Following a successful summer of Digital Mini Residencies, with overwhelmingly positive feedback from members, National Youth Arts Wales will be expanding its digital activity further as social distancing continues to prevent face-to-face training.
Instead of our usual face-to-face residencies and concerts this summer, we offered workshops over Zoom to the nearly 400 talented young Welsh members that make up our national ensembles. These were members that successfully auditioned for a place in our ensembles, but lost out on joining our residencies due to Covid-19.
Between July and September, NYAW produced 121 digital sessions for its music, theatre and dance members – with 1732 attendances overall. 100% of members surveyed enjoyed the digital workshops, with 99% wanting us to produce more.
"The digital residency was a perfect substitute for a real NYCW residency. Obviously we couldn't be with each other in person but the workshops and welfare chats were amazing to connect with people you can't see year round." (NYCW member)
"Very interesting getting to speak with some awesome people in the industry. [I] learnt many new skills that will be invaluable when I hopefully go into working within the arts." (NYTW member)
All members were able to join and learn from a team of talented creatives – including NYTW alumni Rakie Ayola and Richard Elis; choreographer and dancer James Cousins; Theatr Clwyd’s artistic director Tamara Harvey; orchestral conductor Carlo Rizzi; choral conductor Tim Rhys-Evans; and brass band conductor Philip Harper.
Crucially at this time, these sessions also provided work for 55 freelance performers, at a time when many Welsh self-employed artists had little or no work due to the pandemic.
Whilst these digital sessions couldn’t fully replace our summer residencies, the workshops brought our members together during a traumatic time for young people, and helped to keep them performing and enjoying the arts during a time when almost all other youth arts activity has stopped.
Our Future Plans
Feedback from members has been overwhelmingly positive, and so we’ll be expanding this work throughout autumn and into 2021:
- Between now and summer 2021, we’ll be offering regular monthly digital masterclasses across a range of artforms and ensemble interest areas for both new and existing members
- We’ll be launching free online workshops specifically for young people aged 16-18 from underrepresented communities, particularly those who are most affected by the economic impacts of Covid-19
- In November we’ll be launching National Youth Theatre of Wales’ online play reading club. Its first sessions will be part of Signal Fires: a UK-wide programme featuring the UK’s leading touring theatre companies.
- All of our 2021 plans will include blended learning, integrating digital workshops with face-to-face sessions with social distancing. In the event that social distancing prevents physical residencies, our contingency planning will allow for a full digital residency, minimising the disruption to young people’s advanced performance training.