By 8pm on 21st March, guest DJ Hollie Profit was at full volume on Rhyl prom, North Wales. From her spot-lit post on the skatepark’s pyramid ramp, she played on through the night. Introductions were over, videos had been screened, notable guests were on their way home and the serious skaters where flying through the air – the Pixel Skate Celebration was well and truly underway.
A huge amount of hard work and perseverance came together to make this exceptional night happen. Organised by and with the young people at Pixel, one of MOSTYN’s Circuit partnerships based at West Rhyl Young People’s Project (WRYPP), it showcased their skate and music videos, screening them alongside projected images and location shots taken by the young people and staff. Myself and the artist and musician, Dion Hamer, worked in collaboration with Pixel’s manager, Chris Coyle, and youth workers, Gareth Davies & Jay McGuiness, to facilitate the group in exploring their ideas and individual interests over a series of drop-in sessions.
For many, this was the first time they had completed work and to screen it so publicly in front of their peers at a live, public event was itself a risk and an immense achievement. It was also a testament to everyone involved in the partnership between MOSTYN, Wales’s leading contemporary art gallery, and Pixel’s multi media centre (established in 2005 to deliver an alternative curriculum to Year 10/11 Rhyl High School students at risk of becoming NEET – Not in Education, Employment or Training). Both organisations have worked together over the past three years as a result of the connection engendered through the Tate Circuit programme for 15-25 year olds, funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation.
When I began working at Pixel’s Monday morning drop-in sessions in October 2015, the skate theme was already established. With Rhyl’s skatepark only a few minutes away on the prom, the group go there to walk/skate/run, generally to change the atmosphere and group dynamics when emotions become charged and/or attention and energies dissipate indoors. When two Year 11 students (who’d undertaken BCS ITQ Level 2 Certificates at Pixel – each equivalent to GCSE at Grade B), wanted to complete a video they’d shot at the skatepark earlier in the year (one on skateboard, one on camera), this became our starting point.
Not everyone in the group was as technically proficient or consistent as those who’ve completed this certificate, especially within the erratic nature of the drop-ins. Working with up to 9 people each week (all with widely differing abilities), there was no assurance as to who would turn up (or leave), at any given moment. The need to make breakfast, have a weekend catch-up, go to the shops or to the prom, all made it incredibly hard over the first few weeks to enable any focused time for a more traditional workshop model. I had to completely re-think my whole engagement practice to find a way to key into individual interests in order to keep the creative momentum going. This was never easy, and it would be an understatement to say that we all had to overcome enormous challenges to have work to screen that night. I will detail how we made that happen in my next blog. For now though, this is the young people’s verdict about their remarkable celebration…
What went well/not so well?
- 77 people turned-up “even though it was a freezing cold night”
- “good skate tricks”
- local press “my teacher brought the Rhyl Journal article in about me!”
- “good snapchat feedback”
- positive feedback from the audience & participants, though some left before screening
- the ‘pyramid ramp’ was a perfect stage for DJ Hollie Profit
- the Pixel playlist was included, but she had “too much House” & they’d “seen her better doing her own thing”
- the video screenings, though “felt a bit embarrassing in front of mates”
- “my comment was in the Rhyl Journal!”
- “I really enjoyed working on every aspect of this project, working with real artists and musicians on the planning and seeing it all come together on the night.”
- marketing (Facebook page, poster made & distributed)
- 2 Pixel members stayed throughout the day and to AV set-up: 1 provided crucial IT/tech support & the other pulled out all the stops with poster distribution
- the event planning “didn’t feel too pressured”, but more time would be better
- great attendance by our supportive local community including Assembly Minister Ann Jones, MOSTYN Chair, Brian Howes & Denbighshire Arts Officer, Sian Fitzgerald
- Circuit/MOSTYN’s core group, Glitch, introduced, by Coordinator Tomos Jones with information about membership & the October 2016 festival
- Glitch core member, Connor, artist Jaime Kelly & photographer Laurence Crossman Emms all documented the event
- Denbighshire County Council worked hard to get us a temporary licence in time
- Local police and St John’s Ambulance were fully supportive
Would you do it again? “Yes!”, but, with exam pressure, possibly during summer?
What would you differently next time?
- “have a really, really big screen at the back of the skatepark”
- “do a proper tech run to iron-out problems”
- “screen more films”
- “make sure the DJ knows exactly what we want – make it more personal”
- “get on site earlier”
- ask everyone to stay for set-up, staggering food stops before we all go on site
- “make it an indoor event”
- equal participation in planning stages
- “have a burger van/hot drinks” (AV company can arrange at no extra cost)
- more time before event to plan: this one was very pressured for staff & artists
Crossover with MOSTYN Glitch & wider connections:
- Ann Jones AM talked of campaigning to keep the skatepark open; she and WRYPP were originally involved in having it built.
- ‘Keeping it Rhyl’ Circuit blog seen by Angela Rogers, engage Cymru; Jan invited to present the partnership at Jumping the Barrier conference, National Museum Cardiff. Both videos screened and work discussed with delegates, including representatives from Arts Council Wales, Young Peoples’ Unit at HMP Parc Bridgend, Hillside Secure Unit Neath, FFotogallery, The John Hansard Gallery.
- Ongoing connections with Glitch members, Connor (evaluation blog) & Will Dean for possible talks with Pixel about his skatepark sculpture idea & skate fashion range.
- Sian Fitzgerald, Arts Officer Denbighshire meeting with Jan to discuss the partnership.