Meet our Festival Assistants

Earlier this year, nine young adults who identify as disabled joined us on a work placement as part of I Am Festival

The theme of this year's I Am At Home Festival is 'Power'. In some ways this is a very abstract concept, and in others, seemingly, it's very easy to pinpoint. We asked all nine Festival Assistants what they thought, and their answers encompassed a lot: football, cooking, friendship, superheroes, future, art, writing – it’s certainly an inspiring list.

Talking about Power is just one small part of the work the Festival Assistants did as part of their work placement with A New Direction. Over the last few months, these nine young adults who identify as disabled had been preparing for a week of work at Tate for I Am Festival. While unfortunately the festival wasn't able to go ahead as planned, the skills the Festival Assistants have developed will help them take their first steps into the world of work.

The placement was organised by my AFK – a charity who work to prepare students with learning disabilities for life after school through accredited education, training and work experience programmes. Together, the Festival Assistants explored how to lead people during a busy time, meet and greet, respond to questions, develop their creative eye, and understand a cultural work experience.

We started their work placement by creating a charter which looked at how to build a shared ethos between ourselves and the other people they would be working with. They then spent some time unpacking the role; exploring what it is and how they should act. Confidently, they shared what they thought a person should be, and ‘being kind’ and ‘having confidence’ came up time and time again. A good ethos for anyone I'd say! They prepared for interactions with new people by practicing a range of ways to say “hello”. After learning they may have to interact with young people who communicate in different ways, they decided it was a good idea to have a few alternatives ready.

Partnering with Action Space bought a wonderful opportunity to meet with Nnena Kalu, an artist who creates large scale mixed media pieces. Nnena gave the Festival Assistants a tour of her current exhibition, and shared some art-making techniques. This got their creative juices flowing and provided some inspiration for the blank wall in the festival space which they'd been given the task of decorating with their interpretation of 'Power'.

The Festival Assistants have faced challenges. There was a lot to take on; a large, unknown space to settle into, and brand new skills to learn. During the placement, they interacted with students who have disabilities unlike theirs, and had to adapt to lots of change. Throughout these experiences, they built resilience, humour and team bonding. They have used their their own jobs, world experience and training with my AFK as reference points to transfer into a cultural workplace. They have worked to get to know, challenge and support each other, and to understand how to grow as a team.

We look forward to hopefully picking up our work with the Festival Assistants again once things begin to get back to normal. In the meantime, we asked them to share a bit about themselves as part of I Am At Home Festival. Find out more below...