We recently attended a unique fundraising event in London, at the capitals tallest building ‘The Shard’. The fundraiser was for a pioneering youth charity that helps young people to go places ‘The Young Urban Arts Foundation’ (YUAF).
The YUAF is on a mission to transform the lives of young people by strengthening their mental wellbeing through urban arts. The event was hosted by Radio 1, Drum and Bass DJ ‘René LaVice’ and featured a host of young YUAF beneficiaries that are making serious waves in the music industry.
The charity was established back in 2009 by its CEO Kerry O'Brien to empower disadvantaged and vulnerable 8-19 year olds. Kerry, herself an award winning artist, songwriter and motivational speaker is dedicated to making positive change to the lives of young people through self expression and the arts. Kerry and her team's innovative approach has found her to be quite an inspiration to the young people that YUAF work with.
During the organisations early work they quickly identified that they were working with a lot of young people that were struggling with their mental health.
In order to combat the challenges they were faced with, YUAF developed bespoke initiatives and workshops. Their sole aim designed to tackle the difficult issues that young people are dealing with both with an immediate and long-term focus.
Their workshops and projects take place at the very heart of communities across the country, in schools and community centres and thanks to the charities ‘Out Reach Media Bus’ (a multi-media studio on wheels) wherever else they were needed.
One of the charities most successful initiatives is the ‘Skip 2 The Beat’ programme. A programme designed by health professionals, service users and arts practitioners that support young people to face their mental wellbeing by providing tools to better express and manage their emotions.
The programme uses creative arts to provide an outlet for expression, a place for play and inspiration, as well as tools for self- reflection.
Users of the service are exposed to working in close proximity with experienced artist facilitators that lead the creative workshops and build safe communities for young people to explore and develop their mental resilience.
With an incredible 1 in 10 young people suffering from a mental health condition and 45% of those diagnosed prior to hitting 14. YUAF’s early intervention and prevention work is needed more now than ever. With more and more services being cut in the youth sector and frontline youth centres closing, the charity is providing a lifeline to those that are often the hardest to reach through the positivity of the urban arts.
So is YUAF’s approach working? You betcha. Since their incarnation seven years ago they have helped thousands of young people. Their creative workshops offer a wide range of sessions that directly to speak to them. All workshops are mentored by arts practitioners including many renown music producers, poets and rappers. All of whom the young people can feel a natural affinity with.
The young service users have a range of opportunities to explore, from DJ sessions, performance arts through to animation and graffiti courses. The approach has been so successful that the programmes have become a hot bed of emerging talent with a number of its beneficiaries being cited as future stars.
During the YUAF fundraiser we were lucky enough to enjoy some intimately electrifying performances by one of the charities celebrity supporters ‘The Grime Violinist’. A mind-blowingly talented violinist who most recently collaborated with A-list star Stormzy) she performed an exclusive track with London rapper ‘Koder’ - an ex beneficiary of YUAF who has been championed as future star on the cusp of commercial success by industry insiders and his peers.
Other talented YUAF artists on the night included the awesomely talented Yung AK and award winning singer/songwriter Jerusha and artist Sonority who exhibited and auctioned off specially curated artistic pieces.
We listened to emotionally charged and empowering stories that gave a snapshot of life prior to finding solace and the tools to better their lives via the charity and workshops that gave them inspiration, direction and the confidence to follow their dreams.
'The Grime Violinist' (Tanya Cracknell) became involved with the YUAF via the education department at The Royal Albert Hall and she is so pleased that she did. She very much recognises the importance of safeguarding personal wellbeing "Music is an outlet of expression. Creating music calms me. If I'm anxious, I can often express how I am feeling in music much more than through words. It's so important to take care of your own wellbeing by continuing to 'do you', and maintain self-belief with the help of a supportive team behind you."
Koder became involved with the YUAF as a student at college, he feels they have been good mentors for him throughout his journey. When talking of the influence YUAF have had on him, he passionately explains "It has inspired me, it made me wanna give more than I take. They are coming with a platform for you to express yourself and that for me, at that specific moment was key."
As an emerging artist tipped for success Koder is very aware of maintaining his own mental wellbeing "If there are problems out of my control, I deal with it like its out of my control. I stop worrying about it and focus on the things I actually can monitor and direct."
Koder feels that is important for young people who may have been in a similar situation to him before getting involved in YUAF, to understand that they are not alone. "I think it's so important to know when you feel alone, that you are not alone, the opportunity just hasn’t presented its self yet, but the opportunity will always present its self, if you’ve got your eyes open for it."
We caught up quickly with Kerry who said this about the success of the night; "The young ambassadors did YUAF proud, I am really pleased with our first major fundraising event. To everyone that attended, donated, bought tickets or auctioned items, thank you so much. I hope the night has inspired more people to make a difference."
It’s clear that YUAF’s creative hands-on–approach is making a difference and getting the results it was created for. We look forward to following the charity and its future rising stars. The charity donation for the fundraiser is still live please click here to donate.
C.C Magazine would like to say a special thank you to renown visual director and photographer Mark Johnson AKA Mrghostrain6 who very kindly joined the C.C team for the YUAF event. You can see more of Marks creative work here.