Teenagers are being invited to apply for project funding as the Scottish Arts Council tries to listen to young people's wishes, Miranda Fettes reports
Young people with a creative bent may be eligible for a small but much-needed grant to help them turn their dreams into reality. The Scottish Arts Council and Young Scot, the organisation that helps young people aged 12 to 26 to take advantage of opportunities, have launched a pound;20,000 Action Fund to encourage that age group to make the most of their artistic talents.
The year-long scheme will award grants of up to pound;200 to individuals and pound;750 to groups to help them realise their ideas, including community focused projects. The SAC and Young Scot have deliberately left the parameters open to cultivate creative ideas rather than prescribe limits as to what could qualify for funding.
"The last thing we want to do is limit people's creativity by saying you can only apply for x, y and z, so it's open to any art form from dance, drama and music through to literature, film, visual arts and crafts," says Louise Macdonald, the deputy chief executive of Young Scot.
"It could be that they want to go to an audition or they want to publicise an event or go on a DJ-ing course or buy some materials or costumes.
"We would love to hear any ideas that young people have to see how we can support them in making their creative ambitions become a reality."
Young people are invited to apply direct to the action fund, and while schools have no direct involvement, Ms Macdonald says: "If a group of young people from a school or arts group wanted to get together to apply, we would be delighted.
"We welcome applications from any young person or group, but it does need a referee, so there may be a role for teachers to support a pupil's application as a referee."
The action fund has been created in direct response to a recent report by the SAC, following a consultation exercise by Young Scot, to give young people a say in how the arts are delivered. While the study revealed that most young people have a positive attitude towards the arts, many feel restricted from participating in cultural activities. The main barriers identified were a lack of activities in their area, a scarcity of information and opportunities at school and the costs.
Potential improvements include better facilities with youth-friendly workers, improved and affordable public transport to arts activities, more activities specifically for teenagers and greater involvement at all levels of decision making in the arts.
Gillian Ferguson, 18, from Dundee, who works with the charitable organisation KenART, participated in the Young Scot consultation. Her job involves organising art-related ventures for young people, such as fashion shows, poetry and dance workshops, and travelling across Scotland helping 16-to 18-year-olds to gain experience to go on to higher education.
"I would really like to see arts and culture more accessible to young people through better promotion and encouraging them to get involved in activities," she says. "It is important that young people realise there is support and funding to help them fulfil their creative potential."
Matt Foster, 25, from Aberdeen, is pursuing a career with Edinburgh breakdance group Random Aspekts. "It's great making a living out of something I'm so passionate about," he says.
"We've overcome the initial hurdles, for example, lack of support in careers guidance and being from a rural area, and we are now delivering workshops and taught classes to young people of all ages.
"Arts are not just for talented artists; they're for any young person who wants to satisfy a creative urge or expressive desire."
Joan Parr, the SAC's head of education, says: "The young people in our research were very clear on their passion for all kinds of arts experiences. There is certainly no shortage of imagination out there and I'm delighted that our partnership with Young Scot will allow some of those creative ambitions to become a reality."
SAC Young Scot Action Fund application form from Young Scot, tel 0131 313 2488 or www.youngscot.org
The Young Scot consultation found young people participate in a wide range of arts activities and enjoy attending performances.
Nearly nine out of 10 respondents go to the cinema; more than half enjoy live music concerts; a third play a musical instrument; one in four are in involved in dance and a similar number enjoy painting and drawing.
While many positive findings came out of the consultation, the SAC's director, Graham Berry, acknowledges: "There are still things that need to be done to help increase the number of young people participating in the arts across Scotland. Young people are having their say in how culture will be delivered in the future to them and their children."