Cultural Learning Alliance

There is an increasing realisation that the arts are essential to people’s wellbeing and that they provide a lifeline in difficult times

Julian Lloyd-Webber
Musician and Chairman of In Harmony


The engagement of young artists: shaping the future or today?

Published 12 March 2010

Our first provocation paper has been written by 19-year-old Emrys Green, who has been involved in shaping local and national cultural learning programmes. His experience is that often, participation is at a delivery level and doesn't involve young people in a venue or organisation's direction and development. He also feels that young people are often considered as 'the future', whereas the cultural activities they are involved in should really lead to them being acknowledged as artists, creators and curators of today.

Read the provocation paper and then let us know what you think.


I am extremely heartened that Emrys, as a young person, comes across as one who is extremely passionate in his desire to be a 'doer', rather than one who simply participates in what is provided by others. I would like to think that established bodies might welcome him on to their board/council/committee etc. I am most encouraged for the future.
Carole Lindsay-Douglas 16 March 2010
I have been working in youth arts for over twenty years and whilst I agree with Emrys, that everyone should always strive to give young people a voice in mattters that concern them there is also a 'balance check' which applies to us all probably, not just young people - you can't readily 'buy in' to something that you have no concept, or exerience of . Hence a recent example of the people of Cardigan successfully campaiging to pull the plug on a large public art project that they didn't want. Would they have wanted it once it was finished? Young artists (and I have worked with many) can add so much to the shaping of a project but not all young people are as clear and as communicative as Emrys. Behind every Emrys there is an experienced arts practitioner/teacher/carer/parent who has supported, encouraged and helped them realise their potential and this is hard to recognise because often it is done very much in the background. Experienced artists often note that it was the struggle to prove themselves as an emerging artist that gave them the fuel to excel and the 'thick skin' to do things in the face of adversity. I have seen a little of Emrys's journey to this platform and have to agree with Carole it is encouraging for the future but it's not just a lack of funding it's a lack of vision, understanding of how broader access to decision making can inform the journey and the outcome.
Juliet Brain 29 March 2010
I have to agree with you Juliet about the need for vision and not just money - amazing things can be created from a zero bank balance.

And the support is indeed needed, provided by thosse that have been around and have the experience. Although like in my experience, this must not quandor the creativity and drive of young people, and allow them to make their own mistakes and face their own challenges. The balance is hard, very hard, and a complete shift in attitude and approach could be needed.

And yes, i can identify very specifically the 3 main people i owe a debt of gratitude to for providing me with their various support (a freelance technician at the time, a youth theatre director and an arts council officer + an organisation's small staff team); although i recognise that others were able to influence this.

Development should be something achieved collectively and sustainable, meaningful development does not take place in isolation.
Emrys Green 14 April 2010
Anyone reading this may also find this article of interest: by Stuart Mullins
Emrys 06 October 2010

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