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04/03/16 12:00

Fiona Hyslop on Youth Arts

Culture Secretary delivers keynote speech at Music for Youth Exchange 2016 event

Thanks Vic [Galloway]. Thanks also to Judith [Webster] of Music for Youth for inviting me here to Exchange 2016.

It is a pleasure to be here at The Platform which offers a year round programme of performance, music and visual arts events and 2016 sees it celebrate its 10th Birthday!

Fitting too that we are gathered here in Glasgow, the UK’s only UNESCO City of Music.

I am delighted to be able to welcome you all here to what promises to be a un-missable event for young people looking to get ahead in the music industry.

We’re also privileged to have the BAFTA and Grammy award-winning composer Craig Armstrong here, responsible for the scores for films such as Romeo and Juliet and Moulin Rouge. You’ll hear more from Craig later.

The Scottish Government’s ambition is for Scotland to be the best place to grow up, with every child being given the best chance to succeed, and with raising attainment a key priority. We are committed to tackling inequalities, making Scotland a stronger, fairer, more inclusive society.

If as a nation we want Scotland to become a world leader in youth arts, we need the whole nation to commit to putting arts and creativity in and for and by our young people centre stage.

I want every child in Scotland to be able to reach their potential and fulfil their ambitions, regardless of their background, where they live or their family circumstances. Culture and the arts have a big part to play in making this a reality.

Culture sits at the heart of our wellbeing and quality of life.

I don’t need to tell you all in this room that taking part in the arts, in whichever form interests you, brings immense pleasure and enjoyment.

Starting a band, participating in a play, dancing, all of these activities enrich our lives. Taking part gives us a sense of purpose and belonging that roots us and supports our mental health and wellbeing. It makes us happy. I want culture to be for all young people because all young people deserve to experience the joy and happiness that experiencing arts and culture can bring.

Evidence from the Scottish Household Survey shows that people who participate in culture are more likely to report good health and life satisfaction than those who do not. There [1]is important research which shows those who engage in cultural activity in earlier years are more likely to participate and attend when they are adults, regardless of parental background of wealth or poverty.

It is stating the obvious to say that cultural engagement is good for young people’s artistic and creative development. Getting children and young people involved in the arts is crucial to nurturing the next generation of artists and creative talent. However, the benefits of engagement with and education in the arts are so much wider.

Whether you want to be a musician, an actor, a film director or a games developer - or indeed if your interests lie in other areas and you want to be a teacher, scientist, or an athlete. It’s vital that we create the conditions to enable young people, like many of you here today, to access and engage in culture and the arts, and to develop your creativity in whichever form you choose.

Albert Einstein understood this when he said that “the greatest scientists are artists as well”. As well as being one of the greatest physicists of all time, Einstein was also a keen pianist and violinist, and understood the role that creativity plays in all aspects and walks of life, noting that:

“When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come close to the conclusion that the gift of imagination has meant more to me than any talent for absorbing absolute knowledge”.

I wouldn’t dare to put words in the mouth of Albert Einstein, but if I can expand on his words, I think what he means is that creativity and imagination are key, not only to artistic development, but also to cognitive and intellectual development more widely.

Creative and cultural education fosters young people’s critical thinking and problem-solving skills. It encourages self-discipline and dedication.

It leads to positive learning experiences which can change the way young people feel about school and education, ever important with the knowledge that early intervention raises attainment levels – a key focus for this Government.

An excellent example of this is Sistema Scotland which works in Raploch, Torry and Govanhill reaching 1,500 children weekly. Evaluation of this programme found an increase in school attendance amongst participants, with teachers reporting that young people taking part in the programme are more disciplined and engaged, and with fewer behavioural issues, than those who do not take part.

Culture and the arts empower young people - building their self-confidence, enabling them to express their thoughts and emotions and encouraging them to work collaboratively with others.

The arts open windows into other worlds and allow young people to explore different experiences and points of view. Teach them to not just sit back, relax and enjoy the show, but to lean forward, engage and start changing our Scotland for the better.

For Scotland to become an international leader in youth arts, we must put young people at the very heart of what we do.

Just over two years ago we launched Time To Shine, Scotland’s first ever Youth Arts Strategy for young people up to 25. Its’ main aim is to establish Scotland as an international leader in youth arts.

A network of regional Youth Arts Hubs have been developed through partnerships between local and national arts and youth services improving arts provision for young people across the country. A key reason was to improve the access and the participation of young people in the arts across Scotland.

Some of the great projects I’ve seen enable greater engagement between communities and their young people. My most recent visit to the West Dunbartonshire Hub, Fresh Creations, in Clydebank is a good example.

I met youth work leaders working with artists in providing inspiring programmes including weekly workshops in comic book art, musical theatre, digital music, dance and photography reaching over 1,600 young people in the area so far. The young people I met told me about how the arts they took part in changed how they saw the world. They showed me their Ghostbusters Film which used the famous Clydebank Cantilever Crane as a set.

Scotland’s Youth Arts strategy ‘Time to Shine’ builds on the strong foundation of a vibrant and forward-thinking youth arts sector that is already the envy of many countries. For instance following a visit to Scotland the Zambian Government reintroduced arts subjects to all schools in the country to encourage creativity amongst pupils.

The realisation of potential in our young people is one of the most important things we can support and nurture. Culture and the arts has ability, unlike any other to tap into the young creative talent we have here in Scotland.

Young people are at the heart of delivering our ambitions for Scotland to be the best place in the world for youth arts and through a national young people’s advisory group, young

people play a key role in shaping its delivery.

Time to Shine has not only enhanced access to the arts for all of Scotland’s young people, but is creating career pathways for Scotland’s talent of the future - be it on stage, on the screen, behind the scenes or in our world-leading creative industries which employ 71,000 people.

For Scotland to truly be a leader in youth arts we must ‎provide the conditions to create and sustain engagement and nurture our potential and talent. Time to Shine has so far engaged with over 33,000 young people across Scotland.

Young people’s involvement at every stage is, I believe, the biggest success to date.

Our arts sector has an incredible reach. More than 1.5 million opportunities were created for young people to take part in youth arts in last year through organisations supported by Creative Scotland.

These figures show the reach of the Youth Arts projects we are delivering with partners across Scotland. I am convinced the actual number is higher still.

It’s vital that we create the conditions to enable young people, like many of you here today, to access and engage in culture and the arts, and to develop your creativity in whichever form you choose, whether that be music, film, dance or storytelling.

Our National Collections are ensuring that all people, irrespective of income and background, can experience and enjoy Scotland’s cultural treasures by maintaining free access to our world class museums and galleries, with over 27 million visits to our national collections since 2007, with many of these visits by young people.

We are exceptional in having a range of national youth arts companies for theatre, music, song and dance, and we benefit from many energetic and visionary stakeholders including Fèisean nan Gàidheal.

Our National Performing Companies too are committed to reaching young people across Scotland, including large-scale targeted projects in our communities, specialist pre-vocational training, accessible ticket offers, opportunities for work experience and school programmes directly linked to the Curriculum for Excellence.

As an example I recently had the pleasure of attending Scottish Opera’s new school’s programme Fever! at St Marys Primary School in Bo’ness. Pupils worked with Opera artists to produce lively performance of the Opera 'Fever'. It was their energy, focus, team work and sheer volume of voice which blew me away.

From amazing abbeys to colossal castles Historic Environment Scotland is engaging young people in inspirational places in and out of the classroom to provide exciting opportunities for learning whilst helping safeguard our historic environment for generations to come.

Events such as the Edinburgh Festivals, Celtic Connections in Glasgow, the innovative Sound festival in Aberdeen and Orkney’s St Magnus Festival go far beyond the timeframe of the festivals themselves, with wide and varied outreach programmes across the country, many for young people. Celtic Connections’ education programme reaches 99 per cent of Glasgow schools, introducing pupils to cultures from across the world, and each year 10,000 school children attend a free concert. Our Edinburgh International Festivals work with pupils in Local Authority areas the length and breadth of the country throughout the year.

Many of you here today help deliver some of the fantastic work we do across Scotland to develop children and young people’s interest in music by offering varied music making opportunities through the Youth Music Initiative. Evaluation of the Youth Music Initiative published last year highlighted how the programme helps to tackle inequalities, engaging with over 225,000 young people in and out of school over the last year.

To become an international youth leader of the arts we must also continue to develop the infrastructure and support.

It’s clear to me that Youth Music Initiative makes a real difference – introducing music to thousands of young people and giving them a chance to get involved. That’s incredibly important. I am pleased to be able to say to you today that we have protected and maintained funding for 2016-17 at £10 million.

I can also announce nearly £1.1 million of funding is being awarded to a variety of organisations, many of whom are here today, to deliver projects to young people outside of school.

This is great news going forward as we look to refresh the Youth Music Initiative.

Naturally, we will be looking at ways where we can do things better and ensure sustainability as part of this refresh but also how we, working with you and other Youth Music Initiative funded organisations, can maintain and share widely where good practice is taking place, with a focus on our key priorities of tackling inequalities, improving life chances and raising attainment.

As public finances will continue to be challenging over the next few years partnership working, sharing experiences, and finding new ways to continue to deliver through the Youth Music Initiative - particularly to address inequalities and supporting underprivileged individuals - are ever more important.

With this Government’s key priorities clear we recognise the valuable role culture plays in supporting these objectives so I’m pleased there are numerous organisations who are taking projects in these areas forward. For example, creating new music making opportunities for looked after children and young people is the focus of the Reel Kids project in Edinburgh, while Hazelwood Vision are creating new opportunities for those with Additional Support Needs.

There is valuable work taking place in more rural areas to widen access to music making opportunities, such as Wee Studios in Stornoway to help local acts break into the music industry.

Let me give you another example of how the YMI has extended its reach. We now have over 130 brass bands in Scotland compared to just 74 in 2007.

The dramatic revival of this 200-year-old musical tradition is because the YMI has supported the Scottish Brass Band Association’s Youth Development Programme with the creation of 55 new youth brass bands the length and breadth of Scotland, with places for an additional 1,700 young musicians.

So I am pleased I have managed to secure continued support for the refreshed YMI in 2016/17 to help more young people, just like you all here, who might otherwise not get the opportunity, to get involved in music, whatever your taste.

I look forward to hearing more about these projects as they develop – and I hope it might inspire some of you here to think about your own projects, how they are helping to address these priority areas, and how you can improve on them and better articulate their benefits.

Or perhaps it might get you thinking about new areas of work, in which case I’d encourage you to speak to the YMI team at Creative Scotland about how you can take these forward.

This year I’ve had the opportunity to meet many young people who are taking part in the arts thanks to projects funded by the Scottish Governments and our agencies – whether it’s children having their first music lesson thanks to YMI or young people who have been given a launch pad to their first job in the sector through Cashback for Creativity training.

Each young person I’ve met has stressed how important these chances have been to them and the difference it has made. Take 15 year old Ross who I am meeting later this morning. He has benefitted through free running (Parkour) classes provided through support from our Cashback for Creativity program. This has helped Ross channel his energies, build his confidence, make new friends and give him real hope for the future.

I’m delighted that Ross along with so many other young people are having a chance to access the arts, whatever their background, and I’m determined to help this number grow.

Arts and creativity can help young people grow confidently as citizens and towards realising their ambitions, wherever they lie. This can have huge benefits for the whole of society, and must be a priority, even in difficult financial times. That’s why this Government is continuing to invest in Youth Arts, and why I’ll continue to champion the arts.

Time to Shine evaluation published later this year will outline the successes and areas for further focus as we strive for Scotland to be internationally recognised as a world leader in Youth Arts. One thing is clear though.

To become an international leader in youth arts, we must continue to put young people at the very heart of what we do.

With that in mind Creative Scotland and partners including the national youth advisory group Youth Arts Voice Scotland are looking to host a Children and Young people’s Youth Arts Conference in the autumn.

This will celebrate the progress of youth arts, showcasing best practice from partners involved but importantly also set out what needs to happen next to build upon this.

To imagine, to create, to use our senses to explore in sound, movement, expression, the world around us helps us reach out to the possible and a world still to be imagined, still to be discovered, still to be enjoyed.

To understand ourselves and others to connect and interpret and reinterpret ideas and emotions is the gift of the arts. I want to arm all of our young people with the power of the arts and that is my vision for Scotland.

The conference will be youth led and the Youth Arts Voice Scotland group (managed by Young Scot) will play a lead role in design and delivery. Ever important as we look towards 2018 and the Year of Young People and supporting our ambition of establishing Scotland as the leader in youth arts.

I’d be happy to take any questions once Vic has finished with me! Thank you.

[1] Household survey