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November 30, 2017

The legacy of Young At Arts

Young at Arts: LEAF Partnership Case Study by Shabina Aslam

The Leeds Arts Education Forum – LEAF Partnership is a natural partnership given the location, ethos and outreach aims of the stakeholders: West Yorkshire Playhouse (WYP), Yorkshire Dance (YD), Opera North (ON), Northern Ballet (NB), Phoenix Dance Theatre (PDT) and Leeds Grand and City Varieties (LGCV). Given their likenesses, the bid through Time to Shine, was nevertheless, the first time this group had worked together.

The project was led by Yorkshire Dance and supported by two freelance project managers. Yorkshire Dance, already a very busy team with a focus on development, took leadership of the project; initially struggling with the increased workload, they made necessary changes. For instance, bringing on board a second project manager and increasing responsibilities of the Marketing Team, to support on access issues. Most importantly they took ownership of annotating the programme of activities through the management of a comprehensive database.

Each partner organisation underwent personnel changes and some element of restructuring during the two year Young at Arts’ programme. For instance: the West Yorkshire Playhouse team was led by Sam Perkins as Head of Creative Learning and supported by Nicky Taylor and Ruth Hannant as specialists in older adults and diverse communities. Alex Ferris, replaced Sam, restructuring the department towards building a Dementia Festival at WYP, this limited their involvement in the later stages of Young at Arts. However, the relationship remains strong with facilitators signposting participants to Heydays and WYP.

Young at Arts gave all the LEAF partners a unique insight into how each other operates: their infrastructures, budget challenges, artists and artistic process. At an evaluation meeting the consensus being they were more confident about working together:

“We do, now! The more we do it the better we get. We know each other better – more open and honest and able to discuss challenges. Understanding each other’s offer better, so improved signposting.”

The partners reported that through this project, working with older adults was now part of their business plans and had impacted on their policies to include “working with vulnerable older adults.” They felt more confidence about co–designing projects having witnessed the Steering Group leading on Weekends of Wonder. As well as other community groups, like Morley, shaping their own future.

“YAA has spun us into a new sphere.”

Northern Ballet and Yorkshire Dance have embraced dementia friends by offering up training to staff members, registering with the Dementia Action Alliance and embedding working with older people into induction processes.