The Big Noise

I began working with the GCPH in September 2013, on a project to evaluate the social and health impacts of Sistema Scotland’s Big Noise programme in the Raploch area of Stirling and the Govanhill neighbourhood in Glasgow. Both of these areas suffer from long term economic disadvantage, reduced educational attainment and poor health relative to most other areas in Scotland.

Working as part of the team gave me the opportunity to explore a really interesting environment, and the final leg of our evaluation gave us plenty to do as we tied up various elements of our study, including:

  • Working with Education Scotland as it reviewed the music programme and visited the Raploch Community Campus in September. The ES team published the findings of their inspection in January, providing a very positive review of its academic strengths.
  • Carrying out workshops with Big Noise staff testing the logic and language of the change models we presented in the report.
  • Working with a group of six teenagers from Raploch and a professional film maker to create
    a film about the Big Noise programme.
  • Facilitating art workshops with approximately 70 seven-year-olds from Govanhill to generate discussion and visuals about what they liked and disliked about the Big Noise programme.
  • Working with Youth Services to involve young people in Raploch who have not been participating in the programme to get their views about why they are not involved.

All of these activities generated a range of material for the GCPH research team to build into its first evaluation report in May.

The workshops with the music staff allowed us to explore what the programme delivers in terms of musical and social impacts for a child and its family. These professional views were interesting to hear and provided a good basis of evidence within the report.

The best material came from the children themselves. It was a learning curve for the team, as we had to develop age appropriate methodologies (and crowd control skills!) to record the children’s views but, it was definitely worth it.

Hearing the children talk about their experiences was enlightening, uplifting and sometimes hilarious. We of course fed back all of their suggestions to the Big Noise Management Team; including recommendations for helicopters (to fly the children to Big Noise, obviously!) permanent ice cream vans at the building, and that the music classes never end. Now that’s thinking outside the box for service delivery!


One of the main messages in the report is a nod to the third sector’s role in community-based initiatives. Organisations like Sistema are well placed to provide cracking services to their target groups. Unbound by bureaucracy, fuelled with drive to make a difference and, in Sistema’s case, worldwide links to ideas and support, all add to the effective local delivery. The real challenges for these organisations are being an equal partner with other community based services and the lack of access to the benefits that come with such a strategic position; data sharing, information gathering, shared best practice and economies of scale.

Reflecting on my experiences, it’s been a joy to work alongside very able, motivated and socially conscious people and to witness the daily delivery of an inspiring and busy programme. It’s also been challenging working in a politically charged environment where funding is short and need is great across many communities.

I’m glad to say I think we have done justice to the Big Noise programme by capturing a very broad range of impacts that together can transform a child’s life. It’s not been easy but then real life isn’t, and I think the report reflects the complexities of a very human social intervention.

To find out more about the Big Noise programme and the initial research findings, visit:

About the author


Aileen Campbell joined Audit Scotland in 2007. Before embarking on a career in performance audit, she worked in a range of public sector areas including housing and health. She recently spent 19 months seconded to Sistema Scotland and the Glasgow Centre for Population Health (GCPH), helping to evaluate the impact of the Big Noise, a social intervention which aims to transform lives through music in the most deprived areas of Scotland.

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