. We’re bringing together industry professionals in sound, lighting and event production with around 20-plus trainees at a full scale ‘mock’ music event, jokingly described as the biggest gig in Scotland without an audience being invited!.
The trainees, working under supervision in a controlled environment, will get hands-on experience with live bands/artists attending throughout the day to do soundchecks for the trainees who, without the pressures of a live audience, will get a real grounding and insight into the various aspects of live music production.
Equally importantly, this event will enable young technicians to meet and network with local artists/bands and production companies, many of whom struggle to recruit additional staff to help out during the busy music festivals season in the H&I.
Places for this pilot event were filled within a week of being advertised and, if this multi-stakeholder approach to training proves successful, we plan to introduce further events. We see projects such as this, not only contributing to the local services infrastructure which is so important in supporting the live music sector in the H&I, but one example of how youth music initiatives in rural areas also have a role to play in linking directly into the music industry’s talent pipeline.