Lyric Youth Voice
We are all experiencing hardships and challenges that we could never have imagined a year ago, but we see this most clearly for the young people in our community. They all have had some of the most important years of their lives disrupted, paused or totally changed and for some this pandemic has had an even more shocking impact on their lives and future. At the Lyric, we are passionate about providing pathways and leadership opportunities for young people into the creative arts, but it felt vital for us to take this moment to reflect on our future. So we’ve asked the questions; what do we mean when we say youth voice? How can we ensure that we’re giving young people at the Lyric a genuine opportunity to shape and inform who we are? And what should we be doing to ensure young people are truly at the heart of our strategic planning as we prepare to reopen in 2021?
A short history in Lyric Youth Voice…
Over the last decade, the Lyric has led various successful youth voice and leadership initiatives. These have included Youth Boards and a Youth Artistic Associate programme, alumni include actor and author Nathan Bryon and poet, writer and performer Deanna Rodger.
The Lyric was part of the LTC apprentice scheme for young people across London from 2015 – 2017 developing youth employment in technical and backstage roles. In 2019, the Lyric worked with a Clore fellow secondment, Federico Bonelli, who undertook research on other youth voice and youth leadership models to inform our thinking for the future.
We have a history of success, but continue to refine what youth voice means to us now.
Youth Voice Now
I started as the Director of Young Lyric in early 2020 and throughout the year, I’ve been talking with other organisations local to us in Hammersmith & Fulham that are championing this work. I’ve met regularly with the Hammersmith and Fulham Youth council and joined the London Youth Voice Network to absorb best practice.
From these conversations and the specific research completed by our Clore fellow, we continue to be committed to developing youth voice in the two specific areas:
- Youth Employment. Through paid employment opportunities for young people, that develop leadership skills, confidence and pathways into theatre.
- Youth Agency. Through a delivery model that gives young people the agency required to better the Lyric as an inclusive, open and diverse organisation whilst enabling young people to grow in leadership.
As of 31 March 2020, 57% of our contractual workforce were aged between 20-34 and 9% were aged between 0-19. We are working internally to refine our data to better capture employment statistics for those aged 16- 25 and will have this in place by September 2021.
We are committed to taking positive steps in youth employment, so with three of our partner organisations (Turtle Key Arts, Dance West and Tri Borough Music Hub) we are launching seven new paid trainee roles in spring 2021 for young people from our local borough who are aged 18-25 in partnership with Hammersmith and Fulham Council.
We are also exploring a range of pathways and progression routes both internally and externally for our staff who are aged 18-25 who will shape and inform our industry both now and in the future. This is forming part of our Action Plan for Change, which we are currently working on as a team led by our Artistic Director and CEO Rachel O’Riordan.
To shape and develop this part of our work, we worked directly and collaboratively in consultation with the young people we work with to shape, inform and conceive what this should mean for the Lyric.
We began by holding a workshop open to all of our permanent staff to discuss what youth voice means to our organisation and departments holistically. We held a second workshop with our casual staff (aged 18-25) who helped to inform our thinking and synergy between our theatre activity and its interrelation with employment positions for young people.
We then invited all of our current Young Lyric Members to consult, share and audit youth voice within The Lyric. Here they expressed that youth voice is and should be:
“An opportunity not overlooked”
“Our Ideas being heard”
“Forming our identity”
“Giving a platform to young people to have their say”
“A space to learn, grow and create”
“Your economic/financial situation not impacting access”
From this group the young people formed a steering group and we’ve continued to work closely with them to discuss youth voice covering topics such as:, terminology, agency, tenure and timescale, leadership progression, payment terms and exchange, initiatives, recruitment and evaluation.
With them and our staff, we are continuing to refine our thinking to create a new initiative that is inspired by, created with and designed specifically for young people in 2021 and beyond. We haven’t solved everything yet, but will continue to listen and share our learning.
A huge thank you to Nicholai La Barrie who commissioned the Clore research in 2019 and to Federico Bonelli who completed this work. Also to Kristina Nilles (Lyric PHD researcher) who has kindly fed into this collaborative and culture changing process and to all the young people who have given their time, thoughts and collaboration.
Rob Lehmann | Director of Young Lyric