“Helping people grow through music” is the motto and since 2016 The Fenner Frost Foundation has done exactly that, nurturing confidence and teaching transferable skills to students with learning difficulties by running a record shop with some truly heartwarming success stories.
We visited RPM Records a few weeks ago to get a feel of their vision and were truly overwhelmed by the sense of purpose the project installs in its students, channelling their universal love for music into practical teaching, all relating to employability.
Alison & Sue kindly took the time out to chat about the Foundation & Shop and an overview of it’s past, present and future…
Talk us through the beginnings of Fenner Frost Foundation, how it leads into RPM Records and what you set out to achieve.
The Fenner Frost Foundation was set up in 2016 to give adults with learning disabilities meaningful work experience. The shop, RPM, is staffed by up to 6 students a day where they can gain the skills required to access paid employment opportunities.
We set this up in response to a lack of vocational provision for people with learning disabilities post education.
With music as the product, how does this aid teaching and guidance of your students?
All aspects of learning are covered incidentally. ICT is used to research and price our stock online using Discogs. Numeracy and money skills are learnt by serving customers (we are cash only), cashing up the takings and paying them into the bank. Our stock is categorised alphabetically, requiring our students to read the names of bands or artists before putting stock into the correct areas of the retail space.
Social isolation is common for people with learning disabilities and having a real purpose to their day boosts their confidence and sense of well-being.
How important is Discogs to your day to day operations?
Without Discogs we would struggle to accurately price our stock. It also gives the students the opportunity to sell online as well as face to face.
How do you keep the shop stocked?
Our shop is mostly stocked with donations from the general public. We distribute donation leaflets locally and use social media to raise awareness of our charity.
What is the most interesting item that has come in as a donation?
We have a couple of suggestions for the most interesting donation! One is a signed Rod Stewart LP and the other was The Beatles: Sincere Good Wishes for Chrismas and The New Year via The Official Beatles FanClub.
Have there been many success stories of RPM “graduates” obtaining employment after their time with you?
We are currently supporting 13 students, 2 of whom now have paid employment once a week. A further 2 are volunteering elsewhere as a direct result of the Fenner Frost Foundation.
How is the future of RPM looking and how do you hope to grow and develop?
The future of RPM is positive. With continued support and donations of current stock, we hope to encourage a greater footfall. The students particularly enjoy interacting with and serving customers and it is, therefore, important our stock is updated regularly.
We are currently at student capacity but, as our existing students move on, it will create spaces for new ones and the charity will thrive.