Royal Exchange Theatre (2012)
The Truth about Youth Festival ran for fourteen days and nights in July 2012, marking the end of Year Two of the TaY programme at the Royal Exchange Theatre. Working alongside my Participation Department colleagues and a team of Young Leaders, I managed and produced the fortnight-long celebration of theatre, music, film, cooking, exhibitions and opinion-gathering.
At the heart of TaY: The Festival planning were the 14 Young Leaders, who formed the core TaY team from Autumn 2011 onwards. Working in all areas across the organisation from Festival Management, Producing & Programming and Marketing Strategy to Front of House, Directing, Design and Stage Management, each Young Leader took part in a bespoke training programme designed to develop their creative and arts management skills and future employability. The Young Leaders worked with an external design agency to develop all Festival marketing materials, programmed and hosted the Festival Launch, led on all Festival press, and worked with professional Designer Amanda Stoodley to transform the theatre building into a colourful splash of life – a vibrant space including decorated entranceways and a chill-out zone.
Elsewhere, teams of young people (and adults) worked together to create performances, exhibitions and events which filled the Theatre. 15 young and intergenerational companies devised, rehearsed and created 20 new pieces of theatre, young comedians perfected their patter under the watchful eye of professional comedian Justin Moorhouse, and young photographers mounted Exposure – an exhibition of photographs exploring the real TaY. The Shout Out Radio team created and launched their radio station, conducting interviews throughout the Festival, and teams of young people developed the skills to welcome visitors to the building and to work front of house, as well as being trained up to Take To The Streets with the Bikeaphone (complete with colourful flags and a huge megaphone) and the Opinionator (a fantastical mobile booth designed to generate evaluative evidence on the changing perceptions of youth by asking the general public daily questions). The Cuisine Sixteen team prepared to take over the restaurant, and young craftspeople put the finishing touches to Future Makers, a professional selling exhibition of crafts in the Craft Shop.
Outside the theatre, a network of creative partnerships were developed with companies and individuals from across the North West. Partner organisations including professional theatre companies Quarantine and 20 Stories High, media partner BBC Radio Manchester, Community Arts Northwest, Reclaim and Springboard were joined by fledgling teenage companies, Speechmakers and performers who presented their work at daily Youth SFX events. Schools from across the region were also involved, taking part in the Big Blue Box of Ideas and creating a range of visual art and performance work for the Festival.