What are the ingredients of meaningful Youth Voice in the arts?

We share insights from our October Cultural Sector Masterclass.

20 November 2023

In October, we held a Cultural Sector Masterclass exploring the question ‘What are the ingredients of meaningful Youth Voice in the arts?’. In this online masterclass, we were joined by two young creatives leading our Youth Voice programme, Django Pinter and Darcy Dixon, and our cultural partners; Samantha Holdsworth, CEO of Clowns Without Borders and Alex Evans, Artistic Director of Kazzum Arts, to explore approaches to Youth Voice and the ingredients which can help to ensure this work is meaningful and impactful.

The masterclass focused mainly on how we can make youth voice meaningful within the cultural sector, and started to make us think about what it means to us and our organisations.

After a quick introduction from each of the speakers, Darcy Dixon asked Sam Holdsworth some questions on her work as CEO of Clowns Without Borders, and how Youth Voice can be a valuable tool for any organisation. One interesting reference was to Involving Children in Decision Making: The Lundy Model, by Professor Laura Lundy, 2007. The Lundy Model provides a way of conceptualising a child’s right to participation by using the four elements of participation: space, voice, audience, and influence. This seemed to be a significant part of influencing Sam’s work, and throughout the session she talked about how important it is to spend time building trust and a sense of community with the young people we work with.

Article 12 / The right to express views / The right to have views given due weight / Space / Voice / Audience / Influence
The Four Elements of Participation

Young people bring a unique perspective, and adults end up having more interesting and dynamic conversations because of that perspective. It’s important to think about how we can do things differently as cultural organisations and professionals working with young people, and to start to think about how we interpret children’s needs, demonstrate influence, and implement these changes.

“Doing things beyond your reach, people get lost; intentions get lost.” – Darcy Dixon

Alex Evans, Artistic Director at Kazzum Arts, then gave an interesting and detailed presentation on Kazzum Arts’ Amplify Youth Voice Project. This endeavour is based on six Trauma Informed Principles of Care: Safety, Empowerment, Trustworthiness, Choice, Collaboration, and Cultural Awareness. Through 20 pages and 9 animations, the guide that Alex talked us through is an interactive, practical and accessible introduction to how youth voice can be used within a cultural organisation; ensuring that children and young people can experience agency, collaborate, and influence an organisations vision, mission and processes.

“We conceived of Amplify to develop and explore methods of youth voice activity which contribute towards our strategic vision and create opportunities for children and young people to meaningfully influence Kazzum’s future.” – Kazzum Arts

From Alex’s presentation, we really got a sense of what is important to start embedding youth voice into our organisations, and that honesty is key to shape visions and plans going forward. When we recognise the different and distinct lived experiences of children and young people, we open up space for hearing and sharing opinions, beliefs, and taking in new knowledge and skills. From this, Youth Voice also can give organisations the ability to amplify their concerns, build on potential and support generations to come.

The session ended with a quick Q&A between Django and Alex, where they left us with some closing thoughts. Youth Voice should enrich our organisations, and we need to start thinking outside of the box to discover how this can work in our own individual worlds. Learning and hearing new and different points of view can be a wonderful and enriching thing for both the children and young people we work with, and us and our organisations – we just need to learn how to utilise what we have, and ask ourselves how we can step out of ourselves and think potentially on behalf of others.