Farewell (for now) from Henry

Monday 22 November 2021

It has been an absolute pleasure and a privilege to be part of NAYT over the years, but now feels the right time to step away.

My journey with NAYT started as a teenager, when our Youth Theatre went off to the Big Youth Theatre Festival. All the plays and workshops and joy could only hint at a decades-long legacy building and supporting a thriving sector. I volunteered as a ‘Buddy’ for BYTF, and helped out at their HQ at Darlington Arts Centre. I always felt welcome as a young person feeding into this open organisation.

In 2011, faced with the first wave of Coalition austerity cuts, NAYT was forced to downsize. Without Darlington Arts Centre, the organisation would be office-less. I was initially offered three months of administrative work January 2012-March 2012. 

Well that three months turned into nine years.

NAYT has been such an integral part of my life. Without a home, the nervous system of NAYT has moved from house-to-house to accommodate my millennial, freelance life. The various Board members and associates stepped up to manage the charity. Just as the arts sector sailed through turbulent times (especially participatory and community work), NAYT kept steaming forwards.

The beating heart of NAYT has been it’s membership, the sector and the young people it serves. My own inclusive and artistic practise has been assembled from countless national Raising The Game workshops in Darlington, Eastleigh, Bolton, Scarborough, Salisbury, Northampton, Derby, London and via Zoom twice! I have lost track of the essential, set-the-world-to-rights conversations had over teas and pints at Raising The Games. Though NAYT were unable to continue the BYTF model, it lived on with Regional Youth Theatre Festivals, and I am so proud we brought so many groups together and I had the opportunity to travel across the UK seeing other practises.

Since its grassroots inception in 1982, NAYT has strived to cement youth theatre as a respectable, integral and urgent part of the arts sector. One of NAYT’s original aims was to make sure every young person in the country had access to a Youth Theatre. But it has also championed the accessibility and professionalism of those Youth Theatres. Giving young people a voice, a platform and a high-quality, fulfilling experience is a radical act. It is impossible to truly calculate the ‘trickle down’ impact of NAYT’s support, training, mentoring, conversations and events on young people across it’s 40 year history.

Thank you to Jill Adamson for bringing me into the NAYT fold, and to everyone who supported NAYT during my tenure as administrator on the other end of an email. As we come out the other side of this painful pandemic, I wish NAYT all the very best and look forward to seeing it’s future.

Henry Raby