The Albany’s Youth Programme supports young people from Lewisham and the surrounding areas, at the Albany and youth centres across the borough. We provide opportunities in dance, drama and music, and support young people in leadership roles and artistic progression. Well, we did before the COVID-19 crisis. Prior to the national lockdown, in the first three months of 2020, we ran over 300 creative or leadership sessions for more than 500 young people. All of this, was of course halted by the national lockdown. Our young people were confined to their homes, unable to see their friends, and without a creative outlet. It’s our job at the youth programme find ways to provide this outlet,  but also to provide support to our young people who might be socially isolated, at risk, or craving creation and imagination, during a life-changing time.

So, we got to work.

In the last three months we have run 13 weeks of sessions of our Uncover Drama programme, for young people aged 8 – 15 in Lewisham. As these sessions were being run online, we were able to offer them to more young people than we normally engage with on a weekly basis. Our dance programme Love2Dance has continued to engage with its participants, setting up Love2Dance Online: Summer Challenge in which young people were able to learn a warm up, routine, and warm down, taught by their regular instructor. As part of our young leaders programme we have run leadership sessions, provided creative support and put young people at the heart of our programming – giving young leaders and young associate companies the opportunity to create the short list for the Albany’s creative commission Pizza and Pitches. We have worked with our partners Sounds Like Chaos to produce Quarantine Commissions and a zine on Black Lives Matter, allowing young people to creatively respond to current events affecting them. In addition to this, we worked with Foreign Body Productions and launched the Open Source Collaborations initiative, a creative project that was created, developed, and is run by the Albany’s young creatives.

We have just launched, in collaboration with Youth First, a series of summer courses, run both in person (with stringent safety protocols) and online, throughout August. These involve everything from gardening and cooking to drama classes and recording for radio. Finally, for the second year we are running the SE8 Sound Collective, a unique music project for young people in Lewisham. Participants will be mentored by professional musicians Abimaro and Tawiah, in song writing and music-making, in person at the Albany. This project leads to an airing of work on Resonance FM as part of Meet Me on the Radio.  

These are just the first of many steps we are taking to get our young people back into the building, and to continue to creatively support them. Every single one of these sessions has been offered to young people in Lewisham completely free of charge. Many of these sessions and leadership pathways end in paid, professional work for our young artists.

We recognise the duty we have to young people in our area. We believe they should take up space at the heart of what the Albany does as a community hub and creative heart of Deptford. A global pandemic does not sway these ideals – if anything it makes them stronger.