Scotland

How one man is using an old bus to steer people from crime

Jordan Butler
Image caption Jordan Butler founded Heavy Sound three years ago in order to use music to engage with young people in disadvantaged communities

Jordan Butler had a troubled childhood and ended up homeless, with drink and drug problems - but in music he found solace.

"Music has been a constant partner to me, a refuge," he says.

And now he's using music, plus a bus and inmates from Edinburgh prison, to improve the lives of young people.

'Giving something back'

He's the man behind the Heavy Sound bus - an out-of-service single decker, bought by his social enterprise company for £1.

It is being turned into a mobile community centre offering support, advice and music-making activities to disadvantaged communities.

Jordon says: "If we can use rap, hip hop, or song-writing to engage with troubled young people we can help turn their lives around too."

In the first collaboration of its kind, Heavy Sound is working with Police Scotland's Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) and the Scottish Prison Service (SPS).

Since January, volunteer prisoners at Saughton jail have stripped out the bus interior, and transformed it, installing hi-tech recording equipment.

Image caption Joe is hoping he might get to use the bus once he leaves prison

Joe, a joiner to trade, and nearing the end of a lengthy sentence, was one of the first on board.

He says "I've worked on plenty kitchens, but never anything on this scale. It's a privilege.

"I think when it's finished, it will look great. I hope I might get to use it."

Malcolm Smith of the SPS said inmates were initially intrigued then enthused by working on the bus.

He explained: "It's the satisfaction of getting the opportunity of working on something worthwhile - giving something back to the communities some of them have come from - and it's a chance for some to gain employment when they leave here."

'Make time serve me'

Colin spent weeks painting the interior of the bus and helped install bespoke units. The 28-year-old says prison is not a place he wants to be, and he's determined to make the most of any opportunity he's offered here.

"While I'm in here I'm making as much use of my time as I can. I'm trying to make time serve me instead of me serving time."

Colin's from nearby Wester Hailes, and says he hung around with the wrong crowd. He says having a mobile community centre like the bus could take a lot of kids like him away from the streets.

Music will be a central attraction of the refurbished bus.

"We're going to have a music production suite, basically, with electronic instruments, a sound desk, speakers, DJ equipment, microphones, everything," says Jordan.

Image caption Shirley says being able to help with the bus project has been a great opportunity for her

In the laundry, Shirley, a 35-year-old mum of seven, is busy with the artwork for the bus exterior. She's designed colourful smiling stars, musical notes and clefs.

"It's made me more relaxed, and helped me through the nights. It allows me to clear my head," she says.

"I liked drawing before, but I never had an opportunity to do anything like this."

The Violence Reduction Unit has been hailed for its work cutting crime in the west of Scotland. This is its first major initiative in the east.

Director Niven Rennie says: "I'm conscious that we need to do more in the communities in Edinburgh, where violence is still rife.

"This is something new. We are taking services to people, to the communities, and encouraging them to come on board and get the services they require and discuss the issues in their life."

Image caption The bus has been stripped out, painted and fitted with new units where recording equipment will be installed

Linda Bendle, Heavy Sounds operations manager, says the aim of the bus is to catch people before they "fall through the cracks in the system" and offer "crisis intervention".

"It keeps evolving, but essentially the purpose is the same - to get in to the heart of communities, to get involved with families and help to have a positive impact on their life."

One sheriff has already expressed interest in taking the bus to towns which have lost a court building, for dealing with minor offenders or repeat appearances.

The project has support from the Scottish government, the European Social Fund, Edinburgh City Council, and a range of businesses and charities.

The bus is due to head out on the road next month and if it is a success the VRU has said it could be "the first of a fleet".