Youth unemployment in the North East – is performing arts the solution?

TALENT: Lucy French outside of the Red Dreams charity

TALENT: Lucy French outside of the Red Dreams charity

Youngsters in the North East are turning to performing arts to tackle unemployment. Tside reporter Jack Crute takes a look at some of the great work going on in performing arts groups and how this is helping to boosts job prospects for young people across the region.


LOCAL drama teachers and performing arts schools are encouraging teenagers to engage in performing arts in order to develop vital skills which will help them gain employment.

There are clear benefits from partaking in such activities – such as teamwork and confidence building – but will it all really help?

A report published by the House of Commons Library last week shows that the North East suffers from the highest unemployment figures in the whole of the UK.

Currently, 9.3% of the North East is unemployed, compared with the UK average of 6.9%, and a massive 19.1% of 16-24 year olds are neither in work or education.

While it does feel like teenagers’ futures in the North East are bleak, some people are helping to change the tide.

Red Dreams Charity

Red Dreams offers youngsters in Hartlepool a place to express themselves, perform and develop their skills.

The organisation last year opened the doors on a unit which houses rehearsal rooms, recording studios, photography facilities and a whole host of other state-of-the-art equipment to give members vital experience.

The unit sees up to 200 teenagers a week and offers a variety of different activities and opportunities.

The charity was launched by Pete and Dawn McManus, after their 16-year-old son Kyle  died following a brain haemorrhage in 2007. Kyle was a lover of performing arts.

The team now employ five interns as part of the Government’s Creative Employment Programme, offering young people the chance to develop their technical skills in music and social media.

One of its young acts, Nick Dixon, auditioned for The Voice and received acclaim from judges, Jessie J and Tom Jones.

He tried out for a second time earlier this year and received more strong comments, but didn’t quite manage to get that all important chair-spin.

Another of Red Dream’s artists, Lucy French, recently released her own extended play, entitled Vicious Cycles.

The 18-year-old, who studies at Hartlepool’s Brinkburn Sixth Form College, says that working with Red Dreams has been a “life changing experience”.

Lucy, who is signed to home-grown record label Otiss Music, plans to continue working on new music with another EP on the way.

The record label is home to 10 acts, including Elena Larkin, Paul Hart and Lost in Paradise – all of whom have released music on the independent label.

Two of it’s artists, Matty “Consept” Kitching and Kate Williams, recently auditioned for The X Factor and have made it through to perform in front of judges Simon Cowell, Cheryl Cole and co. Maybe this Christmas will see Hartlepool’s very first number one single!?

Performing Arts in Education

In the small town of Hartlepool alone, there are over 10 dance schools and several more drama groups and Glee clubs, all giving youngsters an opportunity to have fun and express themselves.

While these out-of-school clubs are greatly beneficial to many children, it’s surprising to discover that drama and music no longer form part of the national curriculum, meaning the subjects could get overlooked.

However, most schools in the local area have chosen to continue investing in the subjects.

Ellie Hopwood, head of performing arts at Manor College of Technology in Hartlepool, believes the teaching of the subject is vital.

In 2016, Manor College of Technology will open its doors to a brand new school building, with performing arts taking centre stage.

The build will include a brand new performing arts hub right in the centre of the school, featuring state-of-the-art technology and equipment to further enhance the teaching of drama and music.

In 2011, the school invested over £50,000 in a ‘Boom Room’, equipped with a recording studio and musical instruments to give students and local residents a place to experiment with music.

Success Stories

It’s unlikely that every Northern performer will go on to have number one singles or a Hollywood penthouse, but there are many success stories to already come out of the region.

Earlier this year, a group of teens from Hartlepool made it to the semi-final in CBBC’s Glee Club competition, and recent X Factor winners Little Mix and James Arthur come from the North.

In an economy that’s tougher than ever to survive in, nobody can deny that the skills performing arts can provide are beneficial, but only time will tell if all of the hard work will pay off.

from Tside