This year has been challenging for Youth Justice Voices, with children and young people feeling increasingly isolated during lockdown and related restrictions. Keeping our care and justice experienced young people engaged and motivated has been particularly difficult, with the digital divide meaning that many don’t have access to the technology that can help them stay in touch. COVID has brought new opportunities and different ways of communicating – and we have responded by moving all meetings/chats online and making them as accessible as possible, and giving young people practical support, such as top up vouchers, regular care packages and activities which blend our offline and online worlds together. We’ve also thought hard about how we reach people offline, by keeping up regular calls with members who aren’t in the community and creating a newsletter to keep others connected. We’re very proud of what everyone has achieved despite the circumstances.

However, the pandemic has inevitably affected what we can do and how we can do it - and that included Artivism, our joint collaboration with Articulate Cultural Trust and local artist Scott Lang aka SLANG. Just before lockdown began, we were in the early stages of preparing an exhibition to display the results of this amazing project, which saw our young people work with artists to create issue-based art, using a variety of techniques including photomontage and spray paint stencils. The young people involved worked very hard on this, but due to other commitments and a delay, the project exhibition had to be extended.

Now, we are excited to announce that the Artivism exhibition is ready to launch – and the six young people who created this incredible art are inviting you to watch, act and listen. Through the process of creating and developing the artwork, five key questions emerged and we invite you to get involved in the discussion and consider what practitioners, policymakers and the general public can do to tackle the stigma, discrimination and inequalities that our young people face:

1. How can we make the experience of going into care less confusing and traumatic?

2. How can the police build better relationships with care-experienced young people so they see them as friends and not enemies?

3. How do we support young people in care to express themselves in a safe way?

4. What is being done to ensure that care-experienced young people have the same educational opportunities as everyone else?

5. Why are young people in care more aware of homelessness?

The exhibition will run from Monday, December 14 until Christmas. We’ll be running a social media campaign via the Youth Justice Voices, CYCJ and Staf’s Twitter and Instagram accounts, kicking off the discussion, highlighting individual pieces of work, and answering your questions. Use #Artivism2020 and tag us with your comments, we would love to hear any feedback!

I’d like to say a massive well done and thank you to the young people who have put so much of themselves into this project. For some, it hasn’t been straightforward and we really appreciate their enthusiasm, efforts and creativity and as one of our amazing members said “you don’t need to have a creative skill to be creative!”

And if you’re feeling inspired by this, we are always looking for new members aged 16-25 to join Youth Just Us, get involved in developing and shaping creative projects, driving change and influencing policies, and above all, ensuring your voice is heard. Contact me on [email protected] to find out more.

Watch, Listen, Act - Artivism: What Are You Going to do in 2021? 

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