Craig Berens, COO at YMCA Newark and Sherwood, explains how the organisation’s Digital music project is helping to develop creative skills among young people.
In 2008, 83.3% of young people aged 11-15 participated in arts and crafts activities. This number has fallen by almost 16% in the last ten years, according to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. In fact, this year is the first time that less 11-15 year olds took part in the activities than those aged 5-10.
Arts form a major part of the early school curriculum, helping young children to express themselves. Yet, at secondary school, creative subjects are being squeezed due to the increased focus on core academic subjects. Music, for example, is being cut back from many curriculums.
And yet, new evidence has shown that arts education has a remarkable impact on students’ academic, social and emotional outcomes. This supports the Developmental Assets framework, which identifies the building blocks of healthy, successful, responsible lives in young people. It emphasises the importance of creative activities and recommends that young people spend at least three hours per week on music, theatre or other arts.
With advances in technology and digital media, it’s important to make the latest equipment and facilities accessible so young people can uncover their creative musical potential. This technology is not just for having fun with music and arts – although that’s important, too.
One children’s theatre found that performing for peers boosts confidence and self-esteem, and that students involved in drama demonstrate an elevated self-concept compared to those who are not involved in such activities.
Almost all music programmes are now digital but will involve either a public performance or at least one that is in front of peers, often with feedback. It also develops young people’s individual strengths outside of school.
Creativity is at the heart of youth development in a scheme in Nottinghamshire. YMCA Newark and Sherwood has announced the launch of its YMCA Digital project, which currently operates at Newark Academy. Originally set up six years ago by Nottinghamshire YMCA, Youth Music Support Workers help young people (aged 13-19) with the skills and platform they need to develop their creative passions in a safe, non-judgmental environment.
YMCA Digital gives them the freedom to explore the areas that inspire them most, from songwriting to radio production and live music to DJing. It also advocates spending three or more hours per week in sports or club and being given useful roles in the community.
The charity is currently building a state-of-the-art recording studio, rehearsal space and digital production rooms, which will level up the offering at the YMCA Newark and Sherwood Community and Activity Village. It will open in Spring 2021.
Volunteers giving back
“Although a main draw for young people is our equipment and facilities, the biggest appeal is definitely our inspiring staff team,” explained Ben Felstead from YMCA Digital.
“All of our volunteers have been participants [in] our YMCA Digital courses, and they just don’t want to leave! They also want to give back to support projects that have helped them.”
Believing in the potential of the community’s next generation, staff also support participants to work towards AQA accredited arts awards to translate their achievements into transferable skills.
Tawanda Kambeu (TK) joined the charity’s digital movement when he was a teenager and loved the ethos and team so much he is now a Youth Music Leader. TK said: “I started off here as a young person myself when I came down to the group’s hub at NGY MyPlace in Nottingham, and it quickly became my home-away-from-home.
“As I progressed on and the years went by, I began to near the age where youth funding stops, so I approached the team and said that I didn’t want to leave!”
All young people need to have a creative outlet. Giving them the opportunity to cultivate their inbuilt creativity in and out of the classroom should never be overlooked. Ultimately, it gives them a place to belong to and contribute to and enables them to thrive as a creative individual, now and in the future.