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Introducing Assemble – our new local inclusion networks programme

Posted 09 Aug 2023 by Joe Duggan

Assemble is a new national programme from National Youth Theatre. Building on National Youth Theatre’s embedded ongoing inclusion programming, Assemble will be running in non-mainstream schools initially across London, Manchester, and South Wales, using creative workshops and cultural visits to empower youth voice and build local inclusive community networks. Assemble is seed funded by the National Lottery Community Fund Bridging Communities Programme. 

Assemble aims to address the issue of isolation amongst disabled young people in non-mainstream schools that specialise in moderate or severe learning support needs. This programme will create connections between young people and build a network of local organisations that provide ongoing community-based opportunities and progression routes into the arts and employment. It will build confidence in exploring their local communities independently and taking part in shared experiences outside of their home and school environments. It will also create connected networks sharing best practice and the embedding of inclusion as a core value of community programmes. From the participants in the room, to the steering groups, to training, development and co design, young people are at the heart of every part. 

Led by our experienced Creative Leadership trained facilitators, Assemble will explore creative practice, grow participant's confidence, and expand the young peoples’ interest in the arts. They will build on our current programming which develops young people employability and creative skills, such as confidence, communication, and cooperation. These workshops will centre the power of youth voice and advocacy with the young people being co-creators in the creative space. 

Participants are supported by volunteers from the local community. These volunteers will be trained, and become experienced in, inclusive practice. They will be advocates for change, supporting the young people to have influence in their local community and how they access it. Recruitment and training of these volunteers is supported by Gig Buddies.  

Gig Buddies pairs neurodivergent participants with volunteers to go to gigs, concerts, and other cultural events. These volunteers will support the young people to find their voice in the creative space, build their confidence accessing cultural events, and together form new connections across their local communities. 

In Wales, Assemble is being delivered in partnership with National Youth Arts Wales. National Youth Arts Wales is a charity for young performers and creatives across Wales, from ages 11-25. They provide the stepping-stone between grass-roots arts activities and the professional creative industries, helping young people to achieve their goals in the arts. They celebrate Wales’s unique and diverse cultural history, whilst helping the next generation of talent to innovate and experiment. 

National Youth Theatre also hold a key partnership with the Centre for Equity and Inclusion at London Metropolitan University. This partnership will evaluate and examine the power community organisations and programmes have to influence social policy change. 

Assemble participants will be supported to access further opportunities after the programme, including progression into National Youth Theatre membership, access to arts across Wales, and other opportunities from cultural community organisations in their local area. 

We are also recruiting steering groups for each area the programme is running in. These steering groups will be made up of D/deaf, disabled, and neurodivergent young people, local community organisations, cultural venues, and key local change makers, including council and local authority members. They will keep the interests of the participants at the heart of this programme, oversee best practice, and be part of building local inclusive networks, driving change at local policy level to enhance the potential for cultural engagement to enrich participants lives.  

This programme will create a legacy in each location. It is a goal from the outset of this programme to create lasting change in the opportunities for disabled young people to access cultural programmes, and to create the conditions required for this work to be sustainable. National Youth Theatre will work with local community champions to continue building on the work and changes created by Assemble, and to keep the local inclusive networks active and engaged across the community.  

Assemble will begin in Autumn 2023. If you are interested in supporting the programme, becoming a volunteer, or joining one of our steering groups, contact us