Artsfest 2019 – on tour!

Take a breath!

It has been a fabulous two days of energy, anticipation and bravery as we took Artsfest on the road with a London leg and a Redditch leg.

Following the same format, we worked with 80 young people over two days participating in circus skills ranging from stilts, juggling, flag making, beatboxing, acro-balance, street dance and spoken word.

Produced by Lila Lifely from CircArts in association with the Roundhouse, we took over the RSA in London with young people from Arrow Vale, Sutton Park and RSA Academy, Tipton – a mixture of 40 pupils from Year 5 to Year 9. Then a week later the Artsfest crew landed at Church Hill Middle School in Redditch to work with 40 pupils from Year 4 to Year 8 from Ipsley CE RSA Academy, Church Hill and Abbeywood First School.

What did we do?

The format of the day was that we first spend time as a new group getting to know each other quickly with an energetic ice breaker exercise, then follows two different workshop options to take part in with the participants choosing to focus on one to share back at the end of the day. At this point the workshops collaborate with one another so we had creation sessions with, for example, beat-boxers working with jugglers, acro-balance with spoken word and flags processing with stilt walkers in one joyous celebration of what it is possible to achieve in a day developing new passions for the future.

What did we learn?

One of the most fabulous things about Artsfest, and this model of working is how by the end of the day the older pupils are supporting and working with the younger ones, leading by example. The young people also demonstrate over the course of the day the key elements* of creativity: starting with being inquistive, then collaborative, needing to use persistance, be imaginative with some disciplined focus to see the day through.

I am also reminded of the importance of process alongside performance. At the end of the day together, we share back some of the skills practiced and an enthusiasm for trying something new and different – and it can feel like a lot hinges on this moment, and in a sense it does, we have an audience with expectations, but the spirit is one of sharing and taking part, and it is a safe space to do so. The lasting impact however goes beyond this, and is the learning and experience of the workshops, the time spent with skilled and engaging tutors who share their craft with kindness and authority, followed by the later fun between peers across schools and within schools riffing off their experience with new skills and technique.

93% of the participants said they would remember the day, 93% had learnt something new and 94% worked with new people.

The participants said:

I enjoyed being able to work with others on something I love, poetry. Also being able to perform it and learning acrobalance

I enjoyed stepping outside of my comfort zone and performing to a crowd. Never doing it before, I was worried but RSA made it feel like a safe place

I enjoyed meeting new people and finally being able to socialise better


London Artsfest Art Prize judges were Penny Egan CBE, chair designate of Compton Verney Art Gallery and Hazel Chandler, co-founder and director of charity WAYout Arts in Sierra Leone – who decided upon:

Art Prize Winner: Reid from Arrow Vale, Runner up: Timothy from Arrow Vale. Commended for their work and ideas were Jessica from Sutton Park, Isabelle from RSA Academy in Tipton and Bailey from Arrow Vale.


Redditch Artsfest Art Prize, our judge was Iris Bertz FRSA, artist, ably assisted by Colin Hopkins, Executive Director, RSA Academies – who decided the following:

Art Prize Winner: Maddie from Church Hill, Runner Up: Esme from Abbeywood. Commended for fabulous effort and potential were Isabel from Church Hill and Jessica and Theo both from Abbeywood.


With thanks to Lila Lifely, CircArts, in association with the Roundhouse, and the fabulously brilliant tutors: Kaveh Rahman (juggling), Jo Paul (flag making), Nick Cattermole (flag making), Ed Steven (acro-balance), Floria Da Silva (acro-balance), Kate Evans (stilts), Desiree Kongerod (stilts), Conrad Murray, Nate Staples (Battersea Arts Centre Beatbox Academy), Arji Manuelpillai (spoken word), Paris Crossley (street dance)

With further thanks to our Art Prize judges 2019: Penny Egan, Hazel Chandler and Iris Bertz, and thanks to Cass Art for the generous donation of the Art Prize prize.


Images credit: Hannah Breeze. Featured image taken from film produced by flag making workshop participants. 

*Bill Lucas, Ellen Spencer and Guy Claxton, 2013.