Vulnerable young people have been put at the heart of Coventry City of Culture thanks to a ten-week programme, which has culminated in a digital exhibition of artwork.
The digital exhibition answers the question, ‘What does a young person in the city need to feel safe?’ and young participants have explored and explained what makes a city safe to them through a moving and creative mix of visual and performance art.
The Changemakers and Shakers programme was run by Coventry City of Culture Trust, supported by five Rotary Clubs in Coventry; Coventry Club, Coventry Jubilee, Coventry Phoenix, Coventry North and Coventry Breakfast, which donated £10,000 to the programme, and was delivered with Creative Optimistic Visions and Positive Youth Foundation.
The original artwork showcase was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. The digital exhibition, which is available to view on the Coventry City of Culture website from 5pm today (Friday 9th October), brings the programme to a close.
Around 3,000 young people in Coventry are classed as vulnerable or at risk from criminal exploitation. The programme has worked to investigate how Coventry’s at-risk youth see themselves, their communities, and their city to better understand what support is needed to inspire them to become ambassadors for change.
Four artists, Muzzi Nnduna, Raza Hussain, Ty'rone Haughton and Crisis, were at the helm of the project, each bringing a background in youth work and mentoring to the ten-week scheme.
Using the mediums of music, spoken word, visual art and dance, the young participants investigated their communities and explored issues such as knife crime, education and mental health to uncover how arts and culture can help facilitate better decision making within their own lives and communities.
Jaz Dhaliwal, the Rotary Assistant District Governor Heart of England which covers all five Rotary Clubs of Coventry, added: “This vital and eye-opening programme posed the question, ‘what does a young person need in this city to feel safe?’, with the ultimate purpose of providing long-term support to those who need it most.
“There are so many young people in Coventry who need this support, and currently they aren’t being listened to or heard – they just don’t have a voice.
“The success of this project will create a better dialogue with them so that we can understand how best to help them to overcome the issues they face, and we were thrilled to have been able to support it.”
Krishan Singh, Senior Manager at Positive Youth Foundation, said: “Positive Youth Foundation were delighted to take part in the Changemakers and Shakers programme.
“The artists engagement with our young people was amazing, helping them develop and build their confidence to perform but more importantly give them a voice and platform to express themselves around a very sensitive topic.”
Elizabeth Lawal, Associate Producer at Coventry City of Culture Trust, which ran the programme, said: “We have created this project to give the young people in Coventry a chance to be heard and understood.
“The young people involved with the programme chose what artforms they wanted to develop and used it to vocalise their experiences of living in Coventry, so that others in the wider Coventry community can understand the challenges faced by young people.
“This programme will pilot a large-scale project which aims to work with as many of the thousands of young people at risk of exploitation as possible, helping them to use arts and culture to make Coventry a safer city.”
The artwork will be available for the public to view from 5pm Friday 9th October on the Coventry City of Culture website coventry2021.co.uk/shakers.