On 17th March 2020, in anticipation of a full lock down announcement from Government, Articulate Cultural Trust ceased all face to face engagement with children and young people.
Prior to this we ran a diverse programme of creative projects, designed to allow access to the arts for some of Scotland’s most vulnerable and marginalised children and young people. Our mission has always been to help them achieve better outcomes in education, employment, and in life. As well as facilitating journeys into the creative industries for those who want to walk that path.
In the weeks running up to the announcement we felt tension and anxiety among our young people about the unfolding situation; fears about their safety, what the lock down would mean for their day to day life, and for their future. Plans that they had made and progress towards their goals suddenly seemed like efforts wasted. It was important for Articulate to soak up as much of this uncertainty as possible and carry on supporting them in a new and innovative way. It was not a question of if we would move our programme online but just how quick we could do it.
We delivered our first online video session on Friday 27th March, we chatted, we laughed, we shared what was causing us the most concern and we started to make plans for the coming weeks together.
By keeping the young people at the core and enabling them to steer the direction of the activities, we had a diverse online programme up and running in a matter of days. The staff team worked hard in the background to ensure we had a robust online safety policy and met all of our procedural obligations while I worked with the young people as closely, if not closer than before, to make sure that their creative, emotional and digital access needs where met.
We are now into week eight of delivering against a digital participation strategy that serves children, young people and families across Scotland, this includes, but is not limited to: providing materials, tablets, kit and resources; hosting online up-skilling and discussion-based creative sessions with guest artists and facilitators; a number of WhatsApp support groups for different people and purposes; one-to-one mentoring and practical sessions, as well as Q and As with producers, performers and practitioners from across the creative industries. Whilst riding the COVID19 wave has brought immense challenge and strain, it has also brought opportunity; opportunity to think and act in new ways and to think again about our future.
Now, more than ever, the arts are becoming an essential component of staying connected and staying well - for us it feels like a bit of quiet validation. As teaching artists, we have an in-depth understanding of the transformational potential of creative engagement and are relentless in our advocacy of the arts to positively affect social change. In the past few weeks demand and engagement with our creative provision has increased and the arts is now the ‘go to’ space for people looking to keep themselves and others entertained and well throughout the pandemic. However, we must consider the long-term effects of this extreme circumstance.
For the young people that we exist to support, who are already overshadowed by some of societies poorest statistics, the threat to their physical and emotional well-being has been exacerbated by extended periods of time in lock down, ongoing poverty impacts and now the digital deficit. They are often isolating alone due to the lack of family supports and so extensively reduced support services mean that their contact with other people has been minimal.
While we are immensely proud of how they have all coped with this extreme situation (and all they have created), we are acutely aware of the impact it is likely to have in the coming months and years. So we are now asking youth services, education, social work and funding organisations to consider and recognise the role of the arts not just throughout but post-pandemic. We expect to see the effects of isolation eclipsing the time spent in lock down and this is when the arts will continue to prove to be transformational in reducing and perhaps reversing the impacts of COVID19.
Written by Laura Frood, Empowerment and Engagement Co-ordinator, Articulate Cultural Trust. Contact Laura here - firstname.lastname@example.org
Artworks provided by young people involved in and contributing to Articulate's online
participatory arts programme, March to May 2020.