Arts Emergency

Long term optimism

Celebration Event

Carys Nelkon, Head of Programmes

Some of you might have seen that we quietly published our 2019 Impact Report this week. It features lots of amazing young people and volunteers who worked their socks off last year. I think it is important to say that although we’ve not made a big deal of it, it’s not because we’re not proud of our young people’s successes. We are so proud! But in the current circumstances, we are all too aware that our young people have been disproportionately affected by this crisis.

Reading back on what our 2019 mentees have said it’s clear that one of the most important things they learn over the year of mentoring is confidence – in themselves, their ideas and their futures. Right now though, what I’ve been hearing is that the young people on our programmes are finding it overwhelming to think about the future. For many of them their exams have been cancelled and often they don’t have the right tech or the space in their houses to concentrate. A career in the arts might seem more inaccessible than ever but my lovely team and our brilliant volunteer mentors are on the front line supporting these young people to hold steady. We hope that our message to them is clear and consistent – the future is another place and it’s still yours for the taking.

We are very much focussed on the here and now but publishing the Impact Report has made me wonder about what we’ll say about 2020 and beyond. My hope is we’ll be able to show the different ways that this community has supported 100’s of young people through lockdown. We commit to working with young people for eight years and this long-term approach gives us confidence that we’ll be able to ensure that the current crisis doesn’t further disadvantage them. I am also excited to see that the projects we launched in 2019, like our work in Thanet and our Community Programme for 18 – 25s, are flourishing. It’s also worth mentioning that we are supporting 64% more mentees this year compared to last, so we hope to see lots more positive change happening.

Writing this has made me think about how we’ve leant on our values during this time. We have tried in all of our responses to be bold, community minded and where we can, optimistic. Optimism can feel like a bit of a luxury at times like this but I am a big believer in optimism as a revolutionary act. If we lose optimism and the belief that things can change, then we have already lost before we begin.

One thing that has made me feel optimistic is our plans to launch Arts Emergency in Merseyside this year. The outpouring of support for this announcement has been incredible. If you are in the area and would like to get involved then please drop us a line here.

I am reminded time and again working at Arts Emergency of how strong we can be when we work together. Because of our network, last year we were able to deliver 1,903 hours of mentoring and share 217 trips and opportunities with our young people. I want to say a big thank you to all the volunteers, donors, mentors, teachers, staff and of course young people who put their energy into making the world a more equitable and creative place. I hope when you read our Impact Report, that you feel proud to be part of Arts Emergency. It’s your organisation and we couldn’t exist without you. We’re here for the long haul and we’re going to continue to work towards a better world. The future is after all, another place.

Read our 2019 Impact Report

Here are some of my favourite mentor pair photos that didn’t make it into the report!

Nade and Aaron pose at celebration event
Mentor pair posing at celebration event

7 May 2020