Mercury prize winners give youth workers a huge shout out

8 September 2023

Prize winning Ezra Collective big up the power of youth work in their acceptance speech

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Ezra Collective gave youth workers all over the country a massive boost last night as they became the first jazz act ever to win the prestigious £25,000 Mercury Prize and used their acceptance speech as an opportunity to praise the power of youth work.

The awards celebrate the best British or Irish album of the last 12 months and the quintet won for, ‘Where I’m Meant To Be’. Accepting their award, drummer Femi Koleoso said the group “.. represents something very special because we met in a youth club. This moment that we’re celebrating right here is testament to good, special people putting time and effort into young people to play music.”

His heartfelt acceptance speech continued with a resounding endorsement of the youth workers who give their all to provide the best possible start in life for young people. Koleoso continued, “This is not just a result for Ezra Collective, or for UK jazz, but this is a special moment for every single organisation across the country, ploughing efforts and time into young people playing music.”

This is the second year in a row that youth work has been bigged up by Mercury prize winners after 2022’s winner Little Simz credited a youth club in Islington with nurturing her musical and dance talents, saying, “It was the place where it all began for me, a second home”.

Oxfordshire Youth works with many wonderful youth organisations championing young people’s creative talent such as Cherwell Theatre Company, Mandala Theatre and Inspire Sounds, whose brilliant young artists provided a fantastic closing performance for our youth mental health conference, Youth in Mind 2023. 

In a five-star review of Ezra Collective’s winning album, the Observer’s Kate Hutchinson hailed it as an exceptional piece of work that, “..centres joy and community, radiates positivity and youthful abandon, and could well be the one to cross over to the big league” – a description that could well be applied to any of the young people Oxfordshire Youth and Oxfordhire’s youth sector in its entirety work with. 

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