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Reclaim At The Royal Exchange

David McCourt meets two teenagers out to spread the Truth About Youth

Published on August 3rd 2011.

Reclaim At The Royal Exchange

MANCHESTER’S award-winning Reclaim project has teamed up with the Royal Exchange Theatre to investigate young people’s relationship with the city’s arts organisations.

It has been refreshing to be able to come in and not be judged because we haven’t got the money to do certain things that we want to do.”

Part of the Co-operative Foundation’s ground-breaking Truth About Youth initiative, the four week project has been running at the Exchange this month working with twenty creative teenagers from disadvantaged areas of Manchester. 

The talented youths have drawn up a manifesto to a spread the word of cultural entitlement as young people and to create a lasting relationship with the RET.

Amin Addai, a 15-year-old drama specialist, told us how a manifesto  ame to happen: “We asked people from all over Manchester what they thought about the youth of today. We got a whole lot of different feedback from different generations of people.” 

The group then brought their ideas together, and decided on the message that had to be heard. 

Amin explained: “We choose the most powerful messages to create the manifesto. We then went out into Manchester to spread the word so that everyone can know what we are about.” 

Georgia Clarke, a 15-year old singer and actress, said: “Generally we’ve had a good response but some of the feedback we got from people who were not our age felt a little bit unwelcoming.” 

The project addresses how young people perceive, and are perceived by, arts venues and organisations across the city. It also takes a look at how barriers to positive experiences for young people impact on venues in terms of reaching audiences for the present and the future. 

At the same time it provides a great opportunity for teenagers to explore their interests, talents and potential and be involved in producing a legacy to help the Royal Exchange engage with young people as part of its Truth About Youth programme. 

Georgia believes the project to be highly beneficial to teenagers from disadvantaged areas of the city. She said: “Not many people can afford projects like this. Summer camps all cost money, and it has been refreshing to be able to come in and not be judged because we haven’t got the money to do certain things that we want to do.” 

The group has a team of youth arts mentors to help them explore their interests, talents and potential and be involved in producing a lasting legacy to help the Royal Exchange engage with young people. 

Georgia said: “The mentors range from 16-20 and they all have a special quality about them, just as the teachers who have put us forward for the scheme believe we have qualities in us too.” 

She added that whilst their main job was to give advice, mentors can be an inspiration to the young performers. 

The project empowers young people across the North West to make positive changes in their communities and to find inner strength and self-belief. 

Amin said: “If this opportunity had been a year ago, I wouldn’t really want to have got involved. But now that I’ve been I would recommend it to my friends.” 

Project Director Ruth Ibegnuna said: “So many of our young people have exceptional talent, but are not supported to develop their talent and raise their aspirations. Instead all they see is the media promoting a negative image of young people. 

“We're really excited to be working with the Royal Exchange to challenge these negative perceptions, and at the same time offer support and development to these incredible young people. At Reclaim our aim is to help young people find their own voice and reach higher. Opening the door for them to step into the rich and varied cultural arts scene of Manchester is just the beginning."

The two year initiative - which will ultimately see young people take over the running of the Royal Exchange for a fortnight in the summer of 2012 – Truth About Youth is the Co-operative foundation’s £280,000 project in Manchester, in partnership with the theatre, which aims to challenge and change widespread negative perceptions of young people.

Reclaim And Others 020



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