Art & Design
YES project aims to change lives of young people
Soft Touch Arts is one of eight partners working with Voluntary Action LeicesterShire (VAL) on a new £1.94m project that will support some of Leicester and Leicestershire’s most at risk young people.
The project, called the Youth Employability Support (YES) project, will aim to transform the futures of 400 young people between the ages of 15 and 24 who are currently the furthest from being able to move into employment.
YES will focus on young people who face extra barriers to work, such as mental or physical health difficulties, homelessness, disabilities or being a carer, but it will also be open to any young person in Leicester or Leicestershire who is not in employment, education or training.
Soft Touch is offering a weekly creative session where young people have the opportunity to try out photography, Photoshop, stencil and graffiti art, print, music, sculpture, creative cooking and more. The sessions help participants build confidence and learn new skills. There will also be:
- A personal development plan
- One-to-one support
- The opportunity to work towards an accredited Arts Award and to progress onto our mentoring scheme
An annual YES exhibition will offer the chance for participants to showcase their art and receive recognition for all their hard word by visitors, mentors and creative organisations.
Participants will have the opportunity to access a range of support from all 8 partner organisations.
The YES project is funded by the Big Lottery Fund and the European Social Fund.
To find out about joining the project email Jim Jackson – firstname.lastname@example.org
Held 14th September to 12th October 2018
This was a spilt site exhibition
at Soft Touch Arts, 50 New Walk, Leicester
and Leicester New Walk Museum and Art Gallery, 53 New Walk, Leicester
This exhibition was a collection of works created by men serving sentences at HMP Leicester, HMP Stocken, and the now-closed HMP Glen Parva, as well as those who have completed their sentences and returned to their communities. Over a period of several months, Soft Touch Arts arts workers worked with groups of prisoners and offenders to facilitate various arts projects with a view to exhibiting their work to the general public. Participants worked on a broad range of themes and in different media, while creating artworks that draw attention away from the usual visual surroundings of the prison environment and create a more peaceful and inspirational mood. The results were on display at Leicester Museum and at Soft Touch Arts. A selection can be seen here:
Inside Outside – Prison Art Exhibition
The Inside Outside Prison Art Exhibition is a culmination of months of hard work by a dedicated group of young men at HMP Glen Parva, who create artwork for themselves, for loved ones and to brighten up the prison surroundings.
The Inside Outside Prison Art Exhibition is a culmination of months of hard work by a dedicated group of young men at HMP Glen Parva, who meet once a week within the prison to plan and create artwork for themselves, for loved ones and to brighten up the prison surroundings. Kieran and Lewis from Soft Touch Arts work closely with NHS staff from the Therapeutic Drug and Alcohol Support (TDAS) team to deliver the project. It has now been running for over a year and a half and has engaged almost 100 prisoners, some for short periods and others for the majority of their sentences.
“The project offers a chance for participants to improve mental health, self-esteem and sense of achievement.” Natasha Garraway-Charles, LPT head of healthcare at Glen Parva.
The TDAS team have identified young men involved in this project as vulnerable due to substance misuse and/or mental health issues and often struggling to cope with the prison environment. They meet as a group every Thursday in a designated art room, away from their prison units, where they are free to talk, mix and be creative in a relaxed environment.
“I was with one prisoner, someone we have serious concerns about with suicide attempts, and he told me that the art sessions are about the only thing he looks forward to in the prison.” TDAS worker, Glen Parva.
During the sessions, Kieran and Lewis work closely with individuals to plan and execute artistic ideas, while the TDAS team are able to have personal discussions with the prisoners while also taking part in the activities. It is a very friendly environment which prisoners and staff alike look forward to each week.
“It helps me to relax and cope with my mental health. Normally I get irritated and angry and I can lash out – this has shown me a way to keep calm. I draw a lot in my cell now which keeps me calmer.” BF, prisoner at HMP Glen Parva.
Relationships between staff and prisoners become very strong and it is an ideal environment to allow the prisoners to discuss their problems and make plans for the future.
Some of them have already begun attending Soft Touch sessions on their release, while others have engaged better in education at the prison as their confidence has improved. The project demonstrates an extremely effective method of partnership working, where everyone supports each other.
“I’ve grown in confidence a lot during the sessions. When I’m there I feel safe, which is a big thing for me.” JL, prisoner at HMP Glen Parva.
This is the second exhibition by the young men at HMP Glen Parva. The first took place last year at the Visitors Centre at the prison and has become a permanent display there.
Having the opportunity to show their work on the outside has meant a great those involved.
“It’s helped me to be creative, it really is therpeutic. Looking at the large angry figure I’m working on, it kept coming into my mind – ‘do you know what you are fighting for?’ My character is violent and fights everything, and I’ve thought how I want to be – which isn’t like that.” WP, prisoner at HMP Glen Parva.
As many of them are still serving their sentences they were not able to see the show themselves, so guests that attended the exhibition here at Soft Touch, wrote down their comments and were filmed giving their feedback about the artwork, which was edited into a short film by DMU student Catherine Baker, and then taken into the prison to show all of the prisoners what people thought of their work.
We would like to thank everyone who was helped make this project happen, and we hope that it can continue at Glen Parva as it is evident that it is very important.
A few comments left by visitors were:
“All the Glen Parva guys have worked really hard and made some beautiful artwork. Well done! Keep up the good work!”
Name of piece: Anti Drugs “I am so impressed, this really moved me. Brilliant. Good luck x.”
SUPPORTED BY THE CHARITY OF CARLTON HAYES AND BLABY DISTRICT COUNCIL
Work and Progress
As part of funding received from Ambition, young people that attend our STart sessions produced artwork and music for their Work and Progress exhibition at Soft Touch’s New Walk building.
The exhibition was titled “Work and Progress” and featured work from young people who have attended STart over the last two years.
Participants were given a free hand to make whatever kind of work they wanted.
The final pieces submitted to “Work and Progress” reflected of wide variety of interests. There were several self-portraits, both photographic and stencilled. Some work fell into the genre of “fan art”, where young people made their own interpretations of characters from anime, manga and computer games. Other work included original paintings, graffiti stencil pieces and photographic prints. In addition, three-dimensional work was represented by hand-sewn cushions and a full-body fake fur outfit dressed on a mannequin. Evidence of process was provided by work folders that included stencil layers, working sketches and designs.
Some young people do music at the Start sessions and an iPad was installed in the show, playing both live and computer made music pieces. Several STart participants also volunteered their time to invigilate the exhibition. This meant that there was nearly always a young person with direct knowledge of the work available to talk to members of the public who dropped in to see the show.
One of the parents who came to see the exhibition commented: “Hi, finally found the art exhibition last night: “Just want to thank Jim and Soft Touch for all the help, support and confidence you have given my son. The art group has made a big difference to his week and given him the chance he needed to mix with like-minded young people. The art was of an amazing standard and without Soft Touch these young people would have no platform to express themselves publicly.”
Now the exhibition has finished at New Walk, the work will go out to other venues around the city and be shown for a second time. This exhibition has inspired the participants to begin thinking about making new work to show in the future.
We asked some of the participants how they felt about the exhibition:
Maya said “I submitted two stencil pieces to the exhibition, my favourite part was drawing and designing my piece! I used stencils to create a spray template and spray paint to complete my design.
STart is good because I get to meet new people, as well as do all the artwork.
I felt proud of myself when I saw my final outcome in the exhibition.”
Carl said “The type of artwork I submitted was a self-portrait of me in drag! My favourite part of creating it was the dressing up, and being treated like a pop star!
The first thing I did to create my piece was get my make-up done, then get my outfit on and have lots of photographs taken. Then I chose my favourite picture and went onto Photoshop to add a background and got it printed.
I like STart because I get to socialise with others and have a laugh, whilst learning new things.
When I saw my artwork on display I was excited and a bit shocked to see myself as Cheryl (that’s the name of my drag alter-ego! I am proud of myself.”
Braunstone Frith Mural was a partnership between local residents and a local arts charity.
On the 13th and 18th of August 2015, local residents worked with Soft Touch Arts Project Leader Kieran Walsh to design a mural that would brighten up their community.
Five local residents designed and sprayed this brilliant mural in the last week of August.
Their work covers up the unsightly roller shutters of the Braunstone Frith Community Centre. Sue, Mandy, Shania, Mia and Shona gave up two days of their time producing the mural and as you can see it looks great!
Park Lodge is a supported living project for young single adults.
Those who use Park Lodge have had very challenging backgrounds and have been leading chaotic life styles with associated problems which have led to them needing specialised housing and life-skills support. Many have been previously homeless and/or in care.
The year-long project started in July 2014 and will end in July 2015 and was funded by Big Lottery Awards for all Grant as a partnership between Park Lodge and Soft Touch Arts. It provides a weekly session for young people from Park Lodge to develop art and music skills and present a showcase of their work at the end of the project. It gives young people new creative, communication and life skills which broadens horizons for their future, but most importantly it builds self confidence. The project supports them to see themselves and others in a positive light and to improve their relationships with people. This is beneficial for their future so they can communicate and build strong relationships, it also enables them to work as a team and have faith in each other.
Positive impacts of the project have been achieved with the whole group but with some young people in particular. The Deputy Manager of Park Lodge commented “one young woman lacked self-confidence to the point where she would not want to get involved with anybody or anything. This young woman was very reluctant to attend group activities. Through attending the sessions she has now had support from staff both here and at Soft Touch, and blossomed into a different person. She has tried new activities and trusts people again and is now keen to participate in group activities even to the point of going on a three-night residential outdoor adventure”.
The Park Lodge group displayed their artwork at the Soft Touch Building Launch event on June 22nd 2015, along with a multimedia display of work based around the theme of “what makes me happy – what makes me sad.”
Park Lodge and Soft Touch are looking for further funding to continue this successful partnership which is making a difference to vulnerable young people’s lives.
A popular and successful summer project was ran on Gilmorton estate.
Soft Touch worked with more than forty five local young people to paint a 15m wide mural and carve a totem pole.
There was a lot of input and positive comments from local residents and the young people worked through blistering heat and torrential rain to complete the work.
We did stop for the thunderstorms!
Many thanks go to local residents Sue and Allan who really looked after us during the project.
Soft Touch Arts has been working with Barwell Youth Club for some time, with music and arts sessions having taken place over last winter and continuing into this year.
Working alongside Ali, Sally and Nicky we have now built up a great relationship with the young people who regularly attend their youth club sessions.
They have also visited us here at Soft Touch where we spent a hectic evening creating graffiti, music and art.
Barwell Youth Club are very involved in local community events and asked us to help with the creation of a go-kart, which would be driven at the Hinckley carnival and also entered into the local annual go-kart race. Working with Kieran, and with the help of one of their dads, a group of young people designed their dream go-kart and started to put the plans into action.
The go-kart is now finished, and the young people won a trophy for the design at the Hinckley Carnival!
As well as the great work from all the young people, we would like to thank all the workers at Barwell for their support, and massive thanks also for the specialist welding carried out by one of the young people’s dads. We look forward to continued work with this great and dedicated youth group!
“A massive thank you for all your hard work and patience over the last six weeks. We have loved having you all at our youth cafe and you have inspired our young kids . It’s been lovely to see their faces and how excited they have been. Please stay in touch!”
Ali Poxon: Youth worker at Barwell Community House
Over 1,000 young people participated over the three years creating videos, music, photography, creative writing and many other arts based products.
STRETCH was a three-year programme of arts activities to enable young people who were not engaging in mainstream youth or educational services to progress with personal, social and learning goals.
We also supported a number of young people with limited (or no) experience to take on active roles in the delivery of the programme by assisting on projects as peer mentors, organising local community showcase events and helping to create these web pages.
Soft Touch certificates of achievement were awarded to all young people taking part and many also completed NVQ Level 1 accreditation such as Arts Awards and V50 Awards.
Participants were encouraged to, and have succeeded in, moving on to a range of further opportunities, e.g. more advanced accreditation,volunteering, formal/informal learning and running their own independent projects.
STRETCH was a Soft Touch Arts project supported by the Big Lottery Fund.