In 2014, Western Edge Youth Arts launched a new program using theatre as a vehicle to engage young people with their education and connect communities across Geelong.
We hoped the program would lead to the development of a culturally diverse emerging artist’s ensemble in North Geelong that would build on our founding belief that young people from culturally diverse and low socio-economic areas should be given the opportunity to make socially engaged art to change the world and discover new perspectives along the way.
Based on our previous work in Flemington we knew that by encouraging diverse young people to tell their own stories we would develop their capacity to take on roles as cultural leaders in their communities.
This ambitious three-year cultural leadership program called Are We Geelong, was devised and facilitated in partnership with North Geelong Secondary College, Geelong High School, Geelong Youth Services and Diversitat.
Geelong Youth Services engage and support young people ‘at risk’ by providing youth friendly venues and publicity for youth issues, and Diversitat is the peak migrant/refugee support organisation working in the Geelong area. Geelong High School and North Geelong Secondary College’s involvement enriched these resources by providing the connection to traditionally hard-to reach culturally diverse teenagers, while also sharing venues, welfare support, teaching expertise and publicity.
Successful engagement with young people was developed through the willingness of artists, teachers, youth workers, social workers and the young people themselves, to grow through this new and unique partnership. The strength of their connection has enabled young people and their communities, who have largely been excluded from the arts due to a range of economic and cultural barriers, to connect and tell their own stories.
In 2015 the Geelong Edge Ensemble was established including 6 participants from African backgrounds, one Iranian and one Moari. The members have taken leading roles in creating work that examines how local and cultural identities intersect and the many ways that young people’s hopes, fears and aspirations come to the fore in a rapidly changing city.
Through the authentic youth voice of the content of the work, community audiences have engaged with local stories and issues, developing dialogue, understanding and community pride.
The following is a sample of audience responses from surveys taken at Belonging Dec 2015
I am thrilled to see how far our children have progressed. Amazing. Keep it up guys, we are with you.
I am blown away by the gifts and talents of these young people- WOW! Whilst respecting the differences in culture I encourage the refugees that have lived with us that inside we are all the same. The same need to love and be loved, to care, to protect and share our lives. Our lives are richer for embracing one another. A wonderful, thought provoking performance.
The different experiences, concepts re culture expressed. Re work, stigma, clubs, struggles, changing from position of authority
I work at NGSC and wanted to support the students. I have seen them performing before and appreciate their talent. I am so proud of these kids and seen several of them grow from tiny year 7s into amazing young adults
Its relevance to the Geelong community. Lots of people here need to see this story
Anyone can put on an act, but to share your story with that much emotion, dedication and passion is amazing!
I loved both performances, much to think about. Values and family, how we can be parts of all types of families. Inspiring and made me more curious. These kids are fantastic spokesmen and educators.
Wonderful- I wish everyone could see these performances.
This must be continued every season for people to understand each other.
The Geelong Edge Ensemble cast features:
You can get to know each of them better by reading their profiles at our emerging artists page.
Timeline of the Are We Geelong Project
July 2014 - Project launched in North Geelong Secondary College.
November 2014 - after school group from North Geelong Secondary College perform a work-in-progress work called Forbidden at the North Geelong Croatian club to a community audience.
December 2014 – The Are We Geelong participants from the after school group perform excerpts from Forbidden at Footscray Community Arts Centre as part of WEYA’s major Scheherazade community performance.
May 2015 – young people perform a completed version of Forbidden to a community audience of 160 people at North Geelong Secondary College.
July 2015 Geelong Edge – emerging artists’ ensemble launched in North Geelong.
July 2015 in-school project launched at Geelong High School.
October 2015 – Geelong High School group performs Shakespeare’s Trilogy at the Shenton Performing Arts Centre to audience of 160 people.
December 2015 – Geelong Edge performs work-in-progress of Belonging at the Spanish Social Club in North Geelong.
February 2016 – East Geelong community youth theatre project established at Geelong High School.
May 2016 – Of Longing and Belonging performed. Geelong Edge and East Geelong groups perform a double bill in a sold out short season at the Courthouse Youth Arts Centre to a total audience of 260 people. See a short film here of the show.
2017 and beyond - The Geelong Edge is currently developing Belonging Interactive, which follows in the footsteps of the hugely successful Iago Interactive, created by another of Western Edge’s success stories, the Edge Ensemble.
Western Edge also has plans to restage Belonging again in 2017.
This project has been supported by: