Reflections on Partnership Working – Lucy Wheeler, Learning and Engagement Officer at Kettle’s Yard and artist David Kefford
For the past 6 months I have been developing a partnership with Cambridge Youth Foyer – a housing shelter for young people aged 16-25 who are at risk of homelessness. I was initially interested in partnering with the Foyer as I felt that their missions and aims shared many of the aims of the Circuit programme, such as: investing in young people’s talents, involving young people in shaping the services they deliver and the ambition to change attitudes and behavior towards and about young people.
The partnership has evolved from drop-in taster sessions to a weekly evening workshop, where we have had regular attendance from a group of 7 young people, who have been working towards an arts award. Many of the young people suffer from social isolation, mental health, anxiety and depression. It was therefore important that we created a space that was informal and non-threatening. As a result, I believe we have created a safe space for the group to focus on their artistic ability and to meet and socialise with other young people living in the Foyer (many of the young people hadn’t met each other before the start of the sessions).
The sessions have been facilitated by artist David Kefford, who has reflected on his experience of the project below:
‘Looking back over the series of workshops that have taken place at The Foyer there have been some significant milestones; not always tangible but often nuanced. These have mainly centred around enabling an atmosphere of trust and respect during each of the 2 hour weekly sessions. We used the dedicated ‘art room’ as a place where young people living at the Foyer could come and informally engage in various ways. It was important for the sessions to be peer-led and shaped around mutual exchange and co-operation. One of the key aims was to nurture a safe environment from the outset and provide a context for informal learning. The sessions involved diverse creative activity and experiencing new art forms such as observational drawing from artefacts borrowed from the Zoology Museum to lino-cut printmaking. We didn’t want to feel like the workshops were task-driven or outcome heavy, but to embrace the creative process through the conversations and suggestions we all had as a group. Therefore a lot of emphasis was placed on human interaction and food sharing. This seemed to be an ice-breaker and leveller and an opportunity to get to know each other.
For me, the experience has been rewarding to witness a change in attitude and mood of the young people, from one of initial trepidation and fear to one of confidence and adventure. The transformation in the young people’s lives has been quite remarkable. On a personal level it has been a privilege to get to know each of the participants during the past few months and I have learnt a great deal from them. I have been impressed with the dedication and commitment from the group and in the standard of work produced. It highlights the value of providing much needed space and time in our lives to put towards a communal sense of well-being and collective creativity.’ David Kefford