By now, many of you will be familiar with TYCA (Taunton Youth Culture and Arts, funded by Arts Taunton

This is only possible via generous donations from our supporters and funders who support these young people.

Since 2019 we have aimed to empower children and young people, aged 5-25, to create and deliver performances across arts genres, with collaboration and  mentorship from professionals, taking events to young people and providing opportunities for them to take part in performances and experience professional performance in their communities.

Last year, TYCA’s theme was ‘Empowerment’.

We recognised the needs of young people, affected by the pandemic, and provided opportunities through the arts to explore emotions, celebrate their resilience and strength and be part of a creative event. We partnered with Mind Somerset, delivering workshops for young people experiencing ill mental health and well-being to support these needs.

We were determined that 2021’s TYCA activity be face-to-face following 2020’s entirely virtual festival – however the number of positive Covid cases, particularly for young people, was incredibly high. Unprecedented barriers to access meant we needed to cancel workshops and live performances – literally at the very last minute, with one performance due to take place only hours away, due to Artists and young people isolating.

To say the TYCA team were gutted is an understatement!

And imagine the disappointment for the young people who had worked so hard.

Tyca graffitti

It’s important to stress that the ultimate live performances would have been the icing on the cake – in fact 75% of the TYCA programme actually did take place with workshops and rehearsals in full swing in many instances. Despite the lockdowns and restrictions, we delivered arts and wellbeing workshops at Taunton Academy, North Taunton School and the Albemarle Centre, a Summer Graffiti project at the youth club and in Lyngford Park and an introductory taster workshop at the Link Centre in Halcon in the summer.

TYCA 2021 was a huge learning experience – we saw young people’s need.

We were determined to ensure young people benefitted from a solid level of engagement and adapted our delivery and outcomes, exploring meaningful content, and new skills through digital methods – for example with Artist Jackie Clementines who swiftly adapted the Spoken Word element of the festival, partnering with BBC Somerset to deliver a live-streamed Spoken Word event – nothing if not flexible and fleet of foot for these partners! Through the Spoken Word strand alone, TYCA reached 15,179 engagers (including online), through 181 sessions, 1,409 face-to-face workshop attendances,420 face-to-face individual attenders, 6 – 1-2-1s with young people, 41 young performers recorded for the final event, an estimated 250,000 radio audience and a 284,451 audience total online at the time of writing.

We believe in young people and empowering them to be innovative leaders in their communities.

tyca Crew

Tyca Crew

The Tyca Crew, a new initiative from our festival director in 2021, supported social media marketing, and learned new skills in volunteering and project management. Their film about Empowerment expanded audiences and raised awareness. They led on technical, Front of House and presentation skills, as well as supporting the online adaptation of the Spoken Word festival. Feedback reflected their pride and enjoyment: ‘Gained knowledge in volunteering and event management’, ‘It was great meeting new people with different talents’, ‘It built my confidence’, ‘I’ve learnt what goes on behind a festival and gained experience with managing and advertising’, ‘Working on the Pride Festival, planning and manning the stall, making the art and having creative freedom in displaying it’, ‘I learnt teamwork’ ‘Getting over 3k views on a video I did’, ‘Being able to start making content without being judged’, ‘Feeling that I was part of something’, ‘Being able to perform a dance at the Pride Festival, something that I’ve never tried before’, ‘Meeting professionals in the arts’. To experience these things in 2021, with the immense challenges of Covid, is something in which all of these young people should take great pride.

We are seeing the difference in working in partnership, offering rich collaborative experiences that work towards a shared goal of making the arts inclusive, cohesive, accessible and inspiring.

We believe our projects are imperative for the resilience and sustainability of the arts sector and the mental health and well-being of all involved.

So, what are we up to this year with TYCA?

Early in the year – March – we are presenting 3 multi-genre performances at Tacchi Morris and The Brewhouse, with our professional partners and many of the young people with whom they worked last year (inevitably some were unable to get together this year, but we also gained some new performers). There will be dance from Chhaya, Bridgwater and Taunton College, Rise Youth Dance, music from Richard Huish performers Molly and John, drama from Make and Somerset Youth Theatre (with a challenging and interesting ‘Sunday Roast’ on their menu!).

Also being performed is our Side-by-Side-by Side project in which young people throughout Taunton are mentored in performance, composition and improvisation with professional musicians from Southern Sinfonia and professional young composer from Taunton, JJ Hathaway, and with considerable input from Guildhall Young Artists Taunton and King’s Hall school. Inclusivity and access have driven the process, with young people with additional needs performing alongside others with various levels of musical expertise in a carefully- crafted composition that places the young people at the heart of the experience. See video..

And there is currently an exhibition of artwork inspired by the work of famous local artist Brian Rice – please do pop along to the library to see the talented, vibrant artwork, and read the article about how this initiative came about.

If you happen to be reading this before the events on March 3rd, 4th and 6th, please do go along to watch and support these young people and help them celebrate being able to perform live this year. You can get your FREE tickets by clicking on the links below…

What of the future?

In 2022 TYCA will also be working in an extended partnership model towards a performance to celebrate the Queen’s Jubilee – dates and details to be confirmed. We will deliver workshops in secondary and primary schools in Taunton, with a specific focus on schools and young people from the areas of least access to, and engagement with, the Arts. Throughout May, young people, schools and staff will be working with professional performers and work with those professionals to learn the skills involved in making the shows, including theatre, puppetry, circus skills, music and visual arts. 150 -200 young people will come together on Somerset Square at Taunton Brewhouse, for a day of Jubilee performance, food, music and celebration. The event will be launched with an ensemble – the content of which is planned to be on a grand scale and we won’t spoil their surprise for you – one not to be missed!

The TYCA team would love to hear from you. If you or others you know (professionals, mentors, young people) would like to participate in some way, then let us know via [email protected] and we’ll get back to you to discuss.

Please keep supporting our local young people through TYCA – it’s important that they have a voice through the Arts. And we haven’t even shared with you yet some exciting plans for 2023 – so watch this space!