Youth voice artworks Refresh Mansfield

Mansfield is to be brightened up with vibrant artworks unleashing the thoughts and words of children and young people from the town.
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Colourful banners and posters will be installed at various spots around the town centre and wider district during the October half term as part of a cultural project to give a voice to Mansfield’s younger citizens.

The initiative – Refresh – began in the summer when Zest Theatre ran workshops for 120 children Oak Tree Primary School and Samworth Academy.

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The workshops, facilitated by a team of Zest’s creatives and supported by Mansfield District Council, aimed to create safe spaces for children to reflect on their life experiences and hear their views on Mansfield.

The kind of banner set to go up in Mansfield The kind of banner set to go up in Mansfield
The kind of banner set to go up in Mansfield

Adam Pownall, Mansfield-born Executive Producer of Zest Theatre, said: “The students were invited to talk about anything and everything – from daily life to the big questions of the universe.

“They commented on key issues that affected their lives including mental health, climate change, and the pressures facing teenagers.

“Other important themes that came through were the need to have time for themselves, the need for mutual respect, and the freedom to be themselves and discover their own passions.”

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In another strand of the Refresh project, Zest Theatre toured The Forum, a colourful pop-up town square installation, around the Oak Tree area of Mansfield in July.

It aimed to attract people of all ages and to allow people to be inspired by the next generation. The Forum invited local young people to post notes about what was most important to them both now and for the future.

A selection of these words were chosen to be included in the striking Refresh banners and posters set to appear all over Mansfield during the October half term including the Market Place and in key communities across the town. The gates of Oak Tree Primary will also be brought to life with the colourful voices of their students.

In addition, a digital exhibition will tour the town centre on the back of a van on 26 October, parking up outside Mansfield Civic Centre, Nottinghamshire County Council offices and King’s Mill hospital.

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These are some of the expressions included in the posters and banners:‘More people need to use their voice for things like rights and equality. One day, I would like to be able to use my voice to speak out for those who can't or those who are too afraid to’ Amy, aged 14‘We need to do something about the world. It's important that we change.’ Rio, aged 10‘The most important thing to me is having opportunities because it gives you a chance to do something that you never thought you would.’ Summer, aged 12.

The Refresh exhibition will be installed on 18 to 20 October and remain in situ throughout the October half term. During the installation, young people will be encouraged to have their say on Instagram. Adults, meanwhile, will be asked to comment on how they can support young people to have a voice.

Both Zest Theatre and Mansfield District Council became Arts Council National Portfolio organisations this year and have used this funding investment to promote their emerging Youth Voice strand of activities. Refresh Mansfield follows Zest Theatre’s successful Refresh projects in Stockton, Medway, Lincoln and Darlington.

For the council, Refresh forms part of its Aspiration agenda and priorities which aim to make Mansfield a place where people of all abilities have the opportunities to achieve their true potential.

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Cllr Stuart Richardson, Portfolio Holder for Regeneration and Growth, said: “This Arts Council England funding is proving invaluable in allowing us to open doors to new cultural experiences for more people in the district and particularly in neighbourhoods where deprivation makes access to culture so much harder.

“With Refresh it is also allowing us to hear what our younger generation feel about Mansfield and life generally. All too often, the voice of younger generations goes unheard as we adults think we know everything and should make all the decisions.

“But often young people have the ability to cut through and unravel complex issues and get to the real crux of an issue which means they can bring a clarity of purpose in how to tackle and improve the world - and this part of the world - for everyone.

“I am looking forward to seeing their words of young wisdom brought to life in this innovative exhibition around the town.”

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Mansfield District Council’s other upcoming Youth Voice initiatives include a climate activism programme called How Dare You, run in partnership with Nottingham Playhouse, and a dance scheme called Future Movement, in partnership with the prestigious Ballet Rambert dance company. This will explore creative self-expression. For more details about how to be involved in these schemes email [email protected].