Travelling Light – Rethinking an Accessible Arts Award Offer
BY: Guest Writer
29 Mar 2021
As we invite centres to apply to become a Trinity Champion Centre and look forward to continuing to work with existing Champion Centres, this week we hear from Lizzy Stephens, Creative Learning Officer and Arts Award Adviser from Trinity Champion Centre 2020-2021 Travelling Light Theatre Company. Lizzy tells us how Travelling Light has adapted its Arts Award offer over this past year and what they’ve learnt...
Rethinking our Arts Award Offer
We have been delivering Bronze Arts Award annually as part of our Work Experience programme for the last six years. Our model has been used as a template of best practice and shared within our city as well as more widely with Bridge Organisations across the UK. We had delivered Arts Award via our youth theatre programme and gradually started to introduce Discover & Explore to our programmes. Confirmation of our Trinity Champion Centre status arrived just as the pandemic hit - so we needed to rethink our offer.
We spent time discussing and developing ideas for an online offer – our programme experimented with different approaches to online delivery in the early part of the pandemic and our Arts Award online programme began by supporting some Discover at Home awards. This involved light touch support over Zoom, a resource pack and some deadlines for participants to complete their exploration with family members.
Working towards Bronze Arts Award we started supporting a small cohort who included new participants outside of Bristol in the later part of 2020. One of the things we love about Arts Award is its versatility and how easily it can be tailored to different individual needs. This was proven whilst working with our recent cohort. We normally complete Arts Award through regular face-to-face sessions and doing very similar tasks, e.g. watching the same performance or taking part in the same activity. The beauty of the participants taking part remotely and there being a shift to online work, meant there was a wealth of different opportunities for individuals to access.
“‘It was amazing how accessible the arts were despite everything being closed, for us not being able to travel much in normal circumstances due to ill health it was a real boon and a treasured experience to be supported with access by Travelling Light Theatre.” Amanda, Parent and Home Educator, Bronze Arts Award 2021
We began by encouraging research into an artist or craftsperson and signposting some resources. We invited participants to share back what they discovered. We find this is a lovely way of getting to know a bit more about our participants and their interests, they always find out such fascinating facts and information, so we learn lots too!
The second phase of delivery was about enabling the young people to explore the arts as a participant and share skills. This is where a huge range of activity happened – from one-to-one singing lessons on Zoom, to home circus workshops, private music tuition, building soundscapes and Foley, to video linked guitar lessons. This was a great opportunity to support and encourage the participants to re-engage with arts activity that they were missing due to lockdowns and restrictions or connect with new art forms and artists.
“Thanks so much for the opportunity to do my Bronze award with you! I really enjoyed the process and have been so inspired by the things I have learnt doing the award. I can't wait to begin doing performing arts and circus again as soon as Covid restrictions have been lifted!” Bronze Arts Award Participant 2021
Working online did of course present a few challenges, such as participants being at different stages of completion at different times. We found planning regular online catch-up sessions, providing guidance and templates and giving clear deadlines meant everyone could stay on track and have the assistance they needed.
Finding innovative ways of evidencing this work was also a stumbling block, but whilst reiterating the importance of evidence we also encouraged creative approaches. One participant found putting everything into words and writing more difficult, so explored making audio diaries of their journey and reviews of what they had seen and done – almost like a mini podcast! Another explored using creative software to make visual presentations and images.
One thing that came out of doing Arts Award online that we weren’t expecting was an improved level of knowledge and experience in using files, online storage and emails – not something all teenagers feel comfortable with. It also had a positive impact on our participants, enabling them to access new opportunities, have focus and an opportunity for creative expression during lockdown. It has given them confidence to continue some of these activities beyond our sessions. As an organisation it has opened our work out to a much wider audience. It makes Arts Award accessible to individuals who are unable to travel or meet face-to-face and supports a huge range of abilities.
Our top tips? Give it a go and learn from it Give clear guidance, templates and deadlines – evidence is key! Create a central point where evidence, templates and guidance can be shared – this helped us to know where each young person was on their Arts Award journey. Prepare to be flexible – we recorded updates for a participant who was unable to join our regular meetings. And enjoy supporting the participants on their individual journeys and make time and space for conversation.
You can find out more about Travelling Light Theatre Company and their work here. Sign up to their mailing list to hear when Arts Award programmes and other opportunities are announced.
Find out more about the Trinity Champion Centre programme and to apply here.