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A Sense of Belonging

Updated: Sep 23, 2022

'In June 2022, Articulate took the opportunity to up-size from our temporary studio in the Rogart Art Campus to a 700 square metre space in the heart of Glasgow city centre.

Having worked remotely throughout the pandemic and then squishing all of our energy into a space which, whilst lovely, just didn’t give us the space that the team and young people needed to spread out, own and inhabit.

We got the keys, cleaned up and, with our eco-champion hats on, started to scour Facebook for free or bargain furniture to make it our home (Eona might have ended up with a small bartering addiction; trading loo rolls for pink fluffy rocking horses is all in a days work for a CEO, right?).

As soon as it was clean and safe and had somewhere to sit, we started delivering our first workshops with young people enrolled on our Track to the Wall music and graffiti art project. Where previously it had been hard for young people with different needs and interests to engage in meaningful ways, this much bigger space, affectionately and rather grandiosely nicknamed Festival Heights, gave them space to lounge, to write, socialise, sing, relax, be themselves and record. Our wee bit of outdoor space even meant that graffiti had enough space to let the young folk enjoy and benefit from the full-bodied expression that spray painting encourages.

Importantly for me, and for our Art Therapists, we had four separate quiet spaces for our therapeutic work to continue - held places away from the hullabaloo that some of our young people, and staff, tend to create when we are making, laughing and being silly together. For those young people, who might need an extra layer of support that sits in clinical provision, it is important that we are able to accommodate them carefully and safely so their work with the Therapists can be effective. A city centre location; welcoming, bright and airy; creative and collaborative; and with space for some degree of separation might be just what a doctor would order!

So from June until now, we have been constantly reflecting, applying the combined experience and knowledge we have generated in the last five years, to create a space that facilitates positive learning experiences, multi-layered participation and scaffolded routes to self-actualisation. So far, we have:

  • trained a brand new cohort of 8 young people on our participatory arts Creative Assistant Programme

  • delivered a series of pilot activities for around 25 young people over the summer (engaging in design, craft, music-making, sign-writing, graffiti art, gaming and photography

  • helped evolve three fledgling youth-led enterprises

  • completed 6 therapeutic journeys with young people preparing to leave care

  • hosted partnership events, national network meetings, a charity auction and a housewarming, as well as

  • enjoyed and benefited from the social and emotional threads that run through all we do.

‘It’s just like a big family here, if you need a drink just go to the fridge and get one.’

Participant quote as he introduced a friend to Articulate.

Now, as we settle in properly, we can see and feel the value that this space has added to our organisation. For the team and also for the young people, there are days when we just can’t keep away. Coming in early between college and a project starting, just to sit down at a sewing machine and make something, joining Board meetings or just coming in for a blether and to make themselves a sandwich, smoothie or micro-pizza - there is a place for everyone at Articulate's table. We are finding the right balance of trauma-awareness whilst still holding space for silliness and banter and always asking the young people to hold us accountable; making sure that Festival Heights (or whatever they end up calling it) suits their needs, just as they asked us to do through our pre-pandemic research on Places and Spaces.

The team has learned that we can’t work at the same pace we did remotely; when young folk are around the table, laughing, making fun of us and getting the support/advice that they need in loving, natural conversations, they are the clear priority. We may not be getting as many funding applications or reports written but our capacity for highest quality engagement has increased and we have welcomed some lovely new faces through the door. We held our housewarming party at the beginning of September and only then did we truly start to understand the potential that Festival Heights has to create a welcoming space for a community of creative practice concerned with improving care experienced young people's choices and chances.

We have just received approval for our 10-year strategy which outlines huge goals for such a tiny wee organisation, goals that will continue to be driven forward by our passion, annoying persistence and absolute inability to say 'no' to the young folk that we love and care for. Our purpose around making the world a fairer place, a place where their needs are met, their potential is understood and they achieve whatever they set their minds to is more resolute than ever ...

If you'd like to see a copy of the ambitious new plan, just drop us a line or just pop into the studio and say hi!'

Laura Frood, Producer.

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