Guest blog: Young People as Leaders, by Ellen Orange of Team Juice, Editor of the Juice Festival blog

08 January 2018

Guest blog: Young People as Leaders, by Ellen Orange of Team Juice, Editor of the Juice Festival blog

Would you trust someone who doesn't eat cake to bake one for you? They might be able to follow a recipe, they might know what makes a good cake theoretically, but if they don't eat it themselves, can they really know what the perfect flavours are, how light it should be, or what the best icing to cake ratio is?

This is a concept which has been picked up by industries across the world. Tech companies focus on user experience - with everything centred around the person who will use the device or platform and how they'll interact with it. Marketing companies hold focus groups to see what it is that customers want, and one of the key aspects in the fight for diversity in all workplaces is that it helps companies represent, and better understand, their customers and audiences. 

So when it comes to art and culture, shouldn't we adopt the same principle? Many organisations are looking for new and innovative ideas to engage young people - surely the best way is to ask young people themselves? 

Don't buy into myths and stereotypes

Events run for young people are notoriously difficult to get right. There are hurdles left, right, and centre, from defining age ranges, to finding appropriate and attractive venues, and even the task of how to engage a stereotypically 'disengaged' generation. Too often events like this miss the mark, considered too childish for young adults, too mature for younger audiences, or by tapping into trends whose ship has already sailed.  

But the truth is that young people, from those in their teens to mid-twenties, aren't disengaged at all. More than ever, huge amounts of young people are keen to get involved in the community, gain work experience and do something that is 'meaningful'. Young people are engaged in politics and want to use their voices, they want to make changes for the better. So, as an industry which has so often been tied to the community and politics, why not engage young people by involving them. Let them use their voices. Even better, when it comes to creating events for young people, let them lead. 

They may not have the skills and understanding of an experienced event planner, but they have a whole range of knowledge, understanding and experiences they can bring to the arts and culture scene. Juice Festival is leading the way in showing how, when you put the reins in the hands of young people, projects can truly thrive. 

The festival's flagship project of 2017 was called Our Time and from the initial idea, to the final execution, the whole event was placed in the hands of Team Juice, a group of young people aged from 18 to 25. Team Juice was keen to hold an event that team members themselves would want to attend, taking inspiration from other events they'd enjoyed and issues affecting them. 

Inspiration can be carried forward

The final idea was to celebrate social and political progress since Martin Luther King, to combat the negative news and world views we felt constantly faced with. The event involved the late night opening of a museum, with commissions by different artists offering workshops, activities and performances. Everything from the artist commissions to the catering was led by Team Juice, all making informed decisions around what would appeal to the target audience. The event was a huge success with a great turnout, fantastic atmosphere and a real buzz around what had been accomplished. 

The most important takeaway about working on Team Juice is not only to give young people experience, but the inspiration to continue working on similar programmes and events. This is why Team Juice is working in partnership with Culture Bridge North East to produce Big Ideas - Children and Young People's Voices in Leadership - an event to illustrate what young people can achieve in leadership. 

While there are still a wide range of ages and experiences within this generation, it's obvious that those who know what appeals to young people are young people themselves. So perhaps rather than asking why should we involve young people's voices in arts and culture for young people, the better question is why shouldn't we? 

Take part in Big Ideas - Children and Young People's Voices in Leadership

Our Big Ideas - Children and Young People's Voices in Leadership event will take place on Wednesday 7th February from 16.30-19.30 at Gosforth Civic Theatre, and we'd love you to be involved.

This evening will explore ways to enable young people to have a voice in cultural organisations, groups and projects. We want to share good practice from across the region to inspire a change in the way we work with young people. We're interested in hearing from organisations, schools, colleges, groups and projects that have young people’s voice at the centre of what they do, in key leadership and decision making roles. We'd love to hear from a variety of organisations and education settings taking in different art forms or focuses, geographical locations, and scales of work.

Do you work with young people in a way you think should be shared? For example, this could be a youth theatre that plans and supports productions, an art project that runs workshops, or a group that plans its own projects. Contributors must involve young people in the creation and delivery of the materials shared. We want to hear from young people as well as the organisations.

Please send an expression of interest answering the following questions on no more than one side of A4 to rachel.hamer@ngi.org.uk.

1.Tell us about you and your organisation, school, college, group or project

2. Why would you like to take part in the event?

3. What initial ideas do you have of how you could share your knowledge and best practice in a creative way?

4. A detailed breakdown of financial or other support you may require e.g. travel tickets, freelance staff time, access needs.

If you work at a cultural organisation and would like to find out more about attending, please visit culturebridgenortheast.org.uk/events/big-ideas-our-time-children-and-young-people-leadership.