Norwich youth venue The Garage has been given an £80,000 boost to give more young people in need the chance to get involved with creative projects and develop important skills for their futures.

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Why we love The Garage

Best friends Shona Smith and Kim Southgate, from West Earlham, have been going to The Garage for the past three or four years.

Both of them access the performing arts venue via free places available to people living in North or West Earlham, Larkman and Marlpit areas of Norwich, and they say it is great that another new programme is being funded to help more young people benefit from the opportunities The Garage offers.

Shona, 15, said: “I started off doing dancing and I then started doing the acting. I have been doing acting ever since and now Kim and I volunteer and help with the junior acting classes.”

She said the main thing she has gained from the courses at The Garage is confidence.

“My confidence is so high now. I used to be so shy I could not talk to anyone,” she said.

“At The Garage you make good friends and it helps you to boost your abilities.

“I used to like dancing and acting before but I was too shy to join in, but now I come here and I really enjoy it.

“In the summer Kim and I played the Ugly Sisters in Cinderella.”

She said going to classes at The Garage had really inspired her for the future.

“I would like to teach children dance and drama and go into performance as well,” she said.

As well as volunteering at The Garage, Shona is also planning to raise funds for The Garage by doing a sponsored skydive.

She said: “I have so much respect for everyone that works at The Garage. I would like to be able to help others like they have helped me.”

Kim, 16, said she joined The Garage because she liked acting and she hopes to pursue a career in performing.

She said: “Coming to The Garage has given me confidence. Everyone is really easy to talk to, and you make lots of friends.”

“I think it is really good more young people will get the chance to come to The Garage, because that will give more young people more confidence and the chance to make more friends.”

Both Shona and Kim are now looking forward to appearing The Garage’s Christmas show. Shona is going to be in a teenage version of A Christmas Carol and Kim is in a festive-themed dance and drama sequence.

Since it first opened in 2004, the Chapel Field North centre has aimed to provide equal opportunities in the arts for all and break-down the barriers faced by some young people, be it because of financial issues, problems at school or home, being the sibling of a child with complex health needs, being a young carer, or any other reason.

This new £80,000 funding from Children in Need will mean that 300 more young people aged eight to 18 over the next three years will be able to overcome hurdles to benefit from theatre, dance, music, and other activities which, as well as inspiring performers of the future, also help give other young people a great start in life by boosting confidence and improving communication, teamwork and other valuable life skills.

Darren Grice, below, The Garage’s director, said he was delighted The Garage would be able to reach out to even more young people.

“We are really excited to be supported by Children in Need and we are looking forward to working with lots more fantastic, talented young people,” he said.

“We work with people from all backgrounds but engaging young people from difficult circumstances is very much central to our mission. The creative activities we provide help these young people find a place, outside the school environment, where they can enjoy themselves, learn new skills, gain confidence and celebrate their achievements with their peers.”

The Garage’s existing Big Breaks programme – which offers year-long bursaries to help eight to 25-year-olds in need take part in the arts – was put in place in autumn 2011 and has so far seen 65 young people benefit from the programme.

Mr Grice said the Children in Need funding would fund a new programme for young people that may not yet have the confidence to join bigger performance groups and help prepare them to progress onto the Big Breaks award scheme.

The new funding will pay for a new creative arts worker to work alongside The Garage’s referral network – made up of local schools, the police, children’s and health services and charities – to identify the young people to benefit from the funding, and give them individually-tailored support and mentoring and the chance to try out different performance arts in small groups. Mr Grice said they would start recruiting for the creative arts worker role in January, with a view to starting the first of the courses in March or April.

“It is about levelling the playing field and making sure creative expression and learning is accessible to all young people, he said.

“We are doing as much as we can to make sure the young people who would find it most difficult, find it much easier to access opportunities.”

He added: “We’re particularly pleased as the bid comes as a result of feedback from the referral network.

“They identified how we could better support young people coming to us. Those young people like The Garage as they see it as a positive space, somewhere they’re not categorised. This funding will enable us to build upon the successes to date and reach more young people.”

He highlighted how getting involved in performance work at The Garage helped develop so many useful transferable skills.

“Everything is about developing confidence, teamwork, and communication skills, and giving the young people the chance to prove themselves.

“There will be young people who go on to be artists and performers but there are also a whole lot of other young people that will do other things, and the skills that they learn here will help them in the future.”

He added: “The reason we are here is to help young people access ways to develop skills, to develop confidence, to improve outcomes in life, to meet new friends, and to experience a sense of belonging.

“The bedrock of The Garage is about giving every young person a chance.”

The Garage is accessed by 10,000 people of all ages every year, and 2,500 of these are young people that The Garage directly organises activities for such as classes, projects and workshops.

The Garage is also fundraising for its Big Breaks programme for young people aged eight to 25. Anybody who would like to sponsor a Big Breaks place should contact Mr Grice on 01603 283382.

For more about The Garage visit www.thegarage.org.uk

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