On Stage! Music and arts for social change

The sound of education: how music and performing art can bolster social inclusion

Labelisation date : 02/06/2017

  • L'Hospitalet de Llobregat , Spain

  • Size of city : 254 804 inhabitants

  • Contact

    Raül Brenchat

    Project Coordinator

  • Adapted by cities from


On Stage! is a model to democratise the access to and the production of music and art with an integrated, cohesive and participative approach. The Transferred Practice is based on EMMCA (Escola Municipal de Música-Centre de les Arts) a public Municipal Arts Centre and Music, Drama and Dance School in L'Hospitalet de Llobregat, a city in the Metropolitan area of Barcelona.

The solutions offered by the good practice

Ordinary arts practice and training programmes are usually out of reach for most disadvantaged groups. The objective of EMMCA is inclusion and uptake for all in Hospitalet, not just for one homogenous group or income bracket. With a population of over one-quarter million, the highest rate of population density in Europe and almost 30% of its population with a migrant background, L’Hospitalet faces several challenges in social, economic, physical and cultural terms. A twist happens in 2004 when people in the street, picketing the city hall, demand a public music school. While the model initially though was that of a traditional music conservatory, the socio-economic condition in the city demanded an innovative approach which could tackle the cultural divides. In 2005 the EMMCA school was opened as a new school for participative cultural and artistic expression. EMMCA offers group classes to all citizens, carries out curricular performing arts activities in primary schools, borrows instruments to its students, grants special prices to those who cannot afford to pay full fees. Since its opening, over 50.000 people participated in school’s activities. This is also the yearly average audience of the performances. An average of 4500 students take part to the EMMCA’s activities each year. The Symphony Orchestra of the EMMCA is honoured to count 29% of performers with a migrant background, the same rate of people from non-EU origin living in the entire city.

Building on the sustainable and integrated approach

Projects such as On Stage! (EMMCA) allow culture to be placed at the centre of cities’ social change, to bolster links between their citizens, boosting cohesion and tackling urban segregation. This practice responds to the Sustainable Development Goal 11 by measures that aim to recognise and promote cultural diversity for cities, to integrate culture to counter urban violence, and to ensure investment to enhance culture, cultural heritage and creativity in urban planning. On Stage! practice also approaches issues included in the European Urban Agenda such as inclusion of migrants and refugees and Culture and Cultural heritage. It responds to various priorities of the ERDF esp. 9-10) and it is an excellent practice enriching the debated in the New European Bauhaus and related initiatives. Regarding cross-cutting basic objectives, this good practice promotes equal opportunities, equal treatment and equality between men and women. Of the EMMCA’s pupils as a whole, 46.46% are women and 53.55% are men. The principle of equal treatment is applied to the group from childhood to adolescence, in relation to academic underachievement and possible isolation in the job market. The value and sustainability of this practice is also documented by its results: according to the 2015-2016 data, students involved in the EMMCA program had better results in 7th grade exams than those in similar schools not participating in the programs. Higher grades were recorded in most statutory subjects, and especially math. Regarding cross-cutting basic objectives, the most important aim is to promote equal opportunities founded on two principles: equal treatment and equality between men and women. Of the EMCA’s pupils as a whole, 46.46% are women and 53.55% are men. The principle of equal treatment is applied to the group from childhood to adolescence, in relation to academic underachievement and possible isolation in the job market.

Based on a participatory approach

The participatory approach is central to allow people who visit EMMCA every week to play, sing, dance, rehearse and learn come from all backgrounds and origins. In order to achieve that everyone has to be involved from social workers, the families, teachers, students. The main players involved in the process are the eight primary schools where the project is developed, and where the educational community of parents and teachers work together. The project has managed to promote the creation of parents’ associations in the eight schools where it is developed. At an institutional level, also participating as project partners alongside with the L’Hospitalet Local Authority are the Government of Catalonia, the Barcelona Council and the Fondation Daniel et Nina Carasso and other UlG members.

What difference has it made?

Taking on the leadership of the URBACT transfer network brought new improvements to the EMMCA approach. In particular the exchange of knowledge among cities in On Stage network, the dialogues created among ULG members, especially teachers, across Europe prompted fresh understanding of the EMMCA work. The core objective of a two-year improvement plan resulted in further investing in the engagement between the school and the population of L’Hospitalet. In order to achieve this goal the Lead Partner acted on three levels of actions in terms of skills, involvement of specific target groups, and reaching out the wider community strengthening local networks. The concrete actions focused on: 1. Extending the EMMCA offer to children aged 0-3, young people and those experiencing mental health issues. 2. Improving EMMCA projects in primary schools. 3. Commissioning a research study on the impact of EMMCA within the community with an external impact assessment by ESMUC, the Catalan College of Music. The study focuses on how to a)increase the number of people that practice arts in L’Hospitalet, b) reach all social sectors, including those more likely to be excluded for arts practise, c)use arts as a means to social cohesion d)To use arts as a means to school attainment Notably, the coordination of the Onstage network has improved the collaboration among the school team and EMMCA approach has consolidated its centrality in local government.

Transferring the practice

Transferring the practices has had a tremendous impact both in creating seeds of transformation and social change in the partner cities and in re-evaluating the works done so far in EMMCA. The quantitative results show that through On Stage 28 schools have been directly and indirectly involved in the transfer, through the work of 120 people active in ULG across the ON Stage cities. 735 people have been involved in the demo-action ( such as studies, new pilot projects for children and youth) including students, families, stand, teachers, researchers, experts and municipal staff. Despite the pandemic impeded most of the exchanges, the visit of the teachers of L’Hospitalet to Katowice has been crucial to reflecting, reimagining and innovating the Lead Partner role and to rethink EMMCA knowledge of primary school projects with new initiatives.