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Ayrshire festival amplifies youth creativity

When young people in East Ayrshire said they wanted more music and arts-based activities made available in the area, the council took notice. The result is Amplify 06, an arts festival aimed at encouraging them to develop their own creativity with the help of professionals.

The festival, running until December 16, targets a range of teenage interests. One group of 14-year-olds has been working with a professional comic book illustrator and a writer on a 3D comic about graffiti and the negative impact it can have on communities. Ten thousand copies of Menshies, complete with 3D glasses, will be delivered to secondary schools throughout the area in January.

The workshops were held in the the Dick Institute in Kilmarnock, East Ayrshire's main cultural centre, whose facade has been damaged by graffiti and is undergoing refurbishment. It is hoped that the Menshies comic will make children pause for thought the next time they approach the institute, or any building, with a can of spray paint or marker pen.

The same group of teenagers, from St Joseph's Academy and Kilmarnock Academy, was involved in a related event: decorating a graffiti-painted pedestrian underpass in Kilmarnock. Working with "Aks", a professional graffiti artist from London, and with input from the police, they transformed the busy walkway into a more attractive space.

Aks's advice to graffiti addicts is to restrict their "menshies" to temporary surfaces, such as the wood on boarded doors and windows.

Young musicians showed what they could do at the festival's Unsigned music event last month. Thirty-four entries from East Ayrshire's rock, pop and indie bands competed for the prize of a gig at King Tut's in Glasgow and two sessions in a recording studio. There were two nights of public play-offs and online voting. The prize went to the Cider Spiders.

On the theatre front, 15- to 18-year-old girls who are part of the East Ayrshire Youth Theatre put on their own play for the festival. Who Ya Luvin?, which they wrote, produced and premi red earlier this year, deals with issues of alcoholism, bullying and lesbianism.

A group of 13- to 15-year-olds have been learning about every aspect of putting on a show - including researching and sourcing acts and marketing - and acting as consultants at the Palace Theatre in Kilmarnock. They will discover how successful they have been at planning an entertainment for the public when they put on a comedy today and a gig on December 9.

Young photographers from 10 primary and secondary schools were inspired by an exhibition of work by the social documentary photographer Mark Neville on a west of Scotland community. They researched their own communities and attended a photography workshop as part of the festival's Picture This project.

At the Doon Valley Museum in Dalmellington, secondary school artists have been given the chance to display their own drawings, paintings and photographs in a professional setting at the Young People's Open Exhibition, which runs until November 18.

An exhibition at the Dick Institute features the work of artists such as Damien Hirst, Bridget Riley, Roy Lichtenstein and Alan Davie. Eyepoppers runs until December 16 and is complemented by tours and workshops for primary and secondary schools, plus resource packs for teachers.

Phillipa Aitken, the manager of the festival, says: "Amplify 06 has been a great success so far and will certainly be repeated next year. The selling point of all our arts projects in East Ayrshire is that we always bring in the highest quality people to work with us, and that high standard has been maintained throughout this festival."

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