Looking back on 2016: Developing young producers

Blaze Project Manager Matt Wilde looks back across the year, reflecting on our work and the positive impact we’ve created.

Looking back across the year and reflecting on our work has allowed me to see the most impactful moments on the young producers and cultural leaders we work with and the change they go on to affect. Its been a year of change and programmes of work that are new to Blaze which have led to some of our most positive and impactful work.

This year Blaze was taken under the wing of Curious Minds – a company dedicated to improving the lives of children and young people through great art and culture. To my knowledge, this is the first transition of its kind where a project is incubated by another organisation with the aim of supporting it towards independence and sustainability. Together, we’re exploring organisational structures and the best steps for Blaze to move forward as a constituted company. Through this process we hope to create a blueprint to inspire other organisations to do the same and support fledgling projects and individuals to thrive.

This will be our first year without Blaze Festival since 2012. We’ve had countless emails and messages on Facebook & Twitter from young producers wanting to get involved. We made a decision not run it this year to allow our work to focus on building partnerships and helping organisations work with young people in more effective and meaningful ways. We’ve still been running activity led by young people but its work that has been spread across the year with museums, libraries, arts organisations, housing associations and more. We aim to celebrate an even bigger and better youth led festival in the Summer of 2017.

Our ongoing Harris Transformers programme is one example of challenging boundaries by implementing what we believe is best practice . A group of 20 young producers have been working together to Re-Imagine the [Harris]by working with Architects, Designers, Historians, Curators and Artists to challenge the boundaries of what the building will look like, how it operates and the programme it offers. This has been a powerful enabler for young people and has drawn young people from across Lancashire together for a project which is future thinking and aspirational. As Derri Burdon, CEO of Curious Minds said:

“Finding creative ways for Lancashire’s young people to be able to influence how their local cultural offer is shaped will help us to ensure all of them will be able to experience the many educational and social benefits that engagement in the arts and culture bring to our lives”

Other key moments for me this year include the Edinburgh Culture Summit where I had the opportunity to speak about our work at the Scottish Parliament. I spoke about our work developing the next generation of cultural leaders and young producers and shared insights into how cultural and political organisations can embed young people in their work. I’ve continued to keep in touch with many of the brilliant individuals and organisations I met and look forward on collaborating on work that achieves the above.

2016 also featured a programme of work with Community Gateway Housing Association and their Young Gateway Action Group (YGAG). We worked together over a period of 4 months to produce #MakeANoise, an event that focused on creatively sharing and capturing the issues young people face in Preston. The day enabled young people to share their views on issues they’ve observed and issues affecting them in a safe environment with a range of policy makers in attendance.

Our Blaze Lounge strand has continued to develop new ways of engaging emerging musicians a platform to collaborate and perform to new audiences across Lancashire. This year we ran Blaze Lounge at Lancashire Encounter Festival which was ran by a group of inspirational young producers, many of which had never worked with Blaze before. The young producers worked hard over a period of six months to organise musicians, tech, marketing and more.

Together with Curious Minds we’ve collaborated to establish to a group of young leaders from cultural organisations, NPOs, libraries and museums to be our Young Associates, with the aim of upskilling and developing them to take on to a regional leadership role. Following the completion of a training and induction programme which we’ve been helping to deliver and facilitate, they will be deployed with a variety of roles as cultural education experts across the North West. It’s been great to work with a group of young people who’re beginning their careers as arts professionals and I look forward to continuing being a part of their journey.

We also achieved much more including working with Lancashire Youth Council, Music Education Hubs to develop youth voice as well as forming countless partnerships who we look forward to working with in the new year.

It is a great pleasure for me to reflect on a year full of an incredible range of work from strategic business planning to delivering best practice in museums. It wasn’t long ago that I was a young producer involved in Blaze in 2012 and it’s a pleasure too have worked with all the amazingly talented young people, artists and practitioners throughout 2016. I’m looking forward to 2017 and continuing to produce work that develops the next generation of cultural producers.