United Borders music mentoring programme, Building an Understanding of Self (B.U.S.)

This project will determine if it is possible to evaluate the United Borders mentoring programme -  Building and Understanding of Self (or B.U.S) - through a pilot study. 

The creation of United Borders (a third sector organization) as a whole was prompted by significant levels of violent behaviours and violent crime committed by children and young people (CYP) in London including the areas covered by United Borders (UB) in North West London. This violence is characterised by territorial disputes making it difficult to bring CYP together in one physical location. These CYP are frequently at high risk of being involved in violence either as perpetrator or victim or both, and may have experienced domestic violence, gang exploitation, county lines, and/or PTSD as a result of knife crime. 

United Borders deliver a trauma informed music mentoring programme called Building and Understanding of Self (or B.U.S) centred around producing music. This is delivered weekly over a two-month period, primarily on a specially equipped bus, containing recording studio space, which is parked in neutral settings. At the end of the programme they hold a graduation event for the CYP supported by family, teachers, and friends.

UB take a holistic, strengths based, person-centred and trauma responsive approach. Their work focuses on empowering CYP and helping them to understand the impact past and current experiences have on their wellbeing. This leads to identifying how CYP can transform their own opportunities. United Borders provide music mentoring including experiences of music production, pathways into creative industries and employment, physical training, and education about knife crime and staying safe. In addition, United Borders provide wraparound support and signposting including providing in-house tutors for Maths and English, introducing CYP to other initiatives, excursions, or trips and remaining engaged following graduation if wanted, indeed some CYP return to UB as peer mentors, with the potential to progress into an employed staff member.

The CYP are referred by a youth offending service (YOS), the Police or other relevant agency or can self-refer.  

Funder: The Youth Endowment Fund (YEF) 

Timeframe: December 2021 - September 2022

Objective and outcomes

We are initially conducting a mixed methods feasibility study which we hope will develop into a one year pilot study in 2023. The overarching research objective of the feasibility study is to determine if it is possible to evaluate United Borders through a pilot study. In addition, it will provide a robust understanding of the operation of the intervention based on a Theory of Change and logic model. This would allow some assessment of whether music mentoring leads to a positive change in CYP at high risk of being involved in violence. We will be working with two peer researchers on this project, both graduates of United Borders, and still in touch with the programme. They will be conducting interviews with CYP participating in the intervention and observations of it. 

Project Team

People associated with the project:

  • Professor Siddhartha Bandyopadhyay (PI)
  • Dr Emily Evans (RF)
  • Dr Juste Abramovaite (RF)
  • Dr Ioannis Karavias
  • Professor Caroline Bradbury-Jones
  • Lorraine Khan (external)
  • Professor Eddie Kane (University of Nottingham)  

Project Advisors:

  • Professor Anindya Banerjee
  • Professor Paul Montgomery
  • Dr Melanie Jordan (University of Nottingham)  

Contact details