Find your people – music project

NLN Hollyhill students launch song and music video with powerful message on mental health and friendship

Find your people, a song penned and performed by students attending supportive training courses at National Learning Network (NLN) Hollyhill in Cork, launched in November 2022 alongside a vibrant music video, filmed across the city.

Students from the Directions and the Skills for Life courses at NLN Hollyhill collaborated over the past number of months to harness their individual talents, working collectively to write lyrics, rap, sing, create an uplifting melody and film the accompanying music video. The Kabin Studio in Cork provided support to students by hosting music production workshops and recording the track.

The lyrics of the song express a desire to bridge the divide between exclusion and inclusion; about forming bonds with people you can relate to, channelling positive mental health, and finding your place as an individual among a group.

Several students from NLN Hollyhill spoke of their experience of the project and of how particular themes emerged during the workshops, which subsequently formed the central messages of friendship and mental wellbeing.

Sam, from the Directions course, said, “In terms of the structure, it starts off with lyrics about feeling like you don’t want to get out of bed, but it builds and becomes more positive from there. If someone is going through the same situation, we hope they could relate to the song, and they may feel like they should spend more time with people who feel the same way”.

Shane, a student on the Skills for Life course, spoke of how the song is “about getting together and being the people who we are today. Whoever you are doesn’t matter, and we’re all together in these situations. It’s good to broaden your horizon, meet new people, build confidence and get out there.”

Adrian Brady, instructor of the Directions course, said, “The phrase ‘life’s not easy’ is repeated throughout the song but ultimately the message of the song is to ‘find your people’, and we knew that had to be the title. The workshops drew out what students really felt was important, which was the friendship aspect. I’m very proud of these guys, they’re incredibly creative and they all have talents in different ways and in ways we didn’t realise.”

Speaking of the production process, Adrian explained how previously “shy and quiet” students volunteering to sing, rap and dance. He remarked how “one of the students, Sarah, had just joined on the course when the project started and she must have thought ‘what the hell are these people doing’, but she really threw herself into the project and offered her talents. When we were in the recording studio and asking for volunteer singers, my jaw was on the floor when some of the shy students put their hands up to sing”.

Áine, a NLN student on the I.T. course who lent her voice to the track, explained how “everyone was involved in coming up with the lyrics. Writing the song was teamwork. We’re here to learn but we’re also here to do new things and express ourselves.”

Jake, from Skills for Life, said, “a lot of us are interested in music and we learned a lot in the workshops about writing lyrics. I’d like to do music production in the future.”

Alison, from the Directions course said: “I diagnosed with autism 2 years ago, and I joined NLN a few months later. I was very quiet, I wouldn’t really talk much, then suddenly when I came in and joined the group, I started meeting friends and doing art and music. The project has boosted my confidence.”

Chantelle, from Skills for Life, said, “When I was in school, I could never get along with people; people would misjudge too fast and they wouldn’t take the time to get to know me. So it took me years and years to try to at least find people that actually understood me. So when I came here to NLN, it gave me the courage to blend with people.”

Chantelle continued: “I’d say the song is going to have a massively positive effect on people. When I was in the workshop I was still very, very shy, but the message in the song is that even when people are going through darkest times, there is still going to be light at the end of the tunnel. It’s that you have somewhere to go to, even when times seem dark.”

On how the song developed and modified over time, Sam said, “We started with a basic beat and built upon it. Of all the students involved, we all recorded different parts of the lyrics individually, and we layered them over the original beat.”

Speaking about the collaboration between different NLN courses, Megan from Skills for Life said, “our group was put with the Directions group during the workshops, and it meant that we were able to make new friends.” Speaking of his fellow student, Daniel from Directions said, “I was in class with Jade for months and never really heard her voice before, the music project showed off her voice. I thought it was cool to hear her sing, let alone talk”. Praise, a Skills for Life student, said she “had never sang in front of anyone in the group before” but now says she “would do it again.”

Scott, a Directions student, spoke about filming the music video across Cork city, saying, “it was fun, we were all jumping around for a while in the Marina Market.” Megan added, “the music video brought out the meaning of the song more.”

Eoghain, from the Skills for Life course, said:  “Life’s not easy. People may be going through mental health problems, and school was a bit of a hard time as well, and the song really speaks about that. I was a bit shy when I started doing it, but every time I got up and did my lyric in the workshops, I was nervous but still had a bit of confidence too.” Sarah, a Directions student, said she felt she “fit in for the first time and the music made me feel happy and helped me express how I feel.”

Kane, from the Skills for Life course, explained how “we’re free to express ourselves here. I’m now more confident talking to people. Hopefully the song will encourage people to know more about NLN and join the course, and that they will find their people.”

Alison said, “At NLN, we’re not treating as children, we’re treated as adults, but it’s important to have the support from staff there too”.

Stacey Bermingham, instructor of the Skills for Life course, explained how “life skills are an important aspect of this course. Basically, whatever the students feel they want to spend some time learning – learning about moving out of home, reading payslips, cookery, budgeting – anything they identify as a need, we will cover it. The learning is very much directed by the students.”

Speaking about the Directions course, Grace said, “We do modules on self-advocacy, where we learn how to speak up for ourselves. We do modules that include computer skills, health lifestyles, and social skills. It’s really helpful for people who are really nervous about getting around, getting the bus, and being independent. A lot of us would have been very shy and quiet but coming to NLN, and meeting people here helped and I just kind of eased out of the shyness and I was able to talk more.”

“The song is quite powerful and it’s very honest, and although it’s dark, we were talking about what NLN means to people, and we realised that what people take away from this place is that they’ve found people they could hang out with and who were like them. There is a very close bond and they all look at for one another. There is a strong emphasis on social connectivity”, said Adrian.

Sam added, “NLN isn’t just about education. If someone doesn’t know about NLN, and then they hear the song, maybe they’ll realise they’ll find someone who’s like them in NLN”.

Find your people launched at the NLN Cork graduation ceremony in November 2022, as students received QQI certificates for successful completion of their supportive training programmes.

Check out Find your people: