Using the arts to engage young people in challenging circumstances

Posted by The Garage Friday 12 October 2018, 10:44
Rachael working with young people in our summer production

I am the Youth Arts Worker and my role primarily focuses on using the arts as a tool to engage young people from challenging circumstances. In order to achieve this, I run and support courses that are specifically aimed at engaging these young people and building confidence and raising their self-esteem. Young people are referred into these courses by professionals at other organisations, including; Children’s Services, Youth Offending Teams, Primary and High Schools, Short Stay Schools and charities as well. These are young people who have been identified as having some kind of additional need, and would therefore benefit from said courses.

After this referral is placed I will then make contact with the young person and/or their family. This is a crucial part of the engagement, as it’s important to get the family on board with what we are trying to do and to aid their understanding with what the courses are about. At this point I will then invite the young person and the family in for a tour. This is so they can get used to getting the building and become more familiar with the environment. I also talk through the course and what to expect on the first session. This helps to alleviate any worries that they may have about coming to The Garage. It gives them a chance to ask any questions, but also meet some of the staff here. It also enables us to start to assess their needs and how we may best support them on the courses. The tour is also important as I put the decision over to the young person at the end of the tour, i.e. is this something you would like to do? Rather than something that is put on them, that they have to do, therefore, they are empowered to make the decision that is right for them.

Five years ago, before the foundations courses were set up, and the tours were offered, people could apply for bursary’s and get free places straight onto our class program. At this point the retention was around 30%, more often than not people would get the bursary and just not turn up. After the introduction of tours and the 10-week foundation courses as a start activity, we have seen a massive increase in retention, and last term was over 90%. It is clear that this works as a way to engage families and the young people to classes at The Garage.

As well as the tours, throughout the course we have good communication with the families and the young people placing calls before, during and after the courses, to check in. We will also offer mentoring to the young people and support to the families, where needed. Taking a flexible approach to working with the families is paramount to the continued success of our engagement work here.

'R would love to stay on, she has really engaged the last 10 weeks. Thank you for all your time and encouragement' Parent of Music Foundations Participant

'The course builds confidence, raises well-being levels and supports those who need extra social/emotional support. We have been lucky enough to see an extremely positive effect on two pupils as a result of The Garage and this will impact on their future life chances and aspirations' School referral partner  

'You are an amazing team! You have supported H and helped build his confidence but also happy to chat to and help me on bad days. Having a goal to aim for at the end of the course has really helped him to have a focus.' Parent of Music Foundations Participant

Rachael Morrison, Youth Arts Worker 

Find out more about our Music Foundations Programme here

Image: Rachael Directing The Garage's Big Summer Production

New Horizons: The Arts and Children in Challenging Circumstances takes place at The Garage on Thursday 25 October, 10.30am-5pm.


The conference will explore the barriers and difficulties that children in challenging circumstances face – hearing from and involving children themselves throughout, and to examine what best practice looks like, and what organisations need to think about in order to develop and deliver inclusive work well.

Across the day there will be a range of provocations, conversations, show and tells and top tip sessions, so that, whether you're a senior manager or a practitioner there's something of value to you.

If you want to join us for the event you can book your ticket here.