Fresh Perspectives invited four members of Tate Collective London to devise and lead public tours in the permanent collection at Tate Modern throughout August 2015. A collaboration with Tate’s Volunteer Team, whose regular guides deliver an astounding 56 tours per week, the aim of this pilot project was to explore themes relevant to young people’s interests and work towards an improved welcome for young people aged 15-25 in the gallery.
We spent four jam-packed Saturdays together in June and July gathering information, researching, devising and practising the tours, with additional one-to-one meetings to hone skills in body movement and voice projection. It was agreed early on by Tate Collective that these tours would be alternative in their delivery whether that was through the addition of music, humour, spoken word or costumes in order to appeal to a younger audience.
Memorable moments include being particularly loud and silly in the gallery to practise voice projection and the thrill that came with doing that in such a prestigious public space; delicious picnics on the Bankside lawn taking time out from research; the enjoyment of our overuse of bright, fun post-it notes for fortnightly reflections; and, towards the end of the project, the realisation of how incredibly diverse and exciting the tours had become.
Ensuring there was adequate time to reflect after each session was critical in gauging how everyone felt and what could be improved and implemented in the next session, especially as the project time was limited. These slight adjustments, whether a longer break, a different room or the flexibility to allow Tate Collective members to choose what they wanted to do, allowed for more relaxed and therefore more successful workshops. Each Tate Collective member had a different learning style and finding ways to facilitate and support that within each session that was an important part of the learning process.
Each tour was very different from the next, covering themes such as feminism, questioning how we should behave in a gallery, the artist’s processes and techniques and the spaces they occupy. We discovered that audiences loved the enthusiasm, originality and varied choice of art and interpretation provided by the tours:
What are the advantages of having young people leading gallery tours?
– “More energy!”
What motivated you to attend today’s tour?
– “The tour guide’s outfit.”
Did the speaker hold your attention?
“Yes! And it was full of great insights.”
What did you particularly enjoy?
“She was likeable, engaging and had bags of personality. And she knew her stuff.”
In addition, a regular Tate Guide’s feedback encapsulated exactly what the project was aiming to achieve:
‘In one of the works she talked about she missed some bits I would have included, but she included some wonderful bits I have missed and will steal from her. Her conclusion was “tour de force”, utterly unlike anything we Tate Guides would do.’
Reeling from the success of what has been a wonderfully creative and experimental project, ideas for legacy include regular tour slots led by young people, the creation of interactive online content that will act as a library of young voices and exploring if Tate Collective could become part of the 2016 training for new volunteer guides when the new Tate Modern building opens.
Shan Rixon, Circuit Artist