Youth Leadership in Creative Youth

Over the last 5 years Ovalhouse has engaged over 50 Young Associates aged 16-21 in youth leadership training and mentoring. Young Associates are selected participants who each have the opportunity to plan and develop their own arts workshop, which they are supported to deliver to attendees at one of our dance, drama or writing classes. The young people have created original performances, exhibitions, artwork and events to engage audiences of local press, senior citizens, the local police and councillors. 

These opportunities have seen young aspiring artists shadowing professional artists as on-the-job training; making their own work as artists; co-producing projects with Ovalhouse;  being on steering groups; benefiting from  professional development and a  formal training programme.  For some young people youth leadership at Ovalhouse has led directly to professional work in the arts and related industries and for others it has provided a bridge to higher education and training. Currently youth leadership opportunities exist across four strands of work, with Young Associates co-producing a range of projects alongside arts professionals. Each Young associate receives individual mentoring from an arts professional and training in project management, philosophy of leadership, safeguarding, equal opportunities etc in leadership skills and philosophies.  Young Associates can choose to accredit their work through the Arts Award.

Young Associates train with Ovalhouse for 10 months. Selection begins in the summer, with applications followed by an interview and audition round. Selected participants begin their training in September, at the start of our autumn term of classes, and stay with us until the following July. 

Many of the young people who access this programme do not have other routes into the arts and many face disadvantage. The group is chosen to reflect interests in range of artistic processes: directing, acting, dancing and writing in which arts facilitation is taught and takes into account the diversity of South London. In order to support and encourage sustained, meaningful engagement we provide each of our 10 Young Associates with a stipend of £100 per month, conditional on attendance.

Young Associates are given training in all aspects of youth leadership including health and safety, safe guarding, risk assessment, production skills and project planning. These are invaluable transferable skills for young people who otherwise struggle to access careers in the arts. The key element of our Young Associates programme is that it includes practical work experience allowing participants to demonstrate their skills and build their confidence. Each Young associate receives individual mentoring from an arts professional and has the opportunity to accredit their work through the Arts Award.

Engaging and training youth leaders is a vital aspect of Ovalhouse’s work.  The Young Associates programme seeks to empower young people to improve their own life chances and in so doing become advocates for the ways in which the arts can have a positive impact on society.

The opportunities we provide have seen young aspiring artists shadowing professional artists as on-the-job training; making their own work as artists; co-producing projects with Ovalhouse;  sitting on steering groups as well as benefitting from professional development and a formal training programme. For some young people youth leadership at Ovalhouse has led directly to professional work in the arts and related industries. For others it has provided a bridge to higher education and further training. 

One success story from the programme is John who applied as a young arts practitioner and Lewisham resident. He was struggling to bridge the gap between internships and assistant roles and lead tutor positions in participatory arts. After the programme he gained professional employment as Creative Education Officer at the West Yorkshire Playhouse:

I have gone from being a struggling freelance drama facilitator to landing a full time position...This progression is in large part due to Ovalhouse ... I have been blessed with the opportunity of working with Ovalhouse and now my career is going from strength to strength.

John Dawson 25, Young Associate September- December 2013

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