and finally

At the end of June 2016, three people from the Pixel group based at West Rhyl Young People's Project (WRYPP), took part in a summer engagement trial between MOSTYN's Circuit programme (Glitch), and their WRYPP partnership.  

To keep the momentum going within the alternative education centre, myself, Pixel’s manager Chris Coyle, and MOSTYN’s Curator of Learning, Naomi Horlock, worked with those who wanted to take part in an experimental programme, co-designed by them to build on skills and confidence gained over the previous school year. After a skills audit at Pixel, a schedule of informal training, which considered individual needs and future plans, was put in place to run one-day-a-week from June until September. This was a paid opportunity, incorporating new experiences and linked into planning the Glitch Festival in October, with support to join the main Glitch group if needed. I would continue to liaise between the partners, project manage training, and mentor 1:1 between Rhyl and Llandudno. The overall aim was to keep a connection, whatever people planned to do in the autumn, and to prevent the danger of people becoming NEETS (neither in education or training), and Pixel’s traditional summer drop-off. By the end of the school year in mid-June, we all seemed to be firmly on track.

However, within a matter of days, anything involving me or the young people using the centre in Rhyl as a base was suddenly off the table. Other than the trip to Tate Liverpool and Evertro skatepark, Pixel appeared to withdraw from the partnership. They were happy with the engagement I’d undertaken so far but the ideas put forward for the summer by the Pixel group and staff (e.g. a music studio at WRYPP, staffed and run by the Pixel group or an open-air filmmaking session at Rhyl Skatepark, peer-led by skater Cole with the support of the training programme), would no longer be possible.

Evertro Liverpool 2016 © Jan Miller

To compound this, staff shortages and organisational issues within the Circuit programme at MOSTYN left me with no clear information or direction from either partner; I had to find a way to continue with the group, who were really keen to get started on the training, and assume everything was moving forward. I also had to remain positive, and adamant, that it would.

I was asked to submit a report to MOSTYN’s director, Alfredo Cramerotti, outlining what had been achieved to date and the proposed aims of the summer engagement. Within this, I strongly defended the need for the training to be completed and, after several meetings, was given the go-ahead to begin in July, but without the support of Pixel. There was, however, unexpected freedom in having one less ‘boss’ as it were; it was genuinely difficult, and at times a seemingly impossible task, to keep Pixel, MOSTYN and Circuit happy all at the same time. And, despite the success of the Keeping it Rhyl Skatepark event in March, by April it had become harder to go forward with plans signed-off by Pixel the previous week; consequently, our mornings sessions suffered unexplained delays and setbacks. I felt I’d become an extra pair of hands rather than a lead facilitator representing the gallery in a collaborative outreach role (I discuss this more fully in a piece written about this issue for Circuit). But the young people themselves were fully engaged after the skate event and now, with the freedom to focus on the summer, they could forge ahead with their individual practical needs, training and any gallery support needed, with the freedom to adapt those plans each week if any problems arose.

Glitch Plaza 2016 © Jan Miller

The problems themselves tended to be practical and easily resolved, they just took time, good organisation and persistence (i.e. meeting-up in Rhyl, buying train tickets/food, making sure people could travel safely or 1:1 with me). With all parental and guardian permissions in place, we met in cafe’s in Rhyl rather than where they were most at home in WRYPP, but we reaped the benefit of at last having focused, concentrated discussions about what they wanted to explore, either practically or creatively, for and by themselves. I could enable, sustain and help them to plan their day at the gallery and collaborate directly with them, more effectively managing the project out-with what had become, for me, a restrictive and isolated base in Rhyl. And so it was fantastic to get the engagement underway and to get them back to the gallery environment where they clearly loved to be.

Glitch Plaza 2016 © Jan Miller

As well as undertaking training, they were absolutely committed to get going on something new and quickly connected to the main Glitch group, in particular with long-term members Will Dean and Peter Slania. I thought it would take much longer for this to happen, particularly leaving their home turf to travel back and forth to Llandudno but within two weeks people had joined the Tuesday Glitch Collective and festival planning teams and attended the Saturday night music event. They were confident enough to use the Glitch iMac in the heart of MOSTYN’s office, where Cole completed post-production on the Pixel Blue Sky and the Green Screen music video for inclusion in the final exhibition. He and James made a new skate video under their own volition, filming in and around Llandudno (with information supplied by Will), and we collated personal portfolios of photographs, sound work, videos and music tracks. They also became so involved in planning the festival, they volunteered on days that weren’t part of the training, working on the install under the guidance of MOSTYN’s Operational Manager, Mark Hughes.

Glitch VR © Jan Miller 2016

During the festival they invigilated the Virtual Reality room with artist and technologist Charles Greshom and Cole brought the Rhyl skate community to the Plaza exhibit. At the end of October, he also travelled to Colchester to represent Glitch at YAK’s Flipside festival (see his photo essay).

© Jan Miller 2016

As well as festival planning, Fran was supported to gain practical skills and to explore the gallery exhibitions in-depth, working on her sketchbooks by drawing in the gallery and on Llandudno Prom. She also attended LLAWN 04 (Llandudno’s free art weekender), and the Glitch festival, helping me guide students from the Bridging the Gap course at Coleg Llandrillo through the LLAWN exhibits. We had time to explore ideas around contemporary art and she co-curated Pixel’s large format images for exhibition in the festival’s Chaos Room, alongside Coleg Landrillo student Anne Butler’s ‘People’s Gallery’.

Pixel/Glitch Chaos Room 2016 © Jan Miller

We had an amazing summer – everyone worked incredibly hard, even beyond the festival; they took every opportunity that arose and made many more for themselves. They also looked like they had a good time! There were no more serious issues once everyone found their own pace and linked-in to fellow Glitch members and staff at the gallery (though I feel there were huge missed opportunities within Rhyl at Pixel itself, especially when, as their confidence grew, they really wanted an opportunity to pass-on their skill-base there). I also feel strongly that Pixel and/or MOSTYN should have let me know (or even suggested in a general sense), at the first inclination that there might be problems going forward through the summer; time we didn’t really have to spare was wasted on planning ideas put forward at Pixel that would never leave the page.

Glitch Festival 2016 © Jan Miller

I finished working directly with Glitch in November though people from the groups I’ve worked with over the past four years have kept in touch. Many subsequently took part in opportunities through my new role with National Theatre Wales during their first production of 2017. In ‘Lifted By Beauty: Adventures in Dreaming’, directed by Mark Storor, staff and students from Pixel, Viva LGBT, WRYPP and several Glitch members assisted and took part in Mark’s Creative Workshops, participating behind the scenes and performing in the show. But that’s another story.

This is the last blog in a series by Jan Miller, Lead Artist, Pixel/MOSTYN Glitch Partnership 2015-2016 and Artist Facilitator on the Circuit programme 2013-2017.

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