Tim Ford explains how one programme is enabling young people to experience ‘excitement and engagement’ by taking their own artistic ambitions and making them reality.
We established Young Arts Entrepreneurs (YAE) at the Curve Theatre in Leicester to raise the standard of arts-led experiences and provide opportunities for local young people. Since September 2011 YAE has been a route for 16 to 25 year olds to develop arts-based ideas into sustainable businesses.
YAE excites, engages and provides 'opportunity' in the truest sense and those who are accepted onto the programme are offered up to £1000 plus coaching and training. The programme starts with applicants presenting their ideas to our Steering Group of young people with practical arts experience – a bit like ‘Dragon’s Den’ but with more smiling!
Twenty-three young entrepreneurs were accepted onto the programme in the first two years and already we’ve seen them creating great work, and opening up new opportunities.
Bethany Taylor’s company Cognito Theatre created Do You Expect Me To Talk? confronting the stigma of mental illness. Bethany recently won The Leicester Mercury Young Person of The Year Award and explains: ‘Theatre has always been an excellent way of provoking discussion and asking questions. Do You Expect Me To Talk? is all about making people think but in a way in which they'll be comfortable enough to discuss. I have been moved by some of the stories of the young people I've spoken to, and how some feel they can't talk about what they're going through because they're scared of facing prejudice. Surely, this has to change.’ .
Another YAE participant, Akshay Sharma created The Sex Entercation Show in response to awkward sex education lessons he experienced in school. With cases of sexually transmitted infections rising Akshay wanted to tackle the issue in more innovative ways, so created a flamboyant solo show which he performs, to ‘entertain and educate all at the same time.’
Aminata Kamara’s company Unidentified Theatre created I Am Marley exploring issues around trans-racial adoption. Aminata was also recently awarded young person of the year in The Afro-Caribbean Awards.
We know from independent evaluation by Community Research UK and from their own testimonial the young entrepreneurs have improved their skills and built self-confidence: ‘having others to help is nice if you’re struggling’ one YAE told us, ‘I think now I’m more equipped to start any other business – not just to do with Curve YAE’ said another.
Find out more about the Curve Theatre's Young Arts Entrepreneurs programme in this video:
YAE has also engaged the business community and many local arts enterprises contributed including visiting artists Paul Long, Phillip Mackenzie, metro-boulot-dodo, Weapons of Sound and Citizen598 - as have non-arts businesses with pro-bono training, mentoring and business advice.
As we reflect on the first year’s ‘graduate’ YAEs the future looks bright:
Bethany Taylor and Cognito have gone on to work with Young Minds, a national youth mental health charity.
Akshay Sharma is taking The Sex Entercation Show to more colleges, NHS events, secondary schools, universities and festivals.
Unidentified Theatre is now developing their adoption project beyond a theatre production and already working on a new show with Action Homeless Leicester.
Movin’2gether’s Rachel Eke and Emily Bolton have started working with De Montfort University and local primary schools on their Arts Award dance programme plus the Curve itself has commissioned them to lead dance sessions for over 55s.
Our second year projects are equally exciting and engaging. They include a theatre project with young offenders, a community music platform event, a new local youth theatre, a drama project with young homeless people, a hip-hop project for girls and a street dance project.
This post was written by Tim Ford (@timrep), Associate Director at the Curve Theatre Leicester. Funding for YAE comes from the Paul Hamlyn, Esmee Fairbairn and The Doyle Carte foundations.