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.

Future planning

  • Leeds Grand City Varieties have a defined priority around schools and young people but could be involved in future older adult work. ‘Fashionable lounge’ is still going, this is a closed group that meets once a month.
  • Phoenix Dance Theatre (PDT) continue to deliver the Morley YAA’s group which now has over 30 participants. PDT are looking at setting up three more sessions in Armley, Meanwood and one other ward with 48 week delivery.
  • Northern Ballet continue their regular class for 55+ at Quarry Hill and at touring venues. They are keen to continue working in care homes.  
  • Yorkshire Dance (YD) continue to deliver “We danced” (intergenerational care homes and primary schools) until December 2018. A partnership with AESOP ‘Dance to Health’ national falls prevention programme is commencing in Sheffield and Ripon. Sport England Active Ageing in partnership with One Dance UK has been successfully awarded with activity commencing in Leeds, Bradford and Doncaster between 2017 and 2020 with a focus on inactive older women aged 65+. YD are working in partnership with Parkinson’s UK, Leeds Get Active and the National Dance for Parkinson’s Network aims to generate Dance for Parkinson’s in Leeds from 2018. YD are bidding again for TTS to develop the care home work in 2018.
  • Steering group – Lily Craig (YAA’s project coordinator) is applying for local funding to plan a series of small events for older people. YD continues to write the YAA’s steering group into development bids. (Lisa Fearn’s update - Lily has secured a £5,000 grant to enable the YAA steering group to continue).

The LEAF Partnership benefitted from strong leadership and project management from Yorkshire Dance, which underpinned this endeavour. The partnership also benefitted from the dedication of all stakeholders, even though they had to battle with internal scheduling conflicts and budgets in order to find time and resources to work on this as well as other projects. Finally, Young at Arts inspired all the stakeholders to think differently and embed arts practice with older adults into their institutional offer.

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