November 16, 2004

PROJECTS: Youth arts: A blast of creativity

Youth arts: A blast of creativity
By - 17/11/04
Connexions Humber has joined with BBC Blast and other organisations to establish Creative Connexions. Charlotte Goddard finds out how this partnership approach is working in practice.

"I don't understand why everyone's not doing it," says Steve Kay, youth inclusion manager at Connexions Humber. "I couldn't speak about it in a more positive sense." Kay is not talking about sex, drugs, or rock'n'roll. Well, maybe the latter to some extent. He is talking about Creative Connexions, an arts-based programme set up in April with £205,000 from the European Social Fund.

Specialist team

Some of that money goes towards the salaries of five full-time team members: two drama workers, a film-maker, a visual artist and a music worker.

Other skills are bought in as and when they are needed. The benefits of that kind of team working, says Chris Dale, creative department officer for music at Creative Connexions, are that it enables the schemes to grow organically with the interests of the young people.

"We have just started a project at St Mary's College in Hull, working with young people who are disengaged from mainstream education," he says.

"We are working towards a performance, but it looks like we might also do a music video as that is something the young people have expressed an interest in. If something crops up like that we can get another member of the team involved, or buy someone else in - we is building up a team of regular people."

Dale says the young people he works with have diverse interests. One group of young men on his current project are into "old-fashioned rock music such as AC/DC", for example, and another is working on an R'n'B track, which just goes to show that youth workers should never make assumptions about what kind of music will be popular. Another project saw young people creating a graffiti wall.

Young people taking part in Creative Connexions projects are able to gain qualifications. The team is piloting the National Youth Arts Award, and one group, the Gypsyville Youth Theatre, has already won a silver award.

Creative Connexions targets young people over 16 who are not in education, employment or training and 13- to 16-year-olds who are at risk of becoming disengaged. One of the main partners is BBC Blast, an initiative that encourages teenagers to develop an interest in dance, film, art, writing and music.

It has the web site blast, which allows youth workers to download a tool kit of ideas for use in projects. The BBC initiative also runs regional activities, including a roadshow where the BBC Blast bus visits areas. Creative Connexions is currently developing a three-year strategy to co-ordinate with the strategy of BBC Blast.

Universal appeal

But the partnership doesn't stop there. Creative Connexions works with the local authority youth service and voluntary organisations in the region, as well as with Connexions advisers, schools, colleges and work-based learning providers. "Our team is working flat out, but even if we had 50 full-time workers we would still have enough to keep us busy," says Kay.

Creative Connexions has worked with 200 young people and it helps run events such as Creative Voice, which reached 1,500 young people over three days. The event was a partnership between Hull Youth Service, Hull City Arts, Connexions Humber, Hull Youth Council and BBC Blast. Young people performed and were involved in developing the event, including designing posters and attending press workshops.

"Arts projects were the only thing we found to offer universal appeal to all young people," says Kay.


- To enable young people aged 13 to 19 to be confident in and explore their creative abilities

- To provide the opportunity to develop new and existing skills in the arts

- To provide access to professionals via the internet, print and phone

- To provide showcasing opportunities through TV, radio and online

- To develop the creative and performing arts as a tool for young people to influence service development and delivery

- To work in co-operation with existing youth arts practitioner and youth service networks

Source: Connexions Humber Business Improvement Plan 2004-05.

Chris Schuepp
Young People's Media Network - Coordinator
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