It’s just gone 10 o’clock on a Tuesday morning and the stalls and circle at York’s 250 year old Theatre Royal are packed with children, young people, teachers and employees of arts and youth organisations dancing and singing their hearts out. ‘Right foot stamp, left foot stamp, click fingers, shout woo, click and repeat,’ comes the shout from the stage. On this cold January morning, Cathy Roberts, musician and Education Development Adviser for the Creative and Performing Arts in Yorkshire, is leading the audience in a musical warm-up.
Just before 10am, the audience had been welcomed into the auditorium by the Garforth Jazz Rock Band. The day began – and ended – with these children and young people of all ages from north Leeds showing a public audience their creativity and dedication through the big, glorious sound of harmonious brass, strings and percussion.
Children and young people in Yorkshire are playing a starring role building the creative industries for the next generation, as the region’s young dancers, musicians, poets and animators showed when they took to the stage at CapeUK’s ARTSlive! celebration last week. In a morning of inspirational, energising entertainment, they performed for a live audience and showcased their talents to a wider audience through Pilot-Theatre TV.
Cluny McPherson, Regional Director of the Arts Council in Yorkshire, welcoming people to the theatre, traced his love of music back to the free recorder lessons he had had at school. ‘The arts are vital in schools because we don’t have lessons in, for instance – love or sadness or joy,’ he said.
Every performer who took part attends a school, college or youth justice setting which has been awarded the prestigious Artsmark. Artsmark is Arts Council England’s flagship programme to enable schools and other organisations to evaluate, strengthen and celebrate their arts and cultural provision. It is delivered by Trinity College London and 10 regional Bridge organisations drive participation. CapeUK, one of the 10 regional bridge organisations, hosted the York event.
Actor and poet set the tone
Between the acts, teachers, artists and young people spoke passionately about the positive impact arts and culture have on young lives. 21-year old actor Jack McMullen, who played bad boy Finn Sharkey in the hit BBC school drama show Waterloo Road, talked about how the opportunities he had had through school and arts organisations had led him to acting, starting with the role of the Artful Dodger in Oliver Twist when he was just five years old.
Taking the role of compère were Barnsley native and poet Andrew McMillan and movement director / choreographer Lucy Hind. Andrew’s poem about giving, striving, living and learning went straight to the heart of the value of arts education.
Educational value is economic value
The creative industries are well worth celebrating as businesses and politicians combine forces to kick-start the economy. The UK has the largest creative sector in Europe, employing over two million people and contributing six per cent of the country’s GDP. Read more here.
Speaking at the event, CapeUK CEO Pat Cochrane said: ‘It’s a privilege to be able to celebrate the achievements of all the young people with us today at the Theatre Royal. The performances we have seen this morning bring to life in the most vivid way possible the value of Arts Council England’s goal of every child and young person having the opportunity to experience the richness of the arts.’
Pat continued: ‘Against a backdrop of cuts for arts organisations, fewer teacher training places for arts subjects and continuing uncertainty about the status of the arts in schools, it’s easy to lose sight of the huge economic contribution made by the arts.’
The children and young people who brought York’s Theatre Royal to life last week in celebration of Artsmark got the message across loud and clear: nurturing the creative talents of the next generation profoundly and positively affects the richness of our communities, our culture and our economy, both here in Yorkshire and Humber and across the UK.
Photographs taken by Lizzie Coombes on behalf of CapeUK.