Youth Justice Service children take part in art trail in a first for the UK
Date published: 30 May 2023
In a first for a Wild In Art trail, children from the Youth Justice Service will have their own sculpture proudly representing them in Swindon this summer.
The Big Dog Art Trail has partnered with the Swindon Borough Council-run service, which aims to prevent children and young people from breaking the law and help them from re-offending.
Ten young people are taking part in designing and painting their own Swinpup, one of 42 that will feature when The Big Dog Art Trail goes live on Saturday, July 15, taking their place alongside 30 larger than life Swindog sculptures.
The Swinpups are currently being designed and painted by schools and community groups across Swindon and will be homed during the trail at several locations around the town, including North Swindon Library, Pinetrees Community Centre and the Wyvern Theatre.
While the art trail will be supporting local children’s hospice charity, Julia’s House, with vital funds raised going towards the lifeline of care they provide for seriously ill children and their families, Michael O’Connor, Head of the Youth Justice Service in Swindon, feels the trail is also a fantastic opportunity for another group of vulnerable children to benefit from what will be the event of the summer:
“The ability to be doing something that makes a difference for other children and have an impact at a community level is huge for supporting children in their desistence from future crime,” he said.
“Our children in the criminal justice service are some of the most marginalised in the country. This is a real opportunity to put these children in Swindon on the map, so they feel part of their home town.
“This is a chance for them to see something that is going to have a big impact in Swindon and know that they have played a part in it.
“The reaction from the children has been fantastic. They are having the opportunity to influence and support other vulnerable children in the community and be proud of Swindon as a place they live.”
The children will not only have their artwork on display during the seven-week trail, they will also gain an important qualification for their participation.
Councillor Paul Dixon, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Children’s and Social Care, said: “The trail is a fantastic way to raise the profile of Julia’s House and Swindon as a whole, so to have these children involved in such a project is hugely positive.
“The Swinpups will be seen by hundreds, if not thousands of people around the town, which will be a huge boost to the young people involved and make them feel part of their local community.
“I’m very proud of the work the Youth Justice Service does and I look forward to seeing the future projects they engage with.”
Prime Theatre, a charity based in Swindon which engages children in the arts including theatre and painting, has been working with Swindon Borough Council for the last three years to engage young people in the arts and with arts qualifications.
They are offering the children a bronze arts award, which is equivalent to a GCSE, at the end of the programme.
Helen Morley, Creative Arts Programme Lead at Prime Theatre, said: “The award recognises that they have taken part in an art activity, they have found out about a local artist, they have reviewed something and they have then shared their art with the public.
“It has been so lovely to see the Swinpup grow from a rough set of designs on paper to something that is on the sculpture now, getting painted and looking colourful.
“It’s also been lovely getting to know the group and everyone involved and find out what they’re all bringing to the project from their individual creativity and ideas.”
The children are not doing it on their own, as well as members of staff at the Youth Justice Service getting stuck into the painting, they are being supported by Swindon artist, Sue Bardwell.
Sue has helped them design the sculpture, which focuses on items that mean something to each member of the group as well as messages the children wanted to convey to the wider community.
“I have been involved in community arts for about 20 years and I love the idea of this collaboration – getting young people’s ideas and translating them onto the sculpture,” she said.
“The young people have embraced it. They have just got on with it and that is truly remarkable.
“It is one thing for experienced artists to be taking part in the trail, but for it to be open to young people, giving them the opportunity to have the work they have done on display is an amazing thing for them, Swindon and community art in general.”
Ahead of the opening weekend of the The Big Dog Art Trail on July 15, trail maps will be available to purchase for a small donation to Julia’s House alongside an app where you can collect the sculptures, win rewards and find out where the Swinpups and Swindogs are located around town
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