How much do arts in unusual spaces enhance young people's engagement?

June 10, 2016

Recently, I’ve had the pleasure of evaluating a couple of projects that are part of the Canal & River Trust’s Arts on the Waterways programme. These projects work with artists and partner organisations, using the unusual setting of canals to allow access to the arts to people who might not otherwise engage with them.

Last year 25 performing arts and media students travelled from Stratford, East London to Stratford-upon-Avon by canal boat, developing performances of A Midsummer Night’s Dream with the Rubbish Shakespeare Company.

This year 20 young dancers from Birmingham and Salford are working with Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures and Re:Bourne to devise a new contemporary dance piece inspired by the waterways, to be performed in July at Birmingham Hippodrome and The Lowry after they've navigated the canals from Birmingham to Salford.

This innovative model is proving to be a great way to bring creative opportunities to young people - leading to real engagement - in a new and unique way, as well as bringing art to unusual spaces.

In addition to providing young people a chance to hone their respective artform skills, the projects have real impact for those involved in terms of increasing confidence, consolidating their career ambitions, providing access to professional artists and encouraging them to pursue other creative interests.

Young people have gained awareness and understanding of the waterways and how they are used in the present day, as well as some other unexpected benefits like cooking and cleaning for the first time.

If you’ve taken any creative learning projects to unusual spaces, do get in touch as we’d love to hear about them.

For updates on Dance on Water follow #danceonwater2016 or #danceonwater on Twitter

Click here to see tweets and pictures from the Stratford 2 Stratford project.