Voices back in Collage Arts

Saturday 3 October was an important day for Collage Arts – our full Saturday Voices programme was back in the building for the first time since March.

Steve Medlin, artistic director of Voices reports: “Last week were delighted to welcome 35 young people into the building for our Saturday Voices session and more sessions re-start next week.

Our approach is safety first. We have worked hard over last month to ensure our delivery compiles UK Youth Guidelines for social distancing. We have a one-way system for drop off and collection. We also don’t allow care-givers into the building for the time-being.”

Last week we started recruiting for the 16 plus group. All places were sold out in just a couple of days. We are now exploring how we can set up an additional session for the young people on the waiting list.

Collage Arts has had to raise significant funds to support additional cleaning and tutor costs. Unlike in schools, where teachers can deliver programmes with young people all day long, our tutors and young people can only attend one face-to-face session each Saturday.  Despite receiving no core funding, we have maintained a price of £2 a week.

We have invested in fogging technology so that we can deep clean spaces, in anticipation of young people arriving.  McQueens theatre space has been fully painted in the lockdown and curtains added. The next phase of the plan is to introduce an air circulation system, and improve the toilets in line with best practice in COVID control. This will mean that, as winter approaches we can keep the door closed, but still be complaint with best practice.

Steve continues: “We have been talking to many of the young people on-line each week. We are also now in much more regular contact with the parents. I think this is what has helped us to come back with such numbers despite the uncertainty. This speaks to the trust the parents have in us.  What struck me was how much the young people had grown since March. Most of the young-people had grown a few centimetres, but their experiences of lock-down had impacted on them too.”

One other change is that the traditional Christmas sharing is likely to be filmed content this year. Last year the young people create a vision of a bleak dystopian London. This year our plan is for a sketch show format.

The team at Voices is now busy raising funds to put in place lights to make filming more professional. Anyone wishing to help can donate via www.collage-arts.org/gift-aid.

Saturday Voices is still just £2 for a 90-minute session. It will provide a minimum of 2500 hours of contact time for local young people. There are spaces in some of the sessions and a waiting list for others, please contact Andry on [email protected] for more details.

Voices Schools Partnerships now operate in 8 local secondary schools, with our first work in junior schools happening this academic year. We will also reach around 500 young people in schools with our new Voices Against Hate programme, which uses creative arts and music to tackle hate speech.

Collage Arts is committed to building back better in all areas of our work. Voices is off to a great start.