On Saturday 28 October 2017 we delivered our second Youth Arts Takeover at the Croydon Clocktower. We supported a group of young people, the Croydon Youth Arts Collective, to produce the event from inception to delivery. This year we worked with over 35 creative organisations to deliver a day of activity all free for the public to attend, and that they did with over 1,000 people coming along to enjoy the day.
It is so important for young people to take ownership over spaces in Croydon and for the community to know about the amazing organisations we have in the borough and the work they’re doing. Not only does this Takeover event allow young Croydonians to express themselves - whether this be through getting stuck into an interactive art wall, learning street dance moves, viewing their artwork on display or films being screened, or performing - but it gives us a chance to be loud and proud about the creative youth arts hub we have here.
I hand over to one our CYAC members now to tell you more about the day and how CYAC works…
We have drive, we have passion, Croydon young people have a voice
My name is Nee, I am 18 years old and have been a member of the Croydon Youth Arts Collective (CYAC) since it formed in April 2015. CYAC caught my attention because I wanted to get involved in my community and try to make a difference. I was fed up with the stigma attached to Croydon and how the young people are viewed. We have so much to offer: history, culture, community spirit and great people, and it is my home.
CYAC, simply put, is a group of young people of all abilities from all backgrounds; we are all inclusive and welcoming. We meet in cultural spaces across the borough i.e. Fairfield Halls, Croydon Library, Council Chamber, to share ideas, research and communicate issues surrounding arts and culture. Our aim is to bring the youth together and engage them in these issues. We are overseen by Croydon Council’s Youth Engagement Team and Croydon Music & Arts and are fortunate enough to bring on board organisations to sponsor us - to name a few: AND (A New Direction), L&Q Housing Association and Croydon Council.
CYAC’s annual Takeover Festival is a youth-led event that celebrates creative organisations in Croydon such as SLiDE (South London Inclusive Dance Experience), The HERD Theatre Organisation, Syrus Consultancy CIC, Kinetika Bloco Croydon, The BRIT School, and so many more. We provide a whole day of events, performances and workshops for young people that are all free to take part in. These include heritage inspired carnival music, theatre performances covering diverse subjects from gang issues to mental health, films, spoken word, dance and various stalls promoting a range of services. The event of the day is the 'Panel Discussion' held in the Council Chamber where there are guest panellists. This year we had famous Youtuber Els Marshall and a promoter from Metropolis Music, both young people too. A member of CYAC co-chairing it with the council’s Creative Director too. The debate for 2017 was ‘How Can the Arts be Life Changing?' in line with this year’s theme: we wanted to get people to think about ‘how the arts can impact our wellbeing’.
To plan the Takeover, we ran a summer 2017 'Intensive Week' to cover what our roles in the takeover would be from greeting to stewarding, the planning of our ‘Wellbeing’ theme, and what we wanted people to experience and gain from this event. We then met each week in the months leading up to the event. It felt like the keys had truly been handed over to the young people of CYAC.
My role on the day during the Takeover was front of house 'meeting & greeting' the public and supporting volunteers. We recruited 15 young volunteers to support us on the day. I also participated in the Panel Discussion. I very much enjoy this event: the bringing together of strangers, the vibe throughout the building is fantastic, the laughter, the support and spirit of the community. We most definitely got our theme heard and understood. So many people of all ages and backgrounds struggle with such a wide range of issues and we were able to provide information and people to talk to.
This year presented us with new challenges, some members left to go on to other ventures such as University. It put us in a position of having to recruit new members. Last year we were also told that our meeting place was moving due to the closure of Fairfield Halls, but we struck lucky when Croydon Council offered us a new space. From this we gained new skills which helped us even more in the preparation of the Takeover: not to panic, remain calm, plan and execute, but remember to still enjoy!
My hopes and aspirations for CYAC in 2018 are to bring more young people to the table, to encourage and keep their interest in arts and culture; to continue meeting new people of all walks of life and help bring them together through our events.
You can have your say... You can be you... We will listen
Pictures credit: Katherine Leedale