Arts Education Exchange is a youth organisation based in Margate, East Kent. Our focus is to harness the potential of young people – to inspire social engagement through creative processes and to provide pathways to continued education, employment or work based training. We work in partnership with schools, universities, local youth services, arts organisations and creative practitioners to deliver personalised learning programmes that increase opportunities and tackle issues of social exclusion and low skills in an area of deprivation. Our programmes are aimed at young people aged between 11 and 24, who are marginalised and socially disengaged. We deliver a range of creative activities and year-long, multi-disciplinary courses in music, film, photography, poetry, performance and design. Through our programmes young people develop their capabilities and confidence so that they progress to become mature and independent members of society. We provide participants with the chance to develop a creative portfolio, gain Arts Award qualifications and make positive connections in our community through collaborative, creative exchanges and public events.
The AEE Model
We are developing a responsive model of engagement and progression for young people from challenging circumstance and we call these ‘Creative Learning Interventions’. A ‘Creative Learning Intervention’ is about working with schools, social services and other institutions, to identify young people experiencing challenges at the earliest possible stage and referring them to engage in a personalised learning programme, specifically designed to support them to take their next steps, while nurturing the positive experiences needed to build self and group identity.
Within this framework there are three stages, Participation, Agency and Action.
The first stage of a creative learning intervention is about providing access to creative opportunities for young people from challenging circumstances. Often the creative learning intervention is implemented for young people, who have found it difficult to engage in mainstream education. It is therefore essential that this stage, as the first point of contact, we provide a safe environment in which young people feel able to play with and express opinions and identities. The objective of doing so is to foster a democratic learning space, in which all views are respected, in order to facilitate the coproduction of values and knowledge within a space, that will empower those involved to become socially active and personally fulfilled.
We believe that authentic participation creates the potential for youth agency. Through the process of participation, there are multiple moments where we may encounter agency and find the means to act independently of social structures. At this stage we support young people with the space and resources as well as professional guidance to develop ideas and voice through creative processes.
In the last stage of the progression framework, we explore the creativity of ‘action’, which supports young people to connect with the wider community by developing and organising public facing events where their ideas and values are shared. Events, performances, exhibitions and online dissemination provide a platform for youth voice and by doing so a dialogue is created between otherwise separated groups. The aim of such events is to build new communities that include multiple voices and to develop new ‘bonds of solidarity’.
As outlined in the Coastal Community Team Economic Plan (2016), Thanet has high unemployment; low wages; Poor levels of education, skills and training; 28% high portion of Thanet residents with no qualifications; Unemployment rate for 18-24 years is double that for all ages; high levels of crime and large numbers of NEETS (Not in Education, Education or Training). In addition, Cliftonville West, Margate has the highest percentage of child poverty in Kent and the South East (End Child Poverty, 2018). Our aim is to tackle these issues by identifying and working with young people from challenging circumstances to build confidence.
Ollie Briggs founded Arts Education Exchange in 2017 to further develop his work with young people from challenging circumstances. Ollie has initiated various arts programmes in partnership with Turner Contemporary, University for the Creative Arts, local schools and youth centres as well as commissioning various artists to run workshops with young people. Ollie has been awarded several grants to fund his initiatives, including Arts Council England. Ollie's vision is to inspire social change by increasing access to the arts and cultural learning for young people in an area of deprivation. His work is about building new social bonds through a creative and cultural exchange and to facilitate social engagement through the arts.