by Elinor Whittle
Hello from Spotlight Youth Arts! We are a Creative Arts Youth service, based in Poplar, East London. We provide a wide variety of free, inclusive opportunities for young people, aged 11-19 (25 with SEND) from our purpose-built, state-of-the-art creative hub in Langdon Park. My name is Ellie, I am the Creative Producer: Theatre & Dance; I head up the performing arts programming and act as co-SEND lead for our service. I am writing today regarding a recent presentation which me and my colleague Aaron Williams, Creative Producer: Media, delivered for New Direction’s Principles into Practice: Inclusion & Relevance event.
Spotlight strives to be the first port of call for young people, whatever their creative arts experience. We are located in an area of London with large populations of young people from communities underrepresented in the creative arts, an area with the highest levels of child poverty, which is relatively underserved by large-scale cultural organisations. For many of our young people, Spotlight was their first encounter with creative arts practice. We understand the creative arts to have a vital impact on the lives of young people: it builds resilience, builds confidence, empowers futures, and forms communities. As a result, we aim to take a transdisciplinary, youth-led approach, which meets the young people where they are and is responsive to their needs. Our talk focussed on Shoot the Track, a project which championed this approach.
Shoot the Track was a weekly after-school session, targeting 15-19 year olds who had not previously engaged with a creative arts project and/or could be considered vulnerable or at risk. The project was multidisciplinary, amalgamating drama, Drill music, and filmmaking. We formulated a nonhierarchical dynamic that centred co-production and collaboration. Staff participated as performers, taking the same risks and pushing the same boundaries as their young counterparts. The trajectory and outcomes of Shoot the Track were decided through consultation, led by the young reps (ambassadors). The most recent project was a narrative visual album: each young person developed a character for whom a track was then developed, which was accompanied by a music video.
The project originated as a theatre intervention for the same target demographics, in partnership with Playing ON Theatre Company. After a process of review and youth consultation, the new multidisciplinary delivery model was conceived. Shoot the Track has since grown organically in response to the participant’s contributions and wider social contexts.
The success of the most recent cohort has been felt tangibly by young people and staff alike. Several participants used the outcomes in their portfolios for successful higher education applications in creative arts subjects, choices inspired by engagement in the project. Meanwhile, elements of the methodology have been adopted across the Spotlight programme.
The guiding tenets of Shoot the Track were echoed by all speakers across the Principles into Practice event. A resonance that was both inspiring and validating. Such are the pressures faced by the arts and youth sectors alike, it is easy to lose touch with the fantastic, progressive work being created by other organisations, especially those outside of your local area or mailing list! The event was useful for connecting the dots, linking up like-minded people, and promoting best practice.
Moving forward, we feel reinvigorated. We will continue to advocate for a way of working which is accessible, progressive, and developed in collaboration. The only way to ensure the inclusivity and relevance of a project is to involve participants: they know best and need platforms from which they can speak for themselves. It is our responsibility as practitioners to bring them in and listen.
Thank you to the New Direction team for inviting us to speak and write this blog! If you are interested to know more about Shoot the Track, Spotlight or would be interested in working together - email me at email@example.com. We are always up for making new connections and exploring new ways of creating with young people. For full details of our free programme for young people visit www.wearespotlight.com.