The Sorrell Foundation has been supporting creativity amongst young people since 1999, when it was established by Sir John and Lady Frances Sorrell. It has been a prolific success so far, through schools, colleges and universities around the country. A particular achievement is their most recent endeavour, the National Art and Design Saturday Club, where selected students aged 14-16 can attend Saturday morning art clubs hosted by their local college or university. The aim of this project is the instil a creative confidence within the younger generation for a career path in the arts and to fully demonstrate what's available outside of the government curriculum. Expert tutors and professionals guide the young artists through processes such as screen printing, sculpture, textile design, to name but a few.
Cass Art has been proud to sponsor the Saturday Club and this year is no different. This November we welcome the latest club members to the capital, where they will experience the range of galleries, museums and culture on offer. Next Summer the students will return to exhibit their work at Somerset House, demonstrating their advanced skills in whatever style pleases them most.
We spoke to Sir John and Lady Frances Sorrell follow a deeper and more personal take on the project:
1. What were your Saturday morning art club experiences like? Was there a particular person, teacher for example, who stressed the importance of the arts to you?
Frances Sorrell - I went to Saturday classes at Epsom, which was close to where I lived. I went because my mother suggested it - I did a lot of art at home!
John Sorrell - I went to Hornsey College of Art, which is now part of Middlesex University.
My art teacher, Mr Ramsay, suggested that it would be something I might enjoy.
Like many of our contemporaries, we both started our careers in those Saturday morning art and design classes when we were 14 years old. We want to give talented young people the same life-changing opportunity. We believe the Club offers a real pathway for many to develop their skills and conﬁdence and to ﬁnd worthwhile and rewarding careers. Just as we did.
2. How does the process of selecting students happen, presumably it’s down to the teachers in the participating schools?
Once the college and universities join our network, the tutors ask teachers at their local schools to recommend pupils. We ask that they select those who will benefit most. Sometimes this is the young people with the most talent, sometimes it will be those who have no other access to creative subjects, sometimes it is young people who find the school environment difficult.
For us, it is really important that this opportunity is open to everyone, regardless of their background or where they live.
It does need commitment from the young people, and we are really impressed by their dedication in coming along every Saturday morning and working really hard throughout the year.
They have the chance to develop skills in lots of new media and techniques and the work produced for the Summer Show at the end of the year is really impressive.
As well as improving their art and design skills, they also grow in confidence and self-esteem and learn other valuable skills like teamworking, communication and motivation.
3. The NADSC is starting its fifth year, have you seen the progress of the students who were with the club in the first few years?
Progression is a really valuable element of the Saturday Club. It's hard to measure uniformly because colleges and universities have joined us at different times. But those who have been with us since 2009 and 2010 are telling us that around 35% of their Cu members are enrolling on courses at their institutions. In Cleveland College of Art and Design, for instance, two young people attended the Club for three years and then enrolled on diploma courses at the college. As students, they also supported the Saturday Club as teaching assistants, sharing their experience with new Club members. They are both now in their first year of BA courses, Beth is studying Theatre Design in London and Martin is studying Textile and Surface Design in Hartlepool.
4. The scheme has been a fantastic success so far, your aim is to reach 2000 students in the next three years, do you have any further plans for the future?
We really want the National Art & Design Saturday Club to carry on growing. If we can set up Clubs in 60 colleges , we'll be reaching about 2,000 young people. But it could grow even more!
Support from our friends like Cass Art is really important in helping the Club to keep on growing.
Alongside the Saturday Club, this year we also piloted a new programme of Creative Career Visits. The idea of these is to give young people aged 14-16 a 'look in the kitchen' of a creative business. It's a one day visit to a company, with a structure suggested by us that will give the young visitor a really good insight into what the company does and how it works. It's also an opportunity for the young person to find out how the young designers in the company got their first job - what they studied and whether they did work experience or placements.
After the visit, the young person writes a short report that we will build into a resource that other people can use, a young person's view of the creative industries.
5. Has the introduction of young people into the world of professional designers and artists rejuvenated the work environment? Is it possible that you have stumbled across the most innovative and prolific collaboration project ever?
We hope so! All our projects at the Sorrell Foundation have this model of engagement at their core that links young people in school directly with professional practitioners and with students and tutors at all stages of education. This joined up approach is really central to our work and the chance to work directly with professionals is incredibly valuable.
In return, designers tell us that they learn a lot from the young people, who bring a fresh approach and are often really fearless in their ideas.
NADSC is a superb project and Cass Art is extremely proud to be involved, head to their website to discover how you can join in and check out their online videos for more detail!
All photo credits to Kit Oates.