I used to live in Camden and every now and again, I would bump into Amy Winehouse. I’ll never forget the night when I went to the Jazz Café on Parkway for an open mic night and Amy was there drinking with her friends.

She was tiny in the flesh, with fabulous big hair. The look on everyone’s faces when she randomly went up onstage, grabbed the mic and sang a few songs, was such a sight – the crowd were bemused yet she was amazing. You just can’t beat impromptu nights like that where you’re caught off-guard and left spellbound by the presence of such a talented soul.

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And so, when I was invited back to Camden for a special talent showcase established by the Amy Winehouse Foundation, as part of Amy’s lasting legacy to help young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to pursue a career in music. I was left feeling equally spellbound by the calibre of talented, young artists that the foundation has nurtured and developed to become self-sustaining artists.

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Throughout the 14 week programme, participants attend a series of master classes delivered by industry professionals from various music companies that provide them with the knowledge and pizazz to manage themselves as professional artists.

Stand-out performers were; lyricist and neo-soul producer, Jordan Matthew aka Zodiac who had such stage presence it was hard to believe he is only 22; Liverpudlian singer and songwriter, Porsha Grant who has a gorgeous soulful voice with a blend of Tweet and Erykah Badu about her, and rappers Mainee Montana and Ben Official, who both had everyone boppin’ to their upbeat tracks. Expect great things from these guys soon.

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“If writing music is how you express yourself emotionally, then go for it as much as you can.” – Porsha Grant

Participants were given lyric and producing sessions, an insight into the workings of Island Records as well as stage presence tips from artists such as Akala. At the end of the 14 week programme, each participant receives a professional photo-shoot, video interview and their own song as a single, to equip them with the tools to break into the music industry.

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Talking with Zodiac after his performance, his advice to young, budding artists was to;

“Stick hard at your craft, hassle people and stay humble. Just when you get one door closed or a rejection that is a permission slip to go harder and try more. Don’t stop. Keep going. It’s you vs you, find balance and keep working on your craft.”

Want to get involved?
If you’re interested in pursuing a career in music contact Amy’s Yard via the Amy Winehouse Foundation for more information – www.amywinehousefoundation.org

On Tuesday 18th November, the Amy Winehouse Foundation is holding a fundraising ball with performances from Mitch Winehouse and Zodiac. To purchase tickets, please visit the website www.riahebden.com

Author: Ria Hebden