he DJ School Association was formed in 2005. It grew out of the DJ School project delivered and initiated in 2002 by community urban arts group Verbal Arts, an organisation in receipt of core funding from Youth Music. The overwhelming success of this project led to the DJ School project’s expansion in 2004. The Association works with the most disadvantaged, marginalised and difficult to reach people in The North Staffordshire and South Cheshire communities.
The aims and objectives of the DJ School Association are to encourage and promote the educational and career development of people of all backgrounds, and particularly disadvantaged children and young people and vulnerable adults, living in Staffordshire and Cheshire. It aims to achieve this by fostering personal and social development through a range of creative activities to enhance employ-ability, confidence and self-esteem and to create high quality career and educational opportunities.
Since the creation of the DJ School Association the organisation has earned a reputation for delivering high quality music making opportunities, helping young people build self-esteem and confidence. This has been achieved by teaching them the skills required to make a career from DJ-ing/Music Technology, MC-ing/Rap and theatre/performance in a safe, fun and constructive environment.
The project works with participants who are complete beginners; through ongoing support and guidance over a period of 3 twelve week terms each year it encourages them to aspire to intermediate and advanced levels. Those who commit to the programme and gain advanced skills are provided opportunities, as part of the project, to perform in public at showcases and professional events in the community as well potential employment opportunities.
The Organisation offers ongoing support for individual and groups in activities including weekly advice and guidance sessions dealing individuals through an holistic approach; creative and technical workshops seeking to impart practical useful skills and outcomes; and tutorials and seminars. The organisation is based at the urban arts centre and has access to a music recording studio IT; multi media suite; two classrooms; a dance studio; and office space
Early Interventions for Personal Wellbeing and Prosperity
Gary Oliver Falconer
The current economic landscape and austerity has reintroduced the debate around social interventions with the economically inactive and how any interventions might be measure. This paper discusses theories of wellbeing in relation to productivity and prosperity through research in community arts participation. Psychological Wellbeing is a theoretically disputed paradigm, which has traditionally had two distinct approaches: hedonistic and eudemonic. An hedonic model, has wellbeing as synonymous with happiness and the absence of negative affect/pain. The eudemonic approach however takes a longer-term viewpoint stressing the significance of essential goals, positive relationships and the development of interests and capabilities. Using data from two arts employability initiatives for adults and adults with mental health and social interaction issues, (STE Chance for Change, 2011 and ISA Program, 2013. Carried out by arts practitioners at the Urban Arts Centre), this paper points to an integral relationship between eudemonic contexts, the ethos supporting community arts intervention and productivity and prosperity: markedly the commonality of wellbeing as a paramount component to human-flourishing.
An increasing body of evidence from social care, arts intervention groups, practitioners and participants suggests arts participation benefits wellbeing. This has been widely accepted and a long standing view developed since interventionist theatre’s birth with Boal, Derriere etal. and theatre in education with the Belgrade Theatre interventionist of the 60’s and 70,s maintaining that theatre practice- the practical making of theatre and therefore spectacle as a therapeutically aid to wellbeing.
However, the idea of wellbeing as some how being connected to productivity and therefore prosperity has been little explored regards social arts practice. Wholly confined as it is to socialist economics, Marx’s Theories of Alienation- theoretically at least presupposing the fundamental human condition of the 21 century as a mass industrial one not as a artisanal issue. (Marx, 1890) We are now faced however with the very reality that Marx did not envisage. Namely: a similar basket of issues -alienation, lack of political representation, worker exploitation, and unaccountable mass capital movements and even some new ones: social network flocking or trending, mass integrated global communications and unaccountable information flows and distributions, but without the central socialist idiom- mass industrial employment. Therefore, what Marx overlooked is now ever more central ‘the artisan’ the small business wo/man the sole trader.
One might adamantly state that the Butcher, the Baker and the candlestick maker have always been at the heart of commerce- they have always made up the bedrock of capitalism and this is of course true. However, technology has now allowed a much more comprehensive model to emerge and it is argued that this neo-technological artisan is driving future world growth- not the huge industrial complexes of the past.
The problem is that capital and regulatory frameworks have not yet been able to address this rapidly changing dynamic phenomena, as (Daykin et al., 2010), maintains the field of arts in this respect lacks well developed frameworks in which to evaluate the more subjective impacts of participation. How do we measurers the substantive impact of social arts intervention on is essentially commercial activity?
Community Arts Intervention
The aim of this paper is to contribute to a wider discussion by considering contemporary theories of wellbeing in relation to productivity and prosperity regards findings gathered as part of the work of the Urban Arts Centre with adults suffering mental health and social interaction problems and issues who have taken part in the STE Chance for Change project which was an attempt to help those who see themselves as unemployable make a change in their self perception by providing opportunities to learn skills to earn a potential livelihood. The project sort to develop practical as well as theoretical skills based on employability and then provide test trading opportunities for participants, (www.djschool.org.uk /corporate.html) and the ISA program: ISA is a set of protocols designed as a specialised programme developed by Applied Social Arts Practitioners to help the most negative self image regain vitality. The programme is a personal investment in ones own future seeking to benefit participants with skills in flexitivity-to systematically reflect on life events in order to build and develop total life planning frameworks. The programme aims to help individuals by imparting and developing skills of life intervention, and career channelling and focusing showing participants how to develop and use their inner energy. (email@example.com) Both of these schemes sought to enhance life opportunities of participants with mental health and social connectivity issues through involvement in creative activity. Each comprised a range of distinct disciplines and art forms – from music and creative writing to photography, painting, ceramics and craft activities, poetry, film and acting but where also augmented with practical and theoretical disciplines such as social networking, website building, presentational and interpersonal skills – which were delivered at the Urban Arts Centre in 2011 and 2013 respectively.
This paper attempts to make to the case that there is an essential compatibility between eudemonic wellbeing the ethos underpinning community arts interventions having implications for both productivity and prosperity.
There has traditionally been two leading theoretical frameworks that have dominated contemporary psychological philosophy - hedonic and eudemonic approaches. The hedonic model perceives wellbeing as synonymous with happiness/pleasure and the absence of pain and is typically assessed using self-reported measures of positive and negative affect and relative life satisfaction (Diener, 1984).
In contrast eudemonic models move beyond transient feelings and consider wellbeing as a more dynamic approach to living (Ryan & Deci, 2000). Eudemonic wellbeing is characterised in terms of the realisation of inner potential through meaningful relationships and purposeful activity. A criticism of eudemonic constructs is that there remains no clear consensus as to appropriate objects/units of measurement (Diener et al., 2009).
Swindells, Lawthom & Kagan in Community Arts Interventions: exploring the concept of wellbeing- (2012) deduce that ‘confusing matters is the fact that most researchers agree that both hedonic and eudemonic frameworks contribute to wellbeing, with studies indicating a high degree of correlation between the two.’ They note that, ‘Of particular relevance to arts practitioners/researchers is that eudemonic accounts offer insights into the maintenance of wellbeing over the longer-term. Ryan, Huta and Deci (2008) acknowledge that both hedonic and eudemonic wellbeing may be to a point subjectively experienced as ‘feeling good’, the ongoing pursuit of eudemonic-enhancing goals has been found to raise an individual’s baseline levels of wellbeing; hedonic pleasures however tend to be less enduring. One explanation for this is what has been dubbed ‘the hedonic treadmill’ (Brickman et al., 1978), a phenomenon whereby individuals become habitual in their circumstance and pursuits and require increasing levels of reward to maintain stable levels of satisfaction. In other words, the momentary art task pleasures might subside but the completion of an arts product to revisit and show or pass on increases the base level of wellbeing by increasing ones self esteem self worth and self perception. Further, by the reflective nature of producing arts products one might precipitate a need to improve product and self.
Research suggests that external circumstances such as marital status and income account only for 10% of variation between individuals in measures of life satisfaction/happiness. Interestingly, while a further 50% of variance in wellbeing appears to be relatively fixed due to genetics and personality traits. Whereas 40% might be amenable to some sort of change through engagement in 'interventional activities'. Research shows that eudemonic-enhancing pursuits are likely to work best, with those who self-selected, involve challenge and effort, cultivate social relationships and have some sort of end product or artefact to present. (Daykin, N., Byrne, E., Soteriou, T. & O’Connor, S. 2010)
These points will here be discussed in relation to qualitative findings from both the STE Chance for Change Project and the ISA Program through case studies of four attendees of the sessions, through statistical information gathered throughout the schemes and analysis of participant interactions by practitioners.
Note: All participants will be referred to by a single initial:
Since Art College where P achieved B-tech arts and design he has not been in education or work. After having a breakdown brought on by stress P has suffered from depression and an inability to socialise with others which he claims has led to alcohol problems, relationship problems which have added to his negative self-image and this has led him into long term unemployment, for at last 30 years. - as he puts it... ‘a person with little or no future’
‘To me, it had given me a new lease of life. I have always been interest in arts but I kept it to myself but coming to the Urban Arts Centre and doing the project has enabled me to develop my arts in a more professional way and helped me to be able to share my art with the public. That has give me the confidence to do more art and do better art.’
During this time P has taught himself music in the form of playing the guitar and music theory. P’s motivation for coming on the course was to ‘record music and make a CD to give to people he met...’ and was pleasantly surprised by the amount of practical performance work in the course, which he relished as he finally had a platform for his musical talents... ‘a place to express my musical feelings,’ he said. Which he tells me has improved his performance to the extent where he feels able to develop an initial CD of 6 tracks. He says, from training in how to record in a sound studio, writing a book of his lyrics and through his training on computers- Microsoft word and publisher and receiving marketing and presentation skills, he has been able to have published his book through a local publisher to whom he was sign posted through the Project.
G has not attended education since high school where he took examinations in English and maths and achieved four GCSEs and also achieved a grade three music theory with the trumpet. However, since those achievements G has not been in education and following a string of one off manual labour employments he has been unemployed for at least ten years. Previously G has suffered from an alcohol problem and social relationship problems which have added to his self perception as an unemployable person- as he puts it... ‘...on the scrap heap.’
G, originally came on the course to ‘improve his creative writing skills’ and was initially overwhelmed by the amount of practical performance work in the contents of the course, which he admitted challenged him in terms of taking on board others views, criticisms and thirds party appraisals of his work. This he says helped to improve his work to an extent where he felt able to develop a book of poems and helped by his training on computers- Microsoft word and publisher. Then he was able, through skills he acquired on the course, to have published a book of poetry by a local publisher to whom he was sign posted through the Project. Also from training in how to record in a sound studio he was confident enough to record an accompanying CD.
D has found life difficult to come to terms with life since his mother died and his father went to prison. Cared for by a Step mother from his early childhood he took his family angst out on the world, his local community and neighbourhood. Following in his older brother’s foot steps, a prolific criminal, D became a street gang member hanging out on street corners committing petty criminal acts for fun or gang respect. D has not attended education since leaving school where he achieved no formal educational qualifications. Since then D’s achievements have been limited, he secured a place on a project management work scheme but failed to complete however he did learnt some skills as a brick layer.
D has always wanted to be a rapper ‘make it in the music business’ and by his own admission his motivation for coming on the course was to record his lyrics and make a CD. Upon finding that there was a little more to it than met his eye, D at first struggled. He then discovered his skill for writing lyrics which he went on to relished as he says:
‘I finally have a platform for my talents... It is a way of dealing with my mum’s death and understanding my emotions and how to express my feelings in a good way.’
The process of product development being reinforced by other aspects of the course suited D because as he states, ‘I can see now how it is done’. D has made three videos to accompany his songs and these have been posted on U-tube and he is looking to prepare the music videos for an appearance on terrestrial television on Channel U. He has performed in public several times including in front of the Chief Constable and made a number of radio appearances on local radio. He has honed his technical skills in the studio to a semi professional level working with other young acts as a producer passing on his skills to others.
Through this process D has learnt how to record in a sound recording studio, write his lyrics with correct punctuation and rules of literature, use video editing and camera and through his training on computers- Microsoft word and publisher and marketing and presentation skills, he has been able to have published his CD through a local record company to whom he was signposted by the Program. D has learnt some valuable lessons through enrolling on the program in his own words he is more disciplined and a lot more focused on achieving in life and states that being on the course ‘...has made his dreams come true.’ He is now working on his second album and with others youngsters to help them out of gang culture.
K, has been in institutions all his life, he has tourettes which he was only officially diagnosed with in his twenties, although there were indications of it previously. K had a very low self image and when he enrolled on the program always looked at the floor- refusing to look anyone in the eye. K has no formal education and attended a special school from which he was expelled during his final year. K’s motivation for attending the program was to improve his animation skills and have published some of his work. K has been drawing and writing Manga-style comics since the age of 14 becoming inspired by watching cartoons and animations, and later by reading Manga comics, which partly influenced his unique style. K also sings and wanted to learn guitar and to perform music, his dream was to start a Metal band and perform on an amateur scale locally. He also expressed and interest in learning voice acting.
K used meditation techniques he learnt to reduce stress ‘I hope it will help me to combat most of the stresses and strains of modern life.’ K used the skill he learnt in IT, social Media and digital art to thrive building a website, twitter following of thousands and face book page. K has grown in confidence and self image stating ‘I if feel better than I ever have in my life.’ K has found a way of coping by using somewhat dark and tongue-in-cheek humour to make light of difficult situations. He is currently working towards being a fully published cartoonist through the program and has an interest in one day becoming an animator with an independent UK company.
Out of all those who participated in the project and program the tracking statistics provide a clear picture, 72% went on to full or part time or voluntary employment or education, 25% went into employment, 7% into volunteer work; but 40% wanted to improve their self further by going on to further education and training. This clearly shows that the project and program instilled aspiration and motivation into individuals that had previous lacked any purpose in their lives. Total participants of all ages that took part in the schemes in total over the 36 weeks were at least 32 and a maximum of 36 people at one stage or another. Of these however there was a 15% drop-out rate over the year. They consisted of 45.3% girls/women and 54.7% boys/men between the ages of 18 and 55 all were unemployed with some sort of social difficulty. The participants were broken down into the following categories: 32.5% White British, 9% Black British, 25% Other, 3% gay/lesbian 80.5% admitted to having disabilities/mental health issues.
The evaluation took the form of ongoing informal discussions with participants sometimes one to one and other times with in a group setting. These evaluation points were often record by taking notes, video footage and audio recordings. More than half mostly enjoyed sharing their work with the public in the test trading element of the schemes ‘doing it for real’ Participant P. Others, a third, mostly liked the reflective elements of the schemes, ‘I have learnt about poetry and music and understood myself a little better.” Participant D
But the vast majority found that the structured process of making, practicing and promoting their arts form was the most rewarding element of their scheme ‘I come because it gives me structure, provides a stable way of looking at different ways to achieve what I want about doing my music and how I can make it my career,’ Participant S.
Concluding then, clearly activity of any sort may provide some sort of wellbeing to an individual for example sport activity, one off workshops, a taster in a new skills, smoking a cigarettes, enjoying a film or book or game. However as we have seen through Diener’s Subjective well-being in Psychological Bulletin (1984) quoted earlier, these activities are hedonic activities and only provide initial satisfactions giving immediate pleasure and enjoyment. This then follows that these activities can lead to boredom or habitual behaviours. What is clear, through the work at the Urban Arts Centre and the careful evaluation of two separate scheme- one year apart taking two very different approaches, is that eudemonic wellbeing can only be successfully arrived at by a deeper sense of achieving ones own self identity as the perception one most dearly cravers: for example, long term inner satisfaction can only be acquired by attaining, even moderately, one fulfilment of what one deems one truly is:- a fireman, a fisher man, an explorer, an artist and moreover, it is the confirmation of this via the third party (the public’s) acceptance of this image identity or label; your self proclaimed role- that is most craved by the human being. This is true of all human being- it is the reflection of society upon ones role that gives one place, a worth and without it, the ‘Worth’ then one is to an extent, in my opinion, more susceptible to social difficulties regards engagement, relationships and human interactions. It is possible then one might find other deviant ways to interact with society, interactions that might be prescribed as odd behaviours. Therefore, one may find alternative methods for the suppression of such feeling of isolation, depression and rejection such as intoxicants, enforced pain, self deprivations etc. The relationship regards wellbeing, productivity and the notion of ‘Worth’ is sadly rather academically unexplored and the contemporary drive for a happy big society, ‘You have never has it so good so... why are you not happy.. society’ could benefit from a fuller expansive knowledge of this emerging field.
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