Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.
– Pablo Picasso
If you’re aged somewhere between 14 and 25, and feel most alive when you’re being creative, you probably have Picasso’s question niggling away at the back of your mind. It’s a question that undermines your self-confidence, and taunts you with the suspicion that playfulness is only for children, and that maturing as an adult inevitably means taking on soul-destroying paid employment and leaving behind those childhood years of fun and creativity. You may also think, because the mainstream media and arts establishments are run by middle-class university graduates that the worlds of books, music, drama and the visual arts are only for the highly-educated and privileged – those who foster and maintain a culture that degrades your life experiences and mocks your secret hopes. Right now, you may feel that your creative spark is being schooled out of you, as you’re forced to gobble up Shakespeare in GCSE-friendly bite-sized chunks. Or maybe the arts are simply priced beyond the reach of your low wages? Maybe without the support of an inspiring teacher or lecturer, and lacking the resources once provided by your local youth group, the possibility of ‘remaining’ an artist appears remote, even non-existent?
Wales Arts Review was co-founded by a bunch of young writers and artists (including myself and current editor Gary Raymond) as a do-it-yourself project in speaking up and speaking out on the arts, media and culture of Wales. We never thought of ourselves as authorities on the arts, except in the sense that we cared passionately about the words and artworks of others, and wanted to advocate for the lives and aspirations of all social classes of Welsh people to be depicted in the arts with honesty, sensitivity and intelligence. Over the six years, questions of just who the Welsh are as a people have moved on from notions of class to encompass (in no order of importance) gender, language, ethnicity, sexuality and disability. In order to explore those issues with appropriate insight and depth, and from a range of perspectives, we reached out to writers and artists from diverse communities across Wales, and it is in that spirit of finding new and provocative Welsh voices that we’ve organised an event specially for young people titled ‘Speaking Up, Speaking Out’.
This free, one-day event, which Wales Arts Review hosts in partnership with Youth Arts Network Cymru (YANC) and Taking Flight Theatre Company, is organised with the purpose of enabling young people – of all backgrounds, abilities, and conversant in all languages of Wales – to be creative, to engage enthusiastically with the arts, to speak to their own challenges and frustrations, and ultimately to find their voices as writers, performers, critics and artists. As its name suggests, Speaking Up, Speaking Out is not some conference at which establishment figures will speak from platforms as to what they think young people should be doing. It is chiefly a listening exercise for the Wales Arts Review editorial team, during which we hope to learn more about the struggles and challenges facing young Welsh people, both in terms of engaging with, and working in, the arts. We also want to learn from our event participants how exactly Wales Arts Review might support them in the development of their creative and critical voices.
At the heart of the Wales Arts Review mission, has been the creation of a digital platform, open and free to all, through which the peoples of Wales could talk to each other about the artistic life of our nation. While many regions of Wales are blighted by poverty, and its consequent social problems; in teams of creativity and artistry we might regard ourselves as culturally rich. Wales Arts Review aims to bridge the gap between limited resources and unlimited potential by deploying its digital space at the service of people who’ve been marginalised by the mainstream arts and media. We can only be successful in this endeavour if we continue to receive the support and participation of new generations of writers, performers, critics and artists, with something new to say and new ways of saying it.
In May, I had the pleasure of viewing the work of Sparc (the youth arts wing of the Valleys Kids organisation) at London’s Tate Modern. There, just one level up from a special exhibition of Picasso’s work from the 1930s, a group of young artists from Rhydyfelin created a pop-up version of their beloved but recently-closed youth club. The young people of Sparc staged scenes in which they portrayed and then subverted the negative stereotypes of youths from the valleys. In doing so they demonstrated humour and intelligence, and a willingness to fight for what they believed in. On Friday 21stSeptember, the WMC will host an event to celebrate their ‘Together Stronger’ partnership with Valleys Kids; at which the Rhydyfelin #OurSpace residency at Tate Modern will be discussed by young people who continue to speak up and speak out about the closure of their club. These young people continue to be an inspiration to us at Wales Arts Review, and we believe Speaking Up, Speaking Out will serve as a means of discovering a wide range of exciting young Welsh talent.
The event programme features creative and critical workshops, theatre sessions and lively discussions. Each session will be led by facilitators from YANC, Taking Flight and Wales Arts Review. Our editorial team will be on hand throughout the day to meet with young people to discuss mentoring and development opportunities. BSL interpreters will also be on hand to make sure that deaf participants can fully engage with the day’s activities. We also aim to programme at least one bilingual workshop.
We invite young people aged around 14-25 to grab this opportunity both to shape the future of Wales Arts Review, and to take a positive step towards remaining an artist in spite of what other ‘grown-ups’ might tell you.
Speaking Up, Speaking Out is at The Riverfront in Newport on October 6th2018, 11am – 6pm. To find out more or to reserve your place(s) please contact Phil Morris via email – firstname.lastname@example.org
Speaking Up, Speaking Out is a Wales Arts Review event, hosted in partnership with Youth Arts Network Cymru (YANC) and Taking Flight Theatre Co. We gratefully acknowledge financial support for this event from Arts Council Wales’ ‘Sharing Together’ scheme, and the assistance of The Riverfront.