Our Digital Content Executive, Abbie, recently spoke with Alick Cotterill, an MFY alumni, and now our regular event photographer. He told her all about his time at MFY.
Could you tell me a bit about yourself and your background?
I’m Alick, I’m 33 and a commercial photographer and filmmaker, originally from South Wales but now living in South London.
How did you find out about Music for Youth?
Roughly around the age of 9 or 10 I was encouraged to take part in various Gwent Music ensembles locally, and some of them entered and took part in Music for Youth events, initially regionally in the regional festivals and then nationally. Later, groups from my secondary school in Caerleon near Newport also regularly took part.
Can you remember any of the Music for Youth events you performed at, if so, do you remember how you felt in the moments leading up to your performances?
At that time, the National Festival took place around the South Bank in London at the Royal Festival Hall. I had barely ever been to the capital city as a child so this was very exciting in itself – but it was also awe-inspiring to play in such big and prestigious venues, on the big stages and under the bright lights! There were nerves for sure, but these were balanced out by the thrills of doing something new and different and aiming to impress.
What instruments did you play?
Over the course of my youth I played the trumpet, cornet, soprano cornet, percussion, drum kit and a bit of piano.
What is your favourite MFY memory?
Playing big band jazz music in a relaxed but appreciative environment every time I went to the National Festival in the Summer season in Birmingham. Also getting to play at the Royal Albert Hall in London several times! Who could forget that! Incredible. Such a unique space.
What did music mean to you growing up?
It was an amazing creative outlet, I made a lot of friends and learned so much from a lot of inspiring people. I didn’t just learn about music but also skills that could be applied to various other parts of life, though I’m not sure I realised that at the time! Music was however what connected it all, it was the catalyst, the common ground.
What does music mean to you now?
It’s something that I feel like I understand well and can always dip into and get enjoyment from. It’s a very diverse medium, a real mix of cultures and influences, and I love that. Like many forms of art, it can be so expressive and emotive across both high times and lows.
Did performing at MFY/music in general help to shape your future career at all?
Yes it did, indirectly I ended up making connections that helped further my photographic/filming career, and I’m very grateful for that, I may not have been where I am now without those experiences.
Who is your favourite artist or band, and why?
It’s impossible to pick just one! My tastes are extremely diverse. I’m as at home listening to Bombay Bicycle Club or Incubus, as I am to a Ravel piano concerto, Jupiter by Holst, or a jazz gig by Wynton Marsalis or Marcus Strickland. The variety keeps me interested!
Even if your career is not within the music industry, do you still play/sing in your free time/hobby?
I must admit I don’t have much involvement in music-making at a personal level at the moment, I miss it very much but my unpredictable freelance diary makes it hard to be able to give commitment to a regular time slot for rehearsing or performing with others, or even to just practise alone! I hope to return to it someday though and until then I very much enjoy listening to and supporting others.
How are you involved with MFY now?
I’ve helped out in various ways over the years, beginning with stage crew work, which gradually morphed into more and more photography and filming work covering various MFY events, big and small, around the UK. Nowadays I take part in specific projects when I can! The organisation has a very special place in my heart.
Do you have any advice for young musicians?
Take opportunities and make opportunities. Try to step outside your comfort zone sometimes and absorb what the wider world has to offer. Do what you enjoy. Live and explore. Create. Make mistakes. I could go on! You get the gist.
Do you have anything you want to say to finish?
Just a thank you to Music for Youth and everyone involved, past and present. Don’t stop. And a shout out to all my school teachers, music service staff, friends and family. You all had a great impact and it has not gone unappreciated.