I’m writing this freshly back from London where I attended the National Saturday Club Summer Show at Somerset House. After seeing the end product of 1500 young people’s hard work displayed in one of the Nations’ Great Galleries I have realised I have plenty to say on this subject! (but then, when do I not?)
Chances are you might not have heard of it before now, so here is a little primer: About 9 years ago the Sorrell Foundation, which was set up to inspire creativity in young people and through that improve both their lives and the world, founded the first National Saturday Club. This was a space where teenagers could explore Art and Design from those with the skills and passion to share them for free on Saturdays. As it has grown so have the different strands, and now you can explore Art & Design, Fashion & Business, Science & Engineering and Writing & Talking at universities, colleges and museums all across the country!
Not only do they have access to tutors and student helpers for 30 weeks each academic year, they have the opportunity to take part in masterclasses with the leading lights in a variety of industries as part of that. This year the Club I have worked with created stop-motion animations with Clinton Osbourne, made a music video with Tatenda Jamera and in preparation for the Summer Show, a Masterclass with Architect Francesco Draisci. We have covered everything from embellishing self portraits, typography, 3D digital modelling, screen printing and lino printing in sessions led by tutors, associates and degree students from our College.
On top of this we went to London three times with them: to the Frieze Art Fair, which was mind-blowing in scale, to Central St Martins for the #LondonTrip where they saw their self portraits on display and took part in creating a miniature city with 1000 other students followed by a visit to the Jasper Johns exhibition at the Royal Academy and then finally to Somerset House on Saturday.
As straits become increasingly dire concerning investment and time allocated to the arts at Secondary School level, the work of the Sorrell Foundation and National Saturday Clubs is becoming more important in ensuring the survival of Creative Arts in Britain. Allowing young people to explore materials and methods they otherwise lack access to, to grow in confidence and skill will ensure we have a strong pool of creative talent to draw from in the future. Our students had the opportunity to achieve a bronze or silver arts award as part of this, which meant building a portfolio of work, reflection on what we did and sharing a skill.
As an artist, I have benefited widely from the education in received in school, and then at college and degree level. I learned so much from so many talented artists and ended up going down paths I’d never have imagined. This has opened up opportunities to me, one of which was to volunteer from September through to March with the Nat Sat Club at the College. As well as generally assisting, I also lead the second lino workshop which was an absolute pleasure. It’s no secret that I want to teach art professionally, but this was the first time I got to test the water with it. I hope my passion and excitement for what I do came across, from the responses and results they produced I am fairly sure it did!
Ultimately, what I want to say to my fellow artists here is that if at all possible, teaching your skills to others should be part of your practice. You have this knowledge and talent that you have taken time to gather and hone and of course that has value for the work you produce; but ensuring our traditions are passed on and can continue is of immeasurable benefit. We as a community have a massive amount that we can give (see also: Arts Emergency – a Creative response to networks of privilege for young creative people from backgrounds where they seldom benefit from such things) and that can only be for the collective good of the Arts. So please, go to the National Saturday Club Website, search for clubs near you. If there is one; great, please consider contacting the organisers to offer your time! If not, consider getting in touch with your local College, University or similar place and propose setting one up.
Want to read more about this? Check out Reading College’s club organiser Louise Anderson’s blog post about it.