RicNic youth arts: why we became an Artsmark Partner
RicNic is a youth-arts charity which has been running since 2004, beginning life as a summer holiday project set up by a group of 16 year olds who all shared a love for musical theatre. With the use of their school hall donated by the Headteacher and a small pot of money generated by fundraising through family and friends, they staged their own production of Guys and Dolls.
Fifteen years later, some of those founding students now sit on the RicNic board of trustees and the charity has seen over 1000 young people pass through its annual projects now running in Hampshire, Oxford and London, and about to open in Staffordshire.
Jennifer Smith, Director of RicNic, tells us about their aims to engage young people in the wider roles and responsibilities of producing theatre, and their Artsmark aspirations.
"As a newly affiliated Artsmark Partner, we are very excited to join in our first Artsmark Celebration Week and are looking forward to learning more about the partnerships taking place across the country.
At the heart of our ethos is the notion that all young people should have access to the arts and a platform for their creativity. We have developed a unique project across our three branches, in which we challenge a company of 16-21 year olds to stage a full-scale musical at a professional venue, taking on every role on the Production Team, Cast, Crew, Band and Marketing team. We provide the venue, a production budget, a fundraising target and remote support from our core team but hand the authority for decisions and responsibility for the success of the project over to our participants; effectively setting them up as their own Production Company.
RicNic gives young people a safe environment in which to explore their own creativity, learn from others, develop new skills and ultimately give a voice to their ideas and abilities. The project runs for the whole summer holiday (longer for members of the Production Team) and includes training/mentoring from visiting professionals. All participation is completely free of charge, ensuring that anyone can participate regardless of circumstances.
We have just finished another summer of musical productions, with our three companies staging a range of modern and classic shows – Rent, A Chorus Line and Thoroughly Modern Millie – and they had an amazing summer tackling the diverse challenges that these three shows bring with them.
Here are just some of the comments from our 2019 participants, who never fail to prove to us what an amazing ability and commitment they have
“Absolutely the place to go to put on a really good show. Such a warm and encouraging social atmosphere and a great way to grow musical theatre talents! You will be able to learn, have fun, make some close friends really fast and just generally have an awesome time!!!”
“It turned it to a family. It was very intense and everyone truly cared. The fact it was run by young people meant it was a safe environment to take risks and the lack of judgment and freedom of expression both aided us in the creative process and on the social side.”
2019 has been a very exciting time for RicNic as we appointed our first full-time Executive Director and outlined our plans to extend our work to new regions and brand new projects; all focusing on giving as many young people as possible the chance to develop all sorts of creative skills. This term we are launching our new workshops scheme Engage, which takes the concept of our youth-led Production Company work into schools, colleges and community settings. The Engage programme will form part of our Artsmark offer for schools, working with students and teachers to explore creative skills beyond performance and that are transferable both across the curriculum and into many different career pathways.
RicNic has become an Artsmark Partner as we hope to be able to share our knowledge, learn from other arts organisations, schools and above all the young people involved: encouraging their interest and excitement about creative careers. Just attending the initial Artsmark Partner briefing was a huge benefit for us; helping to set up connections with other Artsmark Partners who are now working to support our projects in the Midlands. We look forward to working with many schools and inspiring young people as we all embark on our Artsmark journeys.”