Project Speak Your Mind

Project Speak Your Mind was an exciting opportunity for young people aged 8 – 13 to be involved in a regional arts festival; gaining skills, confidence and the opportunity to access a unique personal development programme through a series of summer workshops with professional guest speakers and the opportunity to review eight shows as part of Big Imaginations Festival and have their reviews posted on Big Imaginations and Z-arts social media channels culminating in an exhibition and sharing of work at the end of the project. The project had a specific focus on reviewing through different mediums encouraging the use of drama, art and videoed responses as well as writing. Project Speak Your Mind was a collaborative project between Z-arts, Big Imaginations and One Manchester.

This was the first project of its kind for both Big Imaginations and Z-arts. Project Speak Your Mind was made possible by the support of One Manchester, a provider of housing and community services in Greater Manchester including housing developments in Hulme. Formed in April 2015 from an historic merger between two of Manchester’s largest housing associations – City South and Eastlands Homes, they currently own and manage more than 12,000 homes in central, south and east Manchester.

The project worked with a group of young people from One Manchester Housing Association to learn literature skills in a fun, creative way, and use these skills to review shows, create awards and see their words published online and across the North West. Over the course of the Big Imaginations Festival each reviewer had the opportunity to see and review eight of the programmed shows. The project would open with a summer writing workshop at Z-arts and culminated in a young-person led award night where the young people would share their reviews of the Big Imaginations Festival shows, giving out awards and seeing their work in print.

Ten young people participated in the project, with two attending all workshops and shows and all ten attending at least three complete sessions.

Z-arts’ Development Manager approached Phil Lukes, Cultural Lead at One Manchester, who agreed to provide £5000 in funding for Project Speak Your Mind with a view to creating an ongoing relationship with Z-arts and supporting future projects. A key outcome of this project was securing a strong relationship with One Manchester who are keen to support Z-arts and Big Imaginations with future projects.

Many of the artists involved in the festival productions have also responded to social media posts expressing their delight and gratitude to have received Project Speak Your Mind awards and to have had the invaluable insight from young people. Ongoing feedback and evaluation throughout the project has ensured that we can improve delivery and execution were we to repeat this project in the future. A project plan is being developed to allow Project Speak Your Mind participants to watch and review all upcoming Big Imaginations shows at Z-arts and for their reviews to be used in marketing campaigns and venue promotions.