Bridging Youth Work and The Arts

Posted on October 1st, 2021

Photograph of a man drawing on a large piece of paper with wooden blocks in front of him.

A Coney Adventure to Destelheide 

Photo by Silvia Rusiñol Romero

At the start of this month, Coney Associate Director (Young People & Families Programme), Toby Peach, and Producer, Eliza Cass travelled to Belgium to take part in an Erasmus+ funded training event; Participatory Practice: Bridging Youth Work And the Arts, organised and hosted by Elvira Crois and Marieke Breyne (Apaya Network) at Destelheide.

The event involved three days of practice exchange between artists making participatory work for, by, and with young people from Belgium, France, Denmark and the UK. Toby and Eliza were thrilled to be joined by Tommy Ross-Williams and Cecilia Alfonso-Eaton of Advocacy Academy, forming the core contingent from the UK.

Over three days each participant group shared a workshop/experience representing the core elements of their work, followed by facilitated reflection and sharing. Nestled in the woods in the Belgian countryside at Destelheide, the space was generous, inspiring and a breath of fresh air after being relatively cut off from other European artists for so long.

It was a total privilege to be able to be in Europe, meeting an incredibly varied group of artists, practitioners and young people who share the same passion for participatory arts, but all of whom have different approaches. Personal highlights included a participatory dance workshop by Seppe Baeyens and learning about their piece, Birds, now taking place in public space in cities across Belgium, and Katrine Oosterlinck’s Tactile Talk. I came back reinvigorated and excited to develop relationships with more artists, to continue to grow our programme, and meet the needs of the young people we work with. 

Eliza Cass, Producer 

After the training event, participants shared their insights at a wider seminar event to which more artists from each country flocked to take part in workshops, talks and further practice exchange. Toby and Eliza were joined by Associate Director (Cross-Sector Programme) Rhianna Ilube and Director, Tassos Stevens. You can hear more about their experiences below:

Photo by Rhianna Ilube

Spending 3 days at the seminar in Brussels was the ideal way to start my new job at Coney. Highlights included the workshop making up new words related to climate change with Rone Fillet of De Veerman, and exploring intimacy and boundaries with Tommy Ross-Williams. Favourite new word from the weekend = Klimaskyld (Danish –> the feeling of guilt for not doing enough for the climate).

Rhianna Ilube, Associate Director (Cross-Sector Programme)

After a year of delays we were finally able to meet with the participatory practitioners from Denmark, France, Belgium and with the team from Advocacy Academy from the UK in Destelheide, just outside of Brussels. Eliza and I spent the first 3 days sharing practices, having conversations and exploring the local countryside, before Tassos and Rhianna, alongside a further 5 people from the UK joined us for the seminar titled Participatory Practice: Bridging Youth Work And The Arts. The seminar was full to the brim of interesting practices and techniques, held a space for important reflections on how we work with young people and gave us an opportunity to be in person with practitioners. It was so lovely to learn, connect and play with others, after a long period of remote engagements.

Toby Peach, Associate Director

With Eliza, Toby and Rhianna now stepping into new roles in the company, it was the perfect opportunity to be reminded of the exciting potential of participatory arts in not only having transformational impacts on the lives of young people, but participants and practitioners of all ages and backgrounds.

Now, we hit the ground running… watch this space!

Photo by Chisom Lois Onyebueke Chinaedu

Photo by Silvia Rusiñol Romero

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