“There’s one young man we work with and the key difference for him is not so much that we’ve stopped his offending – it’s that he gets up in the morning excited about what he’s going to do that day. That’s the power of what we do and everyone needs that in their lives.”
Vince Attwood, Founding Director, Soft Touch Arts
Engage, Develop, Progress - our 3 stage delivery model
Our projects unlock a young person’s untapped potential.
They support the development of a young people's life skills, redefining their sense of purpose, and providing the confidence and motivation to take the next step to make that next big decision.
Our work changes lives for the better. This is how:
We aim to inspire and engage young people in fun, high-quality creative activities at our centre and locations across the city and county. So we run creative outreach sessions
• in settings such as schools and prisons;
• in communities such as New Parks and Beaumont Leys;
• with specific groups of young people with special educational needs or disabilities;
• for those at risk of poor life outcomes such as young offenders or looked after children.
In a typical (non-COVID) year, we engage about 1500 young people in our creative activities.
We run longer term creative projects which facilitate in-depth learning, support wellbeing, and develop personal and social skills.
This is the core of our work: we get to know a young person and their interests, and to understand the best way to make them feel better about themselves, the world around them and their future. This process works through the positive relationships built by our staff with participants, with most work taking place at our arts centre.
We normally put on about 22 such sessions across a normal working week. These sessions will cover arts, music, cooking and dance and will all be young person-led and expertly supported by our youth arts workers.
We support young people to progress, through involvement in performances, exhibitions, mentoring, volunteering, work experience and creative enterprise.
Our projects are designed to recognise and record young people’s progress. Meaningful personalised outcomes include:
• performing live music;
• public exhibitions of creative work;
• selling artwork;
• volunteering in our café;
• working on life goals with a mentor; and
• support into volunteering, work experience and employment.
We aim to support up to 90 young people every year in this way and we know that this level of engagement makes them feel more confident about going into further education, applying for a job or living independently.
There’s no such thing as a typical week at Soft Touch Arts but if you were to look across our online calendar you might see:
• outreach sessions at the local Hospital School;
• an employment advice session;
• a girls-only music studio session,
• a cooking project with young people referred to us with special educational needs;
• a music studio session with young people referred to us by the Probation Service;
• a baking session designed to support young people with mental health needs;
• our lunchtime creative café which is run by young people;
• a community outreach project in New Parks;
• a creative enterprise market in our exhibition space and forecourt where young people sell their work;
• our hugely popular open music session on Friday evenings;
• our TV-based prison outreach project;
• an open outreach session ran from a stall at a county town weekend community festival.
It is never dull, always busy.
Our work takes us to very different places and our young people work across many different mediums and artforms.
However, our work is aligned to a very carefully thought through delivery model which we have fine tuned with the experience we have acquired since the mid 1980s.
We know how inspiring and how enjoyable our projects can be but we can also demonstrate what impact our work has.
A commission to create a panto to celebrate Spence Street Pool in 1986 was how Soft Touch began in 1985. A talented, ambitious and innovative band of five youth workers worked alongside the local community to create an original production, staged – bizarrely - in an empty swimming pool. It played to packed houses over Christmas. Soft Touch Arts was born.
Originally a co-operative, always community led, Soft Touch Arts is now one of Leicester’s leading arts education charities, providing life changing projects for hundreds of young people every year.
From an original base in the city centre, before moving to Highfields and Clarendon Park, Soft Touch Arts now owns its own youth arts centre in the heart of Leicester. More importantly, its blend of community and studio-based projects is at the heart of the city’s offer to young people, a place which nurtures their creativity and talent.
This evolution has seen Soft Touch Arts develop important partnerships with long time supporters Arts Council England and Leicester City Council, as well as delivery and project relationships with local schools, community groups, Youth Music, the Youth Offending Service, the local enterprise partnership, local businesses and more.
An Arts Council National Portfolio organisation, our role is pivotal in the city’s cultural provision because Soft Touch Arts exists to provide young people - who often have significant challenges in their lives – with access to brilliant, inspiring creative projects.
And we intend to be providing these opportunities for young people in Leicester and Leicestershire for many years to come … but maybe not from an empty swimming pool!