Importance of participation in the arts and how your local festival can help

Friday 16 March 2018

The arts are widely acknowledged to have immense positive impact on the social and emotional growth of our children. Participating in the arts can assist in communication, self-expression, team building and self-confidence, as well as reducing social isolation and helping to build lasting friendships. All this encourages positive mental well-being and emotionally aware children. As such, the arts have a vital role to play in any educational setting. However, with all the pressure being placed on schools, teachers and the curriculum; as well as the financial implications of supporting such programs, they are often the first items on the chopping block when we talk ‘cut backs.’ This is unfortunately resulting in generations of children having limited, if any, access to creative arts.

Even government institutions such as the NHS recognise and recommend certain arts-based therapies to assist in the treatment of health issues such as anxiety, stress, PTSD and now most cardio respiratory recovery includes a form of ‘Singing Therapy’ as standard. It is then baffling that the arts still hold such a vulnerable place in our society and are not as rigorously protected as our core subjects.

That being said, if the money isn't there in the school’s budget then no matter how much a school or institute may want to protect the arts, occasionally, it simply isn't financially viable. This is where your local festival can help keep arts an option, even on a shoe string budget. There are literally hundreds of festivals covering the length and breadth of the country, there might even be one right on your doorstep or, if not, certainly within a reasonable traveling distance – and these festivals are eager to help in whatever way they can. I myself am the chair of a local festival and recently I was invited into a local middle school to discuss their festival entries. They were surprised to find that there were 13 pieces of art that the children had already completed for display boards which were all worthy of entry to our festival. I am also aware that a lot of schools offer peripatetic music lessons to their students, all of which could easily prepare pieces, not to mention that festival entry fees are considerably cheaper than exams, so offer parents a more affordable option.

Our festivals are almost entirely made up of volunteers who want nothing more than to offer children and young people the opportunity to perform and embrace the arts – as a right and not a privilege. So the next time your school is struggling to keep the arts alive and well, just look up your local festival and let them help you in your aim to protect the arts for our children.

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Image Credit: Thomas Cheetham