In May 2009 the Bolton Find Your Talent team invited 40 young people to explore what makes a high quality cultural experience by working with top arts organisations from across the country. The arts organisations had been identified as leaders in their field – Paperbirds (dance), Action Transport (creative writing), Livewire (film) and others – by the Bolton team and its partners. Would the young people agree with their judgement?
To find out, a mixture of Cultural Ambassadors, part of the pathfinder’s young leaders’ programme, and their culturally “inexperienced” friends, took part in a range of exciting workshops over two days at the Octagon Theatre. But in addition to exploring their creative talents in the workshops, the young people were also asked to evaluate what they were experiencing, using criteria they had developed to decide if the experience was of a high quality or not.
Challenge was a really important aspect of the event. The Bolton team wanted all the young people to try something they had never done before. A great example of this was a boy of thirteen, a young writer, who surprised himself by taking part in – and loving – a contemporary dance workshop delivered by Paperbirds.
At the end of the two days the Cultural Ambassadors and their friends came back together to draw some conclusions about the workshops – specifically the key factors that had made them a good or a bad experience.
What did the young people say about “quality”?
Quality is …
- When there is a sense of unity …working towards something together
- When you want to do it again
- When there’s no pressure to be perfect
- When its hands on from the start
- When you have independence rather than being told what to do
- When there’s choice and variety
- When there are no distractions
- When you don’t have to fill out feedback sheets
- When you feel like you’ve collaborated creatively
- When there is a communal creative experience
- When you have fun whilst learning
- When you rise to a challenge
- When you work with a professional
- When you find out you like something you didn’t think you did
- When there is more creating than observing
- When you have enough time
- When it isn’t too easy
- New skills
- Work together
Not quality words
- Not everyone getting a go
- Too little time
The “That’s Quality!” event was a good first step towards giving the young people the skills and, importantly, the language to review and evaluate cultural and creative activities. But we need to continue this work. One of the things we have noticed when doing review activities with young people is that they often tell you what they think you want to know, the most frequent response being that they gained in confidence.
And so a follow up event is planned which will focus on equipping the young people with the language, the vocabulary, so that they are able to talk about, to critically review, cultural and creative experiences with more confidence.