So I kicked off my time as NYCI Arts Programme’s first ‘Blogger In Residence’ last week with a short piece on the quality of young people’s engagement with the arts. For the rest of the series, I thought that I would spread out the spotlight on aspects of NYCI’s arts programme and also the lovely people who work in this sector. I asked some of the many and varied professionals I have the pleasure of working with in the programme ‘Why do you work with Children and Young People’ recently and this is what they had to say:
Because they are among the most engaging and most intriguing audiences you can work with. They have the same rights to culture as adults, but their circumstances create challenges that can only be met with determination, creativity and integrity. I think it is the challenge that makes working with and for children and young people incredibly rewarding.
Mags Walsh, Outgoing Director, Children’s Books Ireland/Clore Fellow (Mags has been a member of our Arts working group that develops the National Youth Arts Showcase for 4 years).
When visiting a school a few years ago a 9 year old boy declared to me that he didn’t like drawing. When asked what exactly was it about drawing that he didn’t like he answered “because nobody will tell me if my drawings are right or wrong”. On a personal level that answer keeps me motivated to keep creating opportunities for children and young people to engage with quality arts practice and practitioners. That nine year old boy could one day be planning the city that I live in or the public transport that I use. I believe that what that same boy will remember from the subsequent engagement with a creative practitioner will be: to think for himself and to learn to reflect on his interpretation of his own drawing and what it meant to him. But above all that he learnt to explore, problem solve and play with creativity as we’ll need him to do just that in whatever he ends up doing ‘when he grows up’.
Maire Davey, Assistant Arts Officer, Participation and Learning, Dun Laoghaire Rathdown Arts Office (Maire has been a tutor on the Certificate in Youth Arts for 4 years)
I kind of fell into it, because I’m a bit of a big kid myself. I love what I do, I love working at what I do and I find I have the most fun working with young people. I get a kick out of passing on what I do. I don’t have a huge philosophy around it, my approach has always been a practical one -let’s go out and have fun together, let’s go out and learn new things together and work as a team. It’s not just about what they can learn but what I learn from working with them.
I don’t have any kids of my own so working with them let’s me have that space as an adult that’s about encouraging their development and I feel a huge sense of pride when they learn new things and discover new things. That aspect of opening new doors and discoveries for them, creating access to new worlds and possibilities for them is what excites me the most.
Garry McHugh, Development Manager, Young Irish Filmmakers (Young Irish Filmmakers is a member organisation of NYCI, and has been a member of the working group that develops the National Youth Arts Showcase for the last 2 years).
The joy of working with young people is that it is always different. Each young person is unique, they bring their own life experience, needs and expectations. They bring their belief that anything is possible and in the drama space where their creativity is explored and encouraged, there are no limits to what can be achieved. Each young person is on their own individual journey and where it will take them can’t be predicted. At the end of a National Festival of Youth Theatres or a National Youth Theatre, there is more than the sense of achievement you get from completing a project, there is the sense that you have been witness to, and hopefully helped facilitate, a unique engagement between participant and artform that has transformed both parties. You know that these young people would not have gained what they have gained in any other setting and what they have brought to the drama space could not have been brought by anyone else. No matter what the young person goes on to do in their lives, they will take something with them that will benefit them in ways we cannot even imagine. We are in the middle of the National Youth Theatre rehearsals at the moment and as I sit in the office now, I know that down the road in The Lab, there are all kinds of magic moments taking place and discoveries being made.
Katie Martin, Administration Officer National Association for Youth Drama (NAYD is a member organisation of NYCI, has been part of the working group that develops the National Youth Arts Showcase for 4 years).
Why do you like working with young people is a question I constantly hear. The response I give is always the same “I do it because I love it!” Each day presents a new challenge that keeps me stimulated to learn more. The work can be very frustrating or fantastically rewarding, it is never ever boring. I become energised when surrounded by their conversations and creativity. Young people still possess a sense of honesty that many adults have traded off. This attribute is just one of their many qualities that contribute to the smile on my face and overall job satisfaction.
Saoirse Reynolds, Youth Worker, Bru Youth Service (Saoirse is a soon to graduate from the Certificate in Youth Arts).
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in 2013, but it has consistently been one of our most read articles so we are still sharing it, as so much of it still holds true and people are still finding it useful and inspirational to read. Since the above was published a number of the contributors have changed role or job title. Mags Walsh is now Director of the British Council, Katie Martin was General Manager of Youth Theatre Ireland (and has since moved on), Garry McHugh is now Director, Young Irish Filmmakers and Saoirse Reynolds is now Youth Arts Development Officer here at the National Youth Council of Ireland.