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The Leeds-based South Asian Arts UK (SAA-uk) has hosted an array of Find Your Talent workshops across the city since September last year which has given young people the chance to explore their cultural heritage through music, dance and theatre.

SAA-uk was established in 1997 to promote engagement with traditional and contemporary South Asian arts. It delivers a diverse range of programmes and activities for children, young people and their families through education programmes, concerts and investment in South Asian arts development.

Supported by Find Your Talent, SAA-uk have held guitar workshops for 9-10 year olds at Shakespeare Primary School in Burmantofts, led by the accomplished musician Giuliano Modarelli. The group also visited a live performance by Alex Teymour Housego’s Alcazaba, a flamenco/ middle eastern fusion band at the Seven Arts venue in Chapel Allerton.

Since January members of the Punjabi Language School have met regularly at the GNNSJ Sikh Temple in Beeston on Wednesday evenings. The project included an introduction to the theatre with a trip to The Carriageworks to see a production of George Orwell’s Animal Farm.

The visit was followed by a day-long workshop at the GNNSJ temple facilitated by leading storyteller and drama coach Ursula Holden Gill. The day included games based on Animal Farm, looking at representations of animal types and characteristics with mask-making and live performances.

During the final phase of workshops girls from City of Leeds High School took part in Bollywood dance workshops at The Cardigan Centre.

The after-school sessions, hosted by Rushia Uzmi (Dola), came to an end in June and the group are now looking forward to attending the new show Britain’s Got Bhangra at West Yorkshire Playhouse. The hit play from Rifco Arts traces the history of Bhangra through the story of Twinkle (an 80s British Bhangra icon who goes bankrupt with only dreams of a number one hit to keep him going) and will be coming to Leeds in July.

The confidence of the workshop participants has developed in many ways throughout this project which has seen young people build on their creative skills, gain Arts Award qualification and establish new friendships.

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Three groups of young people have been meeting regularly in Seacroft Manston, Morley and Inner North West to debate, discuss and make decisions regarding cultural opportunities in Leeds.

Find Your Talent is supporting three groups of young people to become cultural ambassadors for the city.  Each group works in different ways but shares the same aim: to have a young people’s voice in the city’s arts and culture.  The East Leeds group have enjoyed singing, guitar and steel pans at East Leeds Music Centre, had backstage tours of The Carriageworks and West Yorkshire Playhouse and have seen a performance of The Secret Garden. Many had never been to the theatre before.

During the Easter holidays, the three groups came together to meet one another and create a job description for their role as arts ambassador. 

Working alongside FYT and various cultural organisations (including West Yorkshire Playhouse, Carriage Works, and Libraries, Arts & Heritage) the budding arts critics – known as ‘arts ambassadors’ – have shared their ideas and opinions to ensure decision-makers at the local council take into account their views on culture.

The ambassador groups are being given exciting opportunities that will shape and develop their skills in communication, creativity and positive engagement with the arts. Some of these include film, music and drama/theatre visits.

Each participating school will eventually elect its own ‘Arts Ambassador’ for their council who will represent arts and culture at the school. The outcomes from the ambassador groups is helping to shape new directions and positive approaches towards young people in the arts in Leeds – from actual activities through to policy making (such as CYPP).

What was FYT?

Find Your Talent was a national programme to explore new ways of opening up cultural and creative opportunities to young people. Leeds was one of the ten FYT Pathfinders in England.

The programme was led by Leeds City Council and Education Leeds, working closely together and with the city's cultural and community sectors to find ways for more young people to participate in the cultural life of the city.

FYT was funded to operate between 2008-2011 but its legacy in Leeds continues through activities under the Breeze banner, as well as other initiatives.