There is understandable pride in Ann Goodger’s voice when she speaks of the Nucleo Project at the Dalgarno Centre in North Kensington. Ann, Chief Executive of the Dalgarno Trust, responsible for the centre, explains that 350 children now come every week to play classical music based on the El Sistema method which began in Venezuela in 1975.   

Described now as ‘music for social change’ it was founded and developed by the Venezuelan educator, musician and activist José Antonio Abreu.

The Nucleo Project was set up in North Kensington in 2013 and offers ‘ensemble-based musical opportunities to children and young people, completely free of charge’.   

The name Nucleo represents a local centre of musical activity at the heart of the community. It is open to any child who wishes to join ‘the family’.

Students commit to an ‘immersive and rigorous programme (children aged 7+ attend at least four sessions a week) which fosters rapid progress and high achievement, as well as strong bonds within the Nucleo community’. It is said to make: ‘a truly transformative difference in our young musician day to day lives’. 

Ann Goodger would certainly agree with that and believes that it not only enriches the children’s lives but that of the community as well.  

The centre sits at the heart of the Dalgarno Estate where there are five different Housing Associations and around 7,000 people living. It also offers a range of different services and activities for the local community, including free guitar lessons for young people, a youth club and football. A girl’s club is being formed and girls are learning boxing as well. 

A whole summer programme has been developed, including Healthworks aimed particularly at BME communities  (Black and Minority Ethnic) to encourage health and wellbeing, mobility and combatting social isolation. There have been 2,700 ‘interventions’ so far. 

There is also a Butterfly Reading Group. This is a method that was introduced to help children who need ‘literacy intervention’. The method has been used successfully in a number of inner city areas and claims that an advance of one year reading age can be achieved with 20 hours of teaching. 

The Dalgarno Trust also operates a Foodbank. Ann Goodger believes that it may be unfortunate but there is no doubt they are needed. There should be no shame attached and they are important particularly at helping older people to maintain their physical health through proper eating. 

With that theme in mind, the centre also now operates a Community Kitchen on Thursdays and it is proving a great way of bringing people together who are not working. 

The Dalgarno Centre seems to be working very well for its community – and it contributes to community spirit and cohesion in an area that has had some problems in the past with crime and anti-social behaviour. A reassuring lesson in what can be done.

The Power of Music