It seems odd to be writing this with my Derry-Londonderry City of Culture 2013 pen, (yes, I may be a young person growing up in a technological era, but I always write everything out before I type it!) given that until a year ago, I had never visited the city before.
This first visit, which formed part of my work experience with Voluntary Arts Ireland, saw me at the Nerve Centre, meeting with and interviewing some of their lovely staff members. One year later, with the judging committee having said “YES” to Derry-Londonderry being the first UK City of Culture in 2013, I met with Giorgia Gazzerra to discuss the possibility of the Young Arts Creativity Co-ops working on a joint programme with Reach Across and the Friendship Club, 2 groups based in the city with which Giorgia is involved. We came away with lots of great ideas to bring back to our groups, some of which will hopefully materialise in the not-too-distant future.
Spending some time in the city and the meeting with Giorgia left me thinking about just how much can stem from one simple word, “Yes”. So often, young people are met with “No” responses, but at some point, some years ago, Voluntary Arts Ireland said “yes” to the need to develop a youth-led, youth-centred model for the arts in Northern Ireland. Numerous “yes” declarations since have allowed this to become a reality; for many young people to not only access, but engage in and facilitate arts activities and to have a voice within the youth/arts sectors, as well as gaining new skills while developing old ones, having opportunities for new experiences, meeting new people, visiting new places, (such as an art gallery!) receiving help in relation to their future careers, having fun and doing what they want to do, in their own way that works for them!
Just as the City of Culture 2013 title will undoubtedly be invaluable to Derry-Londonderry, so too, has the YACC project and the continued courage to say “yes” been invaluable to the young people involved.
Back in July 2008, I said “yes” to attending a ‘Create Your Place’ event at Lusty Beg Island with Pauline and two other YACC members, at which we had the opportunity to meet and have important conversations with a wide variety of interesting people. Over a year later, I didn’t hesitate to say “yes” to attending a follow-up event in Donegal which once again consisted of interesting people, (both some who had attended the previous event and some new faces) discussions and arts activities, all in beautiful surroundings. One of those new faces was Giorgia Gazzera. The fact that both Giorgia and I said “yes” to our involvement in ‘Create Your Place’ has led to our continued contact, our meeting last week and following a few more “yeses”, it will hopefully have led to not only a joint project between YACC, Reach Across and the Friendship Club, (among other groups who may be interested) but new friendships, new art work, sustained relations between the groups and ideally, the beginnings of a truly youth-centred, youth-led arts network.
So, “Just Say Yes”?