The Art of Understanding

On a beautiful sunny day, after months of suspense, we finally got to see the amazing installation at Leeds University.

Our Talent Match ambassadors have been involved in a collaborative project with students from @stageleeds, which part of Leeds University’s School of Performance and Cultural Industries. They have taken part in several creative workshops which focused on the experiences of being young and unemployed.

Our visit to Leeds began with refreshments and a spot of impromptu circus skills followed by our first view of the installation in a darkened room that had been separated in to 4 sections. In section 1 was a sculpture of paper that was scattered on the floor and came together as a tower which reached the ceiling. Strange sounds were playing and we were asked to sit in rows and fill out a form with a pointless pencil. The whole experience in that section was one of chaos, noise and pointless paperwork, and it successfully represented the feelings of frustration, desperation and bad experiences of the Job Centre.

Section 2 had a corner filled with boxes, tall lamps and newspaper cuttings containing negative stories about unemployed young people. In another corner were 3 TV’s playing interviews with the ambassadors, talking about who they were, where they were from and their circumstances. The room represented how unemployed young people are stereotyped and the media’s role in it; as an alternative, it showed real unemployed young people speaking in their own voice.

Section 3 was collage of feelings, emotions and barriers and a table with more newspaper cuttings glued to it; they were taken from articles that the ambassadors had identified as important to them. Again, there was audio, this time of the conversations that had happened while the newspaper clippings were being chosen. This room felt very personal. Hearing the audio and viewing the collage gave insight into feelings of hopelessness and suffering experienced by the group.

Section 4 was a happier space; it was a room that represented dreams that come true, including paper clouds with words or sentences that were about positive experiences and solutions. We were asked to contribute to the display of clouds by making our own to add to the display. The cloud display will grow as more people view the installation.

After viewing the installation, we took part in a feedback exercise delivered by the students, everyone had the opportunity to speak about their personal understanding of it. The ambassadors were highly impressed by the whole thing, which had exceeded everyone’s expectations. Before seeing it, no one had been able to imagine how it would be and they all felt very proud to be part of something that so creatively expressed their personal experiences.

TYA and the ambassadors would like to thank the University, especially Dr Sarah Bartley, for this incredible experience and the possibility of future collaborations. We would also like to thank the students who were involved in the project; they were thoughtful, patient and professional throughout and we wish you well with your exams! We also highly recommend a viewing if anyone is passing the campus.

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Andy Clow

CEO of The Youth Association