Earlier this year we launched a new Emerging Artists Placement which offered early-career artists the opportunity to develop meaningful skills as participatory arts practitioners.
The three-month placement consisted of in-person training sessions in Art for Wellbeing and workshop planning and delivery, independent work, shadowing established artists and online sessions including: website building, networking and budgeting which were also opened up to the wider sector. We hoped to remove some of the barriers early-career artists face when accessing a career in the arts and thanks to funding from Arts Council England were able to offer fixed-term contracts, paying individuals for all their training and delivery.
Two of our Emerging Artists, Sky and Beth were supported to design and deliver their own workshop at this year’s Darnhill Festival – a large scale cultural event that attracts audiences of up to 2,000 people from the local community. We asked them both to give us some feedback on their experiences.
Beth is a freelance illustrator and visual artist living in Manchester who believes making fun mistakes and enjoying the process is just as important as the final outcome. She's passionate about working with communities to provide opportunities for self-expression and is a big advocate for creating safe spaces for vulnerability and dialogue in creative settings. She ran a sustainability-based workshop with us at Darnhill Festival.
My experience with Cartwheel Arts has been an amazing one, although the small number of months I spent as an Emerging Artist seem to have flown by.
My initial nerves about starting quickly disappeared after our first session at the offices: meeting the team and other emerging artists for the first time was lovely and so was the shared excitement for the upcoming weeks. We were told our experience would be centred around planning and delivering a drop-in Participatory Arts workshop at Darnhill Festival and, whilst sounding nerve-wracking, we were reassured we would be equipped with all the knowledge and tools we would need over the course of the next few weeks. We were given a clear schedule of all the upcoming workshops and training and all the information was clear and accessible - I knew exactly what to look forward to!
The programme was split between in-person sessions and individual learning, which provided us with freedom and flexibility around other work. The online training sessions were invaluable! Each session was friendly and interactive: the Art for Wellbeing workshop was a huge source of inspiration for me, as were the workshop planning support sessions which were great opportunities for the emerging artists to present our ideas and give constructive feedback to each other in a collaborative and supportive space.
Unfortunately, I suffered an unforeseen health issue and fell behind with my planning in the lead-up to the festival, missing an opportunity to support a local freelance artist, Fiona, in a lovely arts session with a local primary school. However Fiona and the Cartwheel Arts team were incredibly accommodating, which I really appreciated, and I made time for an extra visit to the Cartwheel offices to get all my equipment gathered and up to date. Hebe and Vicki were lifesavers helping me get everything sorted before the festival!
Arriving at the festival I realised I used to play out in the area in my childhood (I’m not sure how I forgot this). I’d started the day anxious about running my own workshop but on arrival I was eager to get my stall set up. I ran a creative tote-bag decorating workshop, discussing themes of sustainability and unleashing your creative side by taking risks and having fun. I was in awe of the creative capabilities demonstrated by the kids (and adults) who joined my table, as well as the community values - so many bags were turned into gifts for family members or neighbours. I admired that people of all ages got stuck in and had fun.
After the festival, we had a couple of reflection sessions. It was nice to be able to really reflect on the day with Sky and the Cartwheel team and discuss each other’s workshops and experiences we’d had. We had a few extra online seminars towards the end, these were so beneficial in terms of learning essential skills to take with us beyond our experience at Cartwheel, for example budgeting and invoicing and networking.
I’d like to thank everyone involved for making the experience what it was, and I appreciate all the time and effort that was put into making this really a special experience. At the start, we were asked to write down three goals we want to have achieved by the end. I can wholeheartedly say I have achieved these, and I’m leaving this experience a confident person with a far clearer path ahead of me. I’m sure it won’t be the last time we all see each other again but I wish everyone a great future, whatever it may bring!