As we complete the second pilot of our arts education programme for schools, Achieve Your Greatness (AYG), we’ve been chatting to colleagues and friends about what arts education means to them.

Tara Siddall is a writer, performer, theatre maker and musician. She studied Literature at Edinburgh University, Acting at The London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art and Royal Holloway where she obtained her Masters in Poetry. As a founder member of Cabaret ensemble, The Ruby Dolls, she makes shows using close harmony singing, comedy and storytelling. The Ruby Dolls have recently completed a critically acclaimed tour of The Brides of Bluebeard, a gothic retelling of the classic fairytale.

Tara was one of our workshop leaders in 2015 and we are delighted to have her back this year for the next phase of Achieve Your Greatness.

Here, Tara shares some of her own experiences of arts education, why she think it’s important, and some of her experiences leading AYG…

AWF: Why did you get involved with AYG?

TS: I was lucky enough to know Abram Wilson. He was a man of such talent and dedication and shared his passion with everyone he met. He was always curious, always learning and sought to collaborate with people who inspired him. Jennie and Abram were a fantastic team and both hugely creative in different ways. Since his death it’s been a privilege to watch Jennie found and develop this wonderful organisation in his memory building on Abram’s ability to ignite the creative spark in others.

Abram always believed that art has the power to transform lives and that we had a responsibility as artists to nurture the next generation. He was an inspirational educator and knew how bring out the best in young people. When I see funding for arts education getting slashed left, right and centre, I feel such frustration. This drives me to emulate Abram and his spirit by working with young people to help them find their creative voice and achieve their greatness.

AWF: What do you want to achieve through AYG?

TS: AYG is about immersing young people in the arts and giving them an opportunity to try out different skills. A lot of young people don’t have the experience of having their creativity or self-expression validated or encouraged, but AYG aims to change that.

Through art we want young people to feel able to express their creativity. This program is not about ‘getting it right’ but about learning how to generate and develop creative ideas across many different art forms. Crucially, it is about collaboration and a group supporting each other’s different strengths and abilities and trying something new.

We show them that there are lots of different ways to be creative throughout their lives, as a career or simply a passion that they will explore for pleasure.

Finally, what is your favourite memory of AYG so far?

My favourite memory is of one boy who found it very difficult to join in. He was easily distracted and lacking in confidence, often saying quite negative things about his abilities and preferring to stick with his two best friends. After a day of working on the program and being given some responsibility to lead his group he began to contribute and share his ideas. By the final sharing he was starring in his piece, having contributed to writing (the text, song lyrics and music) and had the whole audience in stitches at his hilarious comic acting. It was wonderful to see him blossom while also being so supportive and generous to his team. There are many stories like this I could tell you and many participants who have overcome their fears to gain confidence and learn new skills. To see the development of the group and the small individual creative triumphs makes me proud to be a part of AYG.