YMCA Digital blog: Ben Felstead

Having been honoured with the Nottingham Roosevelt Memorial Scholarship, YMCA Digital’s Lead Youth Worker and Young Creatives Coordinator, Ben Felstead, explains below the impact such awards can have upon young people in Nottinghamshire.

YMCA Digital blog by Ben Felstead…

‘Enriching artistic expression’

“My name is Trekkah Benjamin and I am a Music Producer, Record Label owner and Community Arts Practitioners from Nottingham, UK. For the past seven years I have been working for Nottinghamshire YMCA as a driving force for the charity’s YMCA Digital project.

“YMCA Digital is a creative arts and digital media organisation that uses the arts to support and nurture young people from a range of socially excluded and disadvantaged backgrounds.

“Since joining the charity, I have designed projects across a range of art forms such as art, music, film, poetry, radio, and animation.

“We use the arts and deliver a range of topics to various groups spanning participants from the LGBTQ community, youth offenders, young people secure units, young people with mental health issues, home schooled young people, asylum seekers, refugees, pupil referral units, young people classified as NEET (not in employment, education or training), young people with a disability, rurally isolated young people, children in care, looked after children and more.

“A passion of my delivery and a focus in my academic research is how we can use the creative arts and digital medias to not only enrich our participants artistic expression and creativity but also how we can use the arts to impact our participants in terms of their attitude and behaviour, wider life-skills, wellbeing and community cohesion.

Six-week journey across USA

“It is an absolute honour to announce that I have been awarded the Nottingham Roosevelt Memorial Scholarship. This scholarship will see me embarking upon a six-week journey across the United States of America. Once there, I will visit and study a range of community groups, arts organisations, and community arts practitioners.

“Through a series of interviews, case studies, session observations and my own practical delivery, I plan to gain a solid insight into how the arts are being used within the USA and how they are impacting the lives of participants. I’m particularly interested in learning and sharing new skills, looking at how these arts organisations are structured, looking at issues these arts organisations have and may face and discussing ways in which community arts leaders and practitioners can develop their practice.

“The places I have selected to explore span a wide scope of the United States that I believe this will fully immerse my research within the diverse communities and cultures across the country.

‘Breaking barriers through art’

“I feel that this project highlights the important role that the artists can play within our community. I believe that through the arts many barriers can be broken down between participant and facilitator – it’s in this creative space that we gain the trust and respect to build a platform from which we can help nurture positive impacts and decision making within our young people.

“The scholarship offers some financial support but it important for me to raise more funds to ensure that I get the most out of my trip and learn from as many community arts organisations as possible across the USA.

“For this, I need the help from my family, friends, fellow creatives and anyone that shares my belief in the arts as a powerful tool that we need to develop to nourish and enrich the lives of young people within our community. The money raised will go towards travel and accommodation whilst I am over in the states. I feel that this is an amazing opportunity for not only my own development but also for the young people and members of the community of which I serve in Nottingham.

‘Arts as a powerful tool’

“This opportunity is extremely important to me, and for the first time will allow me to step back from delivery, training, and evaluation of projects. It will allow me to be an observer in a range of alternative practices and techniques and will nourish my own practice and in turn positively impact my community work back in Nottingham.

“The arts is a powerful tool we can use to support not just young people but the wider community. I want to build up a network of community artists, providing a platform in which we can share and discuss new ideas, techniques, and theories. I also intend to use this research to put together a presentation of which I can use as a tool to promote the importance of the community artist within local communities.”

If you would like to support Ben’s mission, please visit his Go Fund Me page.