Fiona Sowole is Battersea Arts Centre’s Producing Coordinator (Young People), working on the BAC Beatbox Academy and other projects for young people, including our Homegrown and Young Producers programmes. As we celebrate ten years of the Beatbox Academy, Fiona had some reflections on the strengths and challenges of working on the project over the past nine months.
We have had an amazing time over the last nine months working with diverse young people in and around the Wandsworth area.
We spent a lot of time delivering the programme, meeting pastoral needs and catering to the varied levels of ability in the room. We learned that the project manager’s role was crucial in developing relationships with participants, parents and carers. We learned that we needed more time spent in developing individual relationships with the participants in order to keep them engaged and prepare them for the final event. With the time and resources available, it would have been preferable to have two people: one to lead the sessions, and the other to deliver the Arts Awards. We would have loved to have another person filling the role of being either another facilitator to deliver one-to-one support on the Arts Award, or just to help the Project Manager to have more time.
We worked with the Young Leaders over a term of four Saturdays, although we found that Saturdays were difficult for some of the participants due to other responsibilities.
Our Young Leaders grew and developed really well. We also realised that it was really important to manage their expectations, in terms of being realistic about what they would be able to achieve and what they would still need to learn.
Working with three different partners over the last nine months has been great for us and our projects. We have rebuilt relationships with our local groups, infused the young people from these partners into the wider organisation, and have built up a good database of young people who are interested in the Beatbox Academy. Working with 8 -11 year olds means that we now have a fresh cohort who we can bring through the Academy, having the opportunity to develop into Young Leaders, which is one of the outcomes we hoped to achieve. Working in partnership with our local community helps us share our projects with young people who wouldn’t necessarily come into the BAC building.
We enjoyed the fact that a lot of our participants attended as a result of referrals, and we think going forward this is a great way of recruiting for the Academy.
Some of our Young Leaders have been participating in the Beatbox Academy for more than five years. At the beginning it was a challenge to persuade people to shift from participants into professionals. However, once they stepped up and fully understood that they were no longer participants, we ended up with a group of amazing facilitators in whom feel confident. We have a strong group who we can send into schools, Pupil Referral Units, youth centres and organisations to lead great beatbox workshops.
We have decided that in future, when we train young people, we will rely more on the structures that are already in place within BAC, such as 360 reviews at the end of every term. This means our Young Leaders can let us know what they think about the programme which will feed into how it is run in the future. It is also important for the Young Leaders to receive regular feedback on their performances, their facilitation skills and also on group projects.
We found that take-up on our projects increased during the half term. Our most recent Beatbox Academy project saw an influx of young people with disabilities. When speaking to parents and carers we found that a lot of them found it difficult to identify activities for their young people to get involved in. We have decided to move towards a model of work where we have more projects taking place in the half term and in summer holidays so that more young people have the opportunity to get involved.