Seeing how the Upfaders youth music programme transforms young peoples’ lives


‘We do it a bit differently here’,  so starts our introduction to Biomation, by its founder Dan Axon, ‘We work with young people for as long as is needed’.

Upfaders is a youth music project, for people aged between 14 and 25 – where young people come for regular 1-to-1 training in all kinds of music – from singing to sound engineering, rapping to learning to play an instrument.

Upfaders work closely in partnership with many of the youth charities and services in York; York Mind, SASH,  CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service), SNAPPY, The Island – you name it – who refer young people to them who are usually struggling with some aspect of their life.

When young people come to Upfaders they usually have low self-esteem, may well be anxious or depressed, often are socially isolated and do not feel a sense of their place in the world.  Most have no idea of a direction they want to go in or how to even think positively about the future.

Dan and his small team provide intensive support in a sustained way.

They used to try and work with many people for short periods of time, but have found the biggest and best impact is when they work with a small number of people for as long as is needed.

Zoe is one of their star pupils.

“I had anxiety and couldn’t face going to school. I was scared of buses and couldn’t get here on my own.  Coming here has helped me massively, I am now totally at home and I can get here on my own!”

Zoe always used to sing at home, so singing was a natural option when she came to Upfaders.  She was referred to the programme by her mentor at The Island, who recognised that Zoe struggled at school but had a talent.

Zoe does 1-to-1 training with Kate, a classically trained professional singer and vocal coach, who has taken her to a new level.

Zoe loves the progress she has made.

“My voice has changed a lot. I am proud of myself. I have also made friends here and have a lot of respect for my teacher Kate. She is amazing”

Stuart, Zoe’s Dad talks of how Zoe has progressed since starting at Biomation

“Zoe has always sung around the house, but now she sings loudly and confidently. She volunteers at Cats Protection and recently walked into a local farm, filled in an application form and got a job. She was so confident! There is no way she would have been able to do that before. She wants to go on to do animal-related work and starts her college course in September.”  

Dan finds that it is not just musical ability and confidence that is gained when young people come to Upfaders.

“It is amazing to see people’s mental health and emotional well-being improve when they come here. They also become more independent and many people say they no longer feel isolated and alone. When their self esteem rises, we start working together on their employability skills, like time keeping and being able to communicate. It’s wonderful to see how people flourish and start to thrive.”

Many young people arrive not feeling it is possible to get a break in their life. But many go on to college, work and feeling happy in everyday life.

Two Ridings Community Foundation funded Biomation through the Coronavirus Community Fund to help them get through the difficult last year. The grant was initially spent on rent, to keep the place going and then tuition hours. Funding that directly supports the young people is always the last to go.

Additional funding from the Bettys and Taylor Coronavirus Community  Fund has gone on fundraising, giving them the regular time and space to write new bids for more funding.

Two Ridings has been a lifeline for us. If it wasn’t for you, and the Joseph Rowntree Trust, we may well have gone under. It has been such a tense year, funding has been insanely competitive.”

Dan went on to explain that sometimes the continual search for funding feels too hard, likening it to a hand-to-mouth way of living, but other days he feels he is pretty lucky to be able to support young people in such a meaningful way.

“It’s pretty cool what I do, I am really glad to do it and I know I am lucky to be able to do it!”

Zoe is living proof that what Upfaders offers is a magical opportunity for every young person who walks through their door.

“I no longer feel anxious, I am much more independent and I am much happier and more confident than I have ever been – Confident enough to get a job AND get on a college course!”

And Dan’s final thoughts were around how nice it was to actually meet people behind the funding.

“It is so good to meet the people who have funded you, it feels like Two Ridings are really invested in us and the young people we support. It feels very real.”

Find out more about Biomation’s Upfaders youth music programme.

Would you like to meet some of the groups Two Ridings have funded? Get in touch with Isabelle.