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Social enterprise offers rare chance to learn music industry skills for those who have experienced homelessness

© Ben GlasgowPost Thumbnail

With around 30,000 people in Scotland experiencing homelessness, tackling just a small part of this huge issue is an enormous task to take on.

But a small, start up social enterprise are hoping to do just this – supporting those who have experienced homelessness by delivering music workshops and building mental health resilience.

With a focus on mixing records and making music and DJ-ing more accessible, the group was founded in 2018 by Cyrenians volunteer Robbie Tolson, after he volunteered at Edinburgh’s Social Bite Village homelessness support community.

The Heriot Watt graduate successfully set up various DJ workshops for people living in hostels or facing homelessness, providing the rare opportunity to learn to mix, and operate professional sound and light equipment.

© Ben Glasgow
Turn The Tables founder, Robbie Tolson

Backed with a board of music industry professionals and experts in social activism,  Turn The Tables have announced plans for expansion after a successful pilot run in Edinburgh last year, and have launched a crowdfunder to help raise vital funds.

The project has been a lifeline to people like Ryan, who has experienced homelessness first hand. With Robbie, he performed the first live Turn The Tables gig at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2019, an experience he said was “a dream come true.”

“I’m really keen to help other people who find themselves in the same situation I was in,” he said.

“It’s so nice to have a space to listen to music and play tunes that I like. It was also great to be around people and to have a bit of fun and have a laugh – which is something I hadn’t had in my life for a really long time.

“The project has really helped my mental health and gave me a sense of achievement. Playing in front of 1,000 people was a dream come true for me. Being a DJ and making people dance is just so much fun. It’s a total thrill.”

Director and founder of Turn The Tables Robbie Tolson said: “Ryan’s ability to learn how to mix vinyl records really impressed me. His obvious natural talent and the positive impact the workshops were having on him and others was the inspiration for creating our organisation. I really connected with them. It just felt like I was going to hang out and mix records with my pals.

“Learning to DJ is not an accessible thing to do, but I bet most people have wondered or even dreamt of trying to DJ. So being able to share something so exciting in order to support and improve the quality of life of those in need is very special.”

As well as their workshops and music industry training, Turn the Tables also announced that Bushwacka! has become their first ambassador.

The DJ – who recently began working as a therapist – has started his own ‘Listen Up Therapy’ to provide counselling services to people working within the music and entertainment industries.

To donate to the Turn The Tables crowdfunder, click here.