Arts Connect: Consultant
How can we better engage young people as participants and audience for arts and culture outside of school? An investigation by Arts Connect, in partnership with Dan Whitehouse, mac birmingham and Amy Martin Consultant for Arts Connect.
Why is it important?
Today’s young people need not only basic education, but the ability to deal with an increasingly complex and connected world, now, more than ever before, it is critical to look at solutions that complement the framework of traditional schooling. Arts education and creative projects that work with young people outside of school can encourage a life long connection to learning and help to develop critical skills in communication, creativity and confidence building. Such projects open up opportunities for progression and deeper engagement in arts and culture and ensure there is an active arts audience for the future. Projects that offer access to industry experts, high quality professional practitioners, and experienced and inspirational facilitators can raise aspiration and help young people to develop a growing interest in culture, sustain their new-found skills and use them to flourish.
The programme of work began by Dan and I identifying a line of enquiry to frame the project: How can we better engage young people as participants and audience for arts and culture outside of school? We then decided upon the timetable of activity and communicated this though our project Tumblr http://youthartswm.tumblr.com, which we used as a digital scrapbook.
As part of our research we began mapping the provision within the region for creative activities for young people outside of school post 16.
We identified provision as projects that;
· Offer access to high quality arts activity – either involving arts organisations or professional arts practitioners
· Work exclusively young people post 16yrs +(outside of school) including vulnerable and at risk groups
· Ran from Summer 2012 – to the present, this was to include Cultural Olympiad projects
During this time Dan and Amy were visiting existing youth arts groups across the region researching into best practice approaches and taking influence from the wider youth sector including youth charities such as IdeasTap and Reach.
It was concluded that there is a lack of provision for young people outside of school, with most cultural learning programmes focussing on children and young people in school. It was noted that there has been a huge knock on effect from the closure of Connections and funding cuts to youth agencies/clubs/networks in the West Midlands and that recruitment of young people to these programmes is particularly difficult without these networks in place. It was also evident that organisation’s wanted to develop more networks and have opportunities to network and connect, to discuss some of the issues and challenges faced by working within the sector and to develop new projects and /or programmes.
We established an engagement framework to support our research and concentrated on sustained activity with and for young people. We created a database of post 16 youth arts projects and provision within the West Midlands, concentrating on level 2 & 3 of the engagement framework.
Action learning session.
On 24th May 2013 we invited stakeholders; youth workers, cultural orgs, arts award representatives, youth charities, policy makers, referral and youth agencies to an action learning session at mac facilitated by Wanjiku Nyachae. This ideas generation session facilitated through: open space, discussion and visual thinking exercises aimed to explore a framework or approach to working with Post 16 including vulnerable and at risk groups. We thought it important that young people themselves were part of this discussion and so Wanjiku took a group of 5 young people through the ‘train the trainer’ course. This enabled those young people to develop the skills to co-facilitate the day along with Wanjiku and to join in on the discussion.
‘This has been an inspiring and deeply worthwhile contribution to young people's growth through creativity’ Wanjiku Nyachae
We used the information gathered to inform the resource/guide and continued to work with 2 of the young facilitators Carl Sealeaf and Amerah Saleh as co-authors of the resource.
Using the information collated at the action learning session, Claire Hartley a Birmingham based illustrator/designer worked with Dan, Amy, Carl and Amerah to develop a downloadable and printed resource. The aim for this resource was to support those wanting to develop work with young people post 16, outside of school and to strengthen existing provision by offering support and guidance. We wanted the resource to be easy to use, timeless and something you might keep handy and refer to it as and when required. Our feedback from potential users said that it should not be ‘stuffy’ or too academic.
Our target reader: education officers, young people working with other young people, artists, curators, producers, project managers and youth workers.
Stats: 5000 reference guides were printed
I actually picked up 2 extra copies of the booklet for my friends, as it's a nice practical guide to using performance with young people. It is a useful reminder and simple summary of everything I learnt in dense books by Petra kuppers, Helen Nicholson and such like at university. Tara Buckley, Freelance Director & Producer
'This is a great resource that acts as a clear and accessible step by step guide for practitioners and facilitators who work with young people within arts settings. There are many tips included that are invaluable, such as details on how to market projects, and get young people to attend sessions in the first place! I will certainly be using this as a resource to refer to in the future. It is brilliant that the mac provide support and encouragement to artists who wish to work alongside young people.'
Bethan Ball (3rd Year Applied Performance Student)
The ‘Guide for Creative Work With Young People’ was very effective and well designed. The overall look and feel of the booklet was clear and easy to understand, with the colourful layout of illustration and text making the resource very engaging. The headings throughout the guide broke up the information making it really easy to locate each area of information when referring back to the booklet. The guide gave very concise information, which was really helpful when giving ideas and advice when working with young people; some of which we have used in our social media. We also handed out some of the spare guides given to us after the event; all, which received a guide, were very impressed with the design and content.
Sophie Cooper, Creative Alliance
The resource was great and made me smile. You could see that great effort had gone into them and could potentially be really useful.
Lucy Bird, Community Engagement Manager REACH
On 3rd October we hosted a day-long event at mac for up to 71 delegates exploring our line of enquiry: How can we better engage young people as participants and audience for arts and culture outside of school?
The day included case studies, discussion, and practical skills workshops such as fundraising, mentoring, social media and youth voice. The event included a sharing by Women and Theatre, a workshop facilitated by Carl and Amerah, a keynote speech by Lemn Sissay and the presentation of the guide.
The Arts Connect Conference was useful for me, as an emerging producer, because it allowed to really connect with other useful contacts in the field. After the conference I met up with someone I met and she helped me to target young people for a youth group I lead at. In addition, the mentoring workshop inspired me to find a creative mentor and I am now part of the creative space residency at mac where I am being mentored as a producer. Overall, it revived my passion and belief in the arts (mainly because of Lemn's speech!!)
Tara Buckley, Freelance Director & Producer
I really enjoyed the conference facilitated at the mac at the start of October. It was a great opportunity to actually take the time to consider why I am in the role I am and my true passion with working with young people.
The conference speaker Lemn Sissay was an inspiration and I loved his speech. So much so I got in contact with him after to see if he would consider being an ambassador for my charities young people’s service. I think he would be an amazing role model who could offer a creative flair for many young people who are facing similar circumstances. So fingers crossed!
The day as a whole was summed up by the young lady from the performing arts organisation who performed Shine Like A Diamond .. When hearing that song since I’ve heard it in a different light. She moved me in a way that only a young person with her story could.
Great day, hoping for another next year?
Lucy Bird, Community Engagement Manager , www.reachthecharity.org.uk
From feedback forms:
How might the event impact on your organisation?
· I have made links – places to advertise the youth group, possible partners. I have been inspired to find a mentor to help me to progress in the industry.
· This event has put me in touch with possible collaborators also given an insight into how best to keep young people engaged in the project I deliver, by sharing best practice.
· Confirmed the work I do, is important and unpicked nuances which I’ll be sure to prioritize.
· Thinking about a structured mentoring programme, thinking about longer term delivery…
· Better networks and inspiration!
· Reinforced my passion and why I want to make positive change for the community through arts practice with young people.
· It’s got me thinking about how we can develop the way we work with young people and how important it is.
In one sentence please can you sum up your experience of today?
· A day that refreshed my hope in an industry that can be tough. Fantastic learnt a lot.
· A very emotional day which put me/my organisation in touch with the ever changing needs of young people
· Interesting, inspiring and important
· A great day, very well supported
· Enlightening and thought provoking with a lot of laughter
· Absolutely breathtaking and inspirational from start to finish