Valleys Kids Take Over Tate!
“The young are the future generation, build them up don’t rip them down” - Participant at Tate Exchange
In the May half term, Valleys Kids took over Level 5 of Tate Modern’s Blavatnik building, creating a pop-up Youth Club and Rhondda front room designed by Artist-in-Residence Ann Culverhouse Evans and her adult art group. Responding to the idea of ‘Other’ with our partners from Kent, Sparc drew inspiration from the now-closed youth centre in Rhydyfelin, looking at the devastating effect it’s closure had on the young people following the withdrawal of Community First funding.
Over 2,000 members of the public visited the 5th floor, interacting with the young people in their recreated Rhondda Youth Club. The walls were punctuated by posters with quotes from our social media campaign - #OurSpace / #LleNi. Members of the public were drawn into the club by the young people, invited for a casual game of pool, to make a friendship bracelet or to answer questions about their experience of growing up through a playground chatter box.
Once inside the club, the public witnessed a brief and powerful performance created by the group (directed by Rachel Clement), highlighting the kind of stereotypes the group encounter daily growing up in the Welsh Valleys. The audience were led from the performance by the group with the insistent tone “ listen, listen”, towards a beautifully crafted documentary film developed with Like an Egg Productions - this was created with the young people and was their chance to have their voices and opinions heard about their experience.
The whole encounter ended with an impromptu dance off where the audience were invited to deck themselves in fancy dress and join in the fun! It echoed the last night of the club - faced with a building stripped of equipment, a single box of children’s dressing up clothes remained, their final act was to promptly put them on in joyful defiance and dance around the building.
A Critique's View:
Phil Morris from Wales Arts Review (May 2018) recognised the care and thought that went into creating the whole experience at Tate:
“It all appears to be simply about kids being kids, all mucking about on a summer’s afternoon - which is always a good thing - but that is to underestimate the intelligence through which this combination of multimedia performance and art installation communicates its powerful message of communal values and a youthful insistence on its right to define itself for itself.” See the full article here.
Before leaving for Tate, the young people were invited to an intergenerational tea party at the Factory arranged by Anne Culverhouse Evans and her group giving everyone the chance to share their work and support each other prior to Tate. The older adults were recreating a Rhondda Front Room, exploring the idea of Homemade as ‘Other’ and the role of art and creativity in times of austerity. They created a large crochet chain linking Valleys Communities and inviting the public from all over the world to join in the activity and to share stories, memories and join the conversation. They have their own hashtag (#homemadeintheValleys) where you can find out more about the project.
We also had the opportunity to meet Cara Courage, the head of Tate Exchange, who visited us in the Valleys and commented: “The work of Valleys Kids is so vitally important to the Rhondda and to the arts, it’s an honour to be able to host them here in London at Tate Exchange.” It is these connections with people across the UK, whether the organisers or a family who chose to spend the whole day with us, people with an interest and passion for our communities and young people, that can make such a huge difference in terms of confidence and self- esteem. This is described by one of the participants:
“Because Tate is such a popular building, within the whole world, everyone knows about Tate Modern and it has different branches everywhere and for us to perform here is really good to get our word out and about. Even if it is a little matter, it is a big matter to some of us.”
The On-going Campaign:
Post Tate the social media campaign continues! The film was launched as part of Wales Youth Work Week and to date over 7,000 people have viewed the film. It has created a focus for other young people to share their views about how this decision has affected them. One young woman’s response was to immediately get her friends together: “I’ve got a bunch of us who used to come to centre… whatever you want, if we can help please let us…”
Since then, the Deputy Leader of the Council, the Children’s Commissioner and Sue Philips (responsible for consultation with young people in RCT) have all seen the film and agreed to meet with the young people involved. As one young person describes it: “This project is really important, because it helps us to have a voice.”
The group should be immensely proud of their achievement and Sparc would like to thank all the people who made this project possible, we will keep the campaign going so please join us on #OurSpace #LleNi for updates and to join the debate.
Listen to when we visited BBC Radio Wales to tell them all about the project: