Finding the confidence to be creative
Ahead of 'Voice & Vision', a celebration of the creative work of young people with care experience, Laura Graham, Senior Evidence and Influencing Officer, Life Changes Trust, reflects on the role creativity plays in working with young people.
Image is a collage of young people's art from mural painting sessions in 2020 at the Moniack Mhor Creative Writing Centre.
Creativity enables people to explore so many things, from experiences and emotions to aspirations and activism. It provides people with space to be themselves, or even to be someone else for a little while. It's unsurprising that creativity plays such an important role in our work at the Life Changes Trust.
Every single youth worker I have had the pleasure of knowing or working alongside is creative, whether they believe it themselves or not. Planning participation and engagement activities, elevating young people's voices, finding ways to communicate messages or experiences to decision-makers and leaders – it all requires a consistent flow of ideas and risk-taking. You have to push boundaries, try new things, and maintain a level of confidence that encourages young people to feel safe and willing to engage.
Finding new ways to engage during the pandemic
My own experience of being creative in my work with young people has not always followed a straight path.
During the pandemic, in particular, working from home and providing predominantly online activities to young people felt like it was a massive drain on my reservoir of originality. Interestingly, Catherine Loveday, professor of neuroscience at the University of Westminster explains how the decreased amount of stimuli we have experienced throughout lockdown has in fact had a direct impact on our capacity to be creative and contributed to this 'brain fog' I and others have experienced. I have participated in and witnessed some incredibly creative and innovative work throughout this challenging time, but it's important to recognise that it's ok if we need time to refill our reservoirs.
"the very nature of creative work makes everyone more vulnerable to feeling inadequate and even more so if you are not classically trained"- www.impostorsyndrome.com
Ridding ourselves of 'imposter syndrome'
Imposter syndrome is another barrier that can get in the way of developing creative approaches. I have often wondered if I was 'qualified' to deliver on the creative pursuits with young people. I have never taken any courses or had any formal education in any of the arts, so it was easy for me to feel that it 'wasn't my place'. Instead, I would seek out others who I thought were qualified to deliver these activities with the young people I supported. It took me quite some time to realise that this was misguided. Of course, it's hugely important to collaborate and build partnerships with those in the arts, pulling them into spaces to provide opportunities to young people who may never have experienced spray painting a mural, creating music, writing songs, writing and performing theatre pieces, or recording a film, but I realised that I could still provide creative activities too. I had to take ownership of my own abilities and put them into practice. That included providing creative activities and fully taking part in those activities provided by partners. How could I expect young people to put themselves out there, try new things, and explore their own abilities if I wasn't willing to do the same? There's no 'right way' to be creative. If you give it space and time, it will find a way to the surface.
Sharing and showcasing the learning
We're celebrating this and the creative work of young people with care experience at our three-day online event called 'Voice & Vision'. We've partnered with some fantastic organisations that will share their learning and showcase the outputs of their work with young people. We will also launch our online Voice & Vision Gallery, which is bursting at the seams with creative pieces from the care experienced community.
My involvement in building the Voice & Vision Gallery space has been both a privilege and an inspiring experience. The level of creative talent young people with care experience have is breathtaking. Much of that work has been supported by youth workers who have provided opportunities for young people to explore their talents and learn new skills, so I want to thank them all for that. Keep providing that support, take risks and be confident in your own ability to be creative! The results are truly phenomenal.
"Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun." Mary Lou Cook, Actress and Author
As part of Voice & Vision, we're also hosting a brilliant workshop with Rod Kippen, the Creative Director of The Horsfall in Manchester, to explore the barriers we experience when trying to venture into the world of creativity in our work with young people. You won't find a better opportunity to recharge those creative batteries and be inspired!
All artwork is by young people with care experience.
The views expressed in this blog post are those of the author/s and may not represent the views or opinions of CELCIS or our funders.
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