A new Lancaster charity aims to give teenagers a safe place to “make things, make friends, and make a difference”.
Escape2Make (E2M) will offer eleven to 18-year-olds the chance to get creative in a series of hands-on free workshops covering everything from hairstyling and make-up and fashion up-cycling to street magic, guerrilla poster art and broadcasting with the BBC.
The 24 workshops, run by professionals in city venues, will be filmed to create an advert for the launch of the charity.
Escape2Make surveyed 200 teenagers in four local schools and most said they were bored and wanted something to do - 83 per cent wanted to make new friends and 79 per cent want somewhere safe to be outside school.
Artist, producer and businesswoman, Jenny Natusch, founder of E2M, said: “There are approximately 12,500 11-18s in Lancaster & Morecambe districts but very few creative and social activities outside school and college, and not much creative stuff in the curriculum itself. Sporty kids are relatively well catered for and if you’re musical you can go to the brilliant More Music or there’s the Dukes for Youth Theatre, but anything else to do with making – e.g. art, film, food, make-up, engineering - isn’t available for this age group.
“Even a brief amount of time spent on a creative pastime has powerful benefits for personal wellbeing, according to new research commissioned by BBC Arts, and gives young people a chance to meet like minded peers.
“It’s very important to us that our activities are always free so that everyone can benefit: we’re asking that anyone who attends this time is happy to be filmed so we can make an advert to attract young people to the charity and raise funds for lots more workshops.”
The workshops are being run over three weekends from June 29.
Some are one-off for just a few hours, others last all day, or are running over all weekends.
Kyle Mckenzie, a Lancaster University student and one of the organisers of the workshop series: said: “It’s a fantastic opportunity for teenagers to gain experience in something they wouldn’t have a chance to do ordinarily. There are lots of off the wall workshops like chocolate making and mind reading, or the chance to bring everyday objects to life via animation using iPhones donated by Mazuma. It’s all about making memories, making friends and learning something.”
Jules Loke, a fellow Lancaster University student said: “It’s not like school, you’re not being told what to do, we want the teenagers very involved in the process. The facilitators are there to mentor them as to how it’s done in the real world, and then the creative freedom is all on the teenagers, they can choose what they want to do with those tools.”
As well as helping E2M by featuring in the advert, participants will make something they can be proud of.
It could be pizza, or a pinhole camera, or a recording of themselves reading a BBC Radio Lancashire News Bulletin that they can take home with them.
If they’ve learnt circus skills or become part of a band for a day, they will finish by performing for the rest of the group and the public in the centre of town.
For some projects there will be a longer-term outcome.
One group will be creating a giant billboard poster to be put up in a mystery city centre location.
Another group will spend four days in Waterstones Bookshop creating an Escape2Make Magazine and meeting people in the industry, including some published authors.
“We don’t know now what the magazine will contain or what it will look like, because that is up to the teenagers who come to the workshop,” said Jules.
Jenny thinks some of the activities will look good on young people’s CVs, could count towards work experience and provide things to talk about in job interviews.
E2M Production manager, Lucy Reynolds, said: “Many local businesses have been incredibly generous and helped make this next pilot happen by providing premises, equipment and/or time for free including More Music, Jo & Cass Hair & Beauty, Lush, Mazuma, The BBC, The Herbarium, The Body Shop, Waterstones, The Sultan restaurant, The Dukes, Lancaster City Council and St Nicholas Arcade.
“We want to always be able to offer workshops for free, to make sure all 11-18s in Lancaster & Morecambe have the same opportunities.
“It’s simple - the more local and national businesses support us, the more free workshops we can offer to the local young people who just don’t have enough to do when they’re not at school.”
The workshops follow a pilot series run last September. “Feedback from those workshops was fantastic,” says Jenny “with 99% saying they enjoyed the workshop and 95% saying they’d recommend it to their friends.”
Alice Cragg, 17, was wildly enthusiastic about E2M as her involvement in the previous pilot had resulted in a short film that helped attract the funding and support to develop the organization for this next phase: “It’s so cool!
“It’s amazing that we have actually maybe made a difference to our town. I hope we can get more fun workshops around Lancaster!”
Funding for the workshops comes from: The Gailbraith Trust; The Elspeth J Thomson Charitable Trust; The Wilson Charitable Trust; The Banks Lyon Memorial Fund; Lancaster BID; and Jenny Kagan and Andy Bilson.
11-18s can book free workshop spaces from June 5 via www.escape2make.org.