Fund art to save the rhinos

Posted on September 13th, 2019

Photograph of a protest for animal rights.

This week, Becki writes about what happened when the Arts Council asked the Young Coneys for advice – and why we’re always learning from them. Read on to find out what this crackly and creative group of young people think about the future of the arts:

Mask made by the Young Coneys, as part of Endangered Friends

Coney are supported by Arts Council England. They are going through a very public consultation, asking people to contribute to their 10 year strategy. We were super energised to contribute, had a lot of things to say, and came out massively empathetic about what those people are dealing with trying to get this all right.

Some time passed – and then the Arts Council got back in touch. They asked us if the Young Coneys might have a few words to say about the next 10 years. And we said we’d ask.

The Young Coneys are without a doubt, expert consultants. Every time I see any one of them they teach me something new. And because they’re all from different schools, and boroughs and families – they all bring something different that’s new, and we end up with a massive pile of new information from all over the place. It’s a massive joy and a huge privilege to hang out with them.

As they gather momentum and more people know who the Young Coneys are, they’re asked more and more to teach other people new things too. Whether that’s audiences or organisations – they’re pretty willing to help you out.  They’re advisers, leaders and geniuses and we’d be ridiculous not to listen to them.

So when the Arts Council reached out – we thought the idea sounded perfect. How can we make the next 10 years of art in people’s lives have impact. How can we make them matter.

We knew before the Arts Council arrived the conversation would be about the world. The Young Coneys are change makers, and they are super politically and socially engaged and aware. I have better conversations with them than I do with most of my friends. I’ve had conversations about the similarities and differences between Brazilian and American governments, the moral consciousness of palm oil and banning ‘Ore-Nos!’ as the first step to change and whether all 20 year olds know what it is they’re voting for. And these kinds of things aren’t inside a project, there’s no structure or agenda to that. That is just casual chit chat over a Jaffa cake.

So when we focused – the future of art and the world as one, the Young Coneys unstoppable agenda was to make art to change the world. And that message rang pretty clear from the very first words said – ‘Fund art to save the rhinos!’.

And it went from there. Over the next 4 hours the Young Coneys reminded us that art can save the rhinos. They reminded us of all the social consciousness that is embedded in art, the conversation it opens up, the role is plays to encourage us to think about new things and the opportunity it gives to hear people’s voices. Across the games, and discussions and building the ideal school with lego – the ideas just kept on coming:

  • Ethical iPhones, ethical cars and ethical people
  • Giving space for refugees to tell their story so we can understand
  • Older people to have art so they don’t feel lonely
  • Babies to have art so they can start really young
  • People with different bodies to make and share their art
  • Huge statues made of used plastic
  • Stories that stop homophobia and people judging other people for who they fancy
  • Art made by people with any colour of skin
  • All public spaces to have creative things
  • Art that saves all living things – including animals and plants

When they were asked if the Arts Council’s mission ‘great art for everyone’ mattered to them some of them said yes and some of them said no. When they were asked if they had enough art in their life, some of them said yes and some of them said no.

When they were asked what a school would look like with no art in it, they told us it would be filled with students with bad mental health and no outlet for their emotions. When they were asked what a school full of art would look like they said choice for a varied education, and better skills as a person.

And as usual, these genius consultants we’re so lucky to work with, taught us all something new. It wasn’t that any of their ideas were new, nothing was radical, or anything we hadn’t heard before. What was new was that the ideas needed to be said. Because it turns out, adults haven’t quite been saying this stuff anywhere near enough.

Sometimes it’s not just about what the Young Coneys think, or what they know – but their bravery and ability to say things that need to be said, and in a way that makes us listen. And by them doing that, we might have just saved the future of the world, at least a little bit.
The Young Coneys give us hope, energy and enthusiasm and we’re so grateful for their help.

The Young Coneys give us hope, energy and enthusiasm and we’re so grateful for their help.

Huge thank you to the Arts Council, and Fern, Naomi and Anne for organising this whole thing. Anytime you need some more chit chat over a Jaffa cake let us know.

Other Young Coneys news

In their most recent project, the Young Coneys were invited to create Endangered Friends, a project as part of Culture Mile’s Smithfield Street Party. They worked with designer Maia Kirkman-Richards to create their own unique masks to spark conversations around animal extinction.

I’ve always thought that being a puppet designer and maker has got to be one of the best jobs in the world, but it turns out that nothing is quite as rewarding as making puppets alongside young change makers. Creating puppets is all about using your imagination and thinking outside the box, something that seems to come naturally to this company and I’m confident that there’s some budding designers, artists and activists among them. It was a joy to spend a week watching the young Coney’s discover, learn, play (and challenge the boundaries of what can be achieved!) and I couldn’t be prouder of what they accomplished.

Maia Kirkman-Richards, Designer

For more information on the Young Coneys – or to support their programme one off or ongoing, in any small or big way, visit this page.

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