SPARK Youth Arts Festival 2023

The SPARK Youth Arts Festival 2023 took place from February 20th – 24th! SPARK Youth Arts Festival is a national event to explore, discuss and celebrate the inspiring world of youth arts practice in Ireland
Thanks to all the amazing participants and speakers who took part this year! We hope the festival sparked your interest in developing youth arts activities with young people and embedding youth arts practice in your work!

For those of you that couldn’t attend, we’ve gathered highlights of the SPARK Youth Arts Festival below!

Making a Difference: Impact & Youth Arts

To launch the SPARK Youth Arts Festival launch 2023, we invited an inspiring mix of presenters and panellists to explore how youth arts can make a difference in young people’s lives.

We welcomed case studies from Lisa Downes (Talk About Youth Project, St Andrews Resource Centre) and REEL Youth; Julie O’Leary (Graffiti Theatre Company ) and Activate Youth Theatre; and Barry Lennon (Youth Work Ireland) and the Irish Youth Music Awards. The fantastic Dr Frances Howard (Nottingham Trent University) chaired a panel discussion with our case study presenters and Maurice Devlin (Professor of Applied Social Studies, Maynooth University), Fiona Quinn (Cork Local Creative Youth Partnership Co-ordinator) and Dannielle McKenna (Project Manager at Rialto Youth Project) to explore the impact of youth arts.

Youth Arts SPEAKS

Youth Arts SPEAKS is an NYCI youth arts advocacy group for 18 to 25 year olds that aims to place young people’s voices at the heart of national conversations about youth arts.

During the SPARK Youth Arts Festival, the members of the Youth Arts SPEAKS group designed and presented a special event and online exhibition to share their work and advocate for youth arts.

This year, Youth Arts SPEAKS members took part in a series of online and in-person workshops to explore their stories, opinions and creativity. They worked with the artist Aoife Giles to explore light photography, portraiture and how creativity has impacted the way they see themselves. The Youth Arts SPEAKS members also designed youth arts advocacy workshops and hit the road to gather the views and experiences of other young people around the country, working with young people from: Ballybough Youth Service; Solas Youth Project; the Young Irish Filmmakers; Sphere 17; Jigsaw (Dublin City); and the Count Me In project (Western Care Association) in Mayo.

Community of Practice: Music

On Day 3 of the SPARK Youth Arts Festival we gathered at Axis Ballymun to explore inspiring music practice with young people in youth work, youth arts and non-formal education settings! The session gave us an opportunity to share interesting case studies and diverse approaches to music programmes/projects, learn about recent research in the area, and network and exchange ideas with each other.


Thanks a million to everyone who shared their work: Axis Ballymun (Aifric Ní Ruairc); the Irish Youth Music Awards (Barry Lennon); Familibase (Alan Tully), Irish Association of Youth Orchestras (Rachel Dunne Lambe), Bru Youth Service (Evan Kenny); and The Kabin Studio (Garry McCarthy).

The Creative Lens: Photography & Evaluation

A fantastic group of youth workers and youth arts practitioners joined the National Youth Arts Programme team and artist Aislinn Delaney at the Disability Federation of Ireland for a practical training workshop! We explored photography as an exciting creative medium for engaging young people in youth work and youth arts settings. Photography can provide an amazing creative lens for young people to explore themselves and their world – while also helping us to capture and evaluate our work with them!

During this workshop together, we explored: camera and photography basics; technical and practical skills in photography such as exposure, composition and light; best practice facilitation approaches and ideas to help you use photography in youth work and youth arts practice; and practical ideas for using photography as an evaluation tool.

Youth Arts Showcase

We finished the SPARK Youth Arts Festival with an online celebration of youth arts projects happening around the country, including some youth arts workshops funded through the SPARK MINI-Grants Scheme 2023 and projects funded through the Artist and Youth Work Residency Grant Scheme 2022, including: Youth Work Ireland Midlands (Joan O’Connor); The Ballinglen Arts Foundation (Alice Dixon & Nuala Clarke); CDYS Mitchelstown (Christy O’Neill); Cabinteely Youth Theatre (Christina Matthews & Darren Yorke).

The event culminated with the launch of the Artist and Youth Work Residency Grant Scheme for 2023. We were delighted to welcome Lisa Kavanagh, Youth Sector Specialist, Youth Affairs Unit, CEDIY, and a message from Seóna Ní Bhriain, Head of Young People, Children and Education at The Arts Council to help us launch the scheme!

Mini Grants

The National Youth Arts Programme was delighted to award 12 SPARK Mini-Grants (€300) this year to support youth arts taster workshops for young people aged 10 to 25 in youth work and non-formal education settings!  The mini-grants aimed to spark young people’s interest in new art forms and new project ideas and spark new relationships between youth workers and local artists!


We were delighted to award mini-grants to: Ronanstown Youth Service; Southill Hub; YMCA Cobh; Ionad Mhachaire Rabhartaigh – Club Óige Chríost Rí;  Foroige; Griese Youth Theatre and Children’s Drama; Finglas Youth Resource Centre; Irish Stammering Association; Dreamstuff Youth Theatre; YWIG Loughrea; Galway Community Circus; Westside Youth Project, YWIG.

Contact Us

Please do get in touch if you want to chat about developing youth arts in your work with young people!


Email:   ¦     Tel: 01 478 4122


Follow the National Youth Council of Ireland on Facebook | on Twitter: @nycinews


SPARK Youth Arts Festival is funded by The Arts Council and the Department for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth.