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Tom Stocks: 'We need more young people in arts leadership positions'

One of the panel of creatives of the International Youth Arts Festival speaks out about the need for young people to be part of decision making processes in the arts

Tom Stocks and the Young Creatives
© Charlotte Levy

I recently joined a fantastic organisation called Creative Youth, who are based in Kingston. Every summer Creative Youth runs the International Youth Arts Festival, which this year marks its 10th anniversary. As part of the programme the new panel of Young Creatives are running a series of talks titled 'So you want to work in the arts?'. We will be offering practical advice and big ideas, for free, to help the next generation flourish.

We will not allow Brexit to be a barrier

It's an international festival, so Brexit is obviously an elephant in the room this year. As a young person in Britain, especially one with creative ambitions, it can feel like the winds of change are blowing decidedly in the wrong direction at the moment. But we emphatically will not allow it to be a barrier moving forward. In fact, our aim with the festival is to expand on the current relations we have with companies around the world, and then expand further. We want to welcome other cultures into our community and for others to do the same to us. Imagine an arts exchange where our music, theatre and films can be routinely sent around to other parts of the world. We will perform in their festivals and they in ours. The International Youth Arts Festival will be proud to welcome people from Europe and beyond while so much of the nation seems to want to shut itself off.

The festival is just a taster of what we want to achieve. The current government is cutting arts in schools across the country. What they don't realise is that by cutting the arts they are erasing our creativity as a nation, and reducing our collective skillset. After all, the arts will make you a better bus driver, they will make you a better teacher or businesswoman. The arts will make you a better person all round.

By cutting the arts budget they are reducing our collective skillset

Being creative is not just about doing a dance, learning a monologue, or playing the piano. It's something you can apply to all walks of life. Creative learning gives you the confidence to talk in front of a group of people and not be nervous, so you can give that business pitch or teach that class or even just to be better at socialising. It gives you the freedom to express yourself not in the form of statistics and numbers, but in poetry, theatre, music and art. That is what the Young Creatives want to ingrain into our mission going forward, to become a lobbying group for change.

The reason I got involved with Creative Youth is because I believe in giving opportunities where they increasingly feel inaccessible. I run a company called Actor Awareness which fights for equality, diversity and working class talent in the arts. We share a common goal; to give a platform to young artists at a time when they've never faced greater challenges.

I implore other companies to consider putting young people at the heart of their operations. I'd like to see more young people on boards and in leadership roles. In fact I would argue this has never been more vital if we want to create a positive future for this country and counter the pessimism that currently seems so rife. And by reaching out to other artists around the world, we might just rebuild some scorched bridges as well.

The International Youth Arts Festival runs at venues across Kingston from 6 to 15 July 2018.

Tom Stocks
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