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Arts help young tearaways turn away from offending
YOUNG criminals in Oxford have turned to art in a bid to give something back to community.
Eight young people finished a three-week programme run by Oxfordshire County Council on Friday that has seen them make and sell artwork, giving profits to local charities.
The Summer Arts College aims to help young people currently serving a community sentence get back into education and employment and to reduce reoffending.
Eighteen-year-old Ryan Williams, who is taking part in the scheme, said the project has kept him “busy” and taught him new skills.
He said: “It doesn’t matter how bad things get in your life. You’ve got to pick yourself up and get on with it.”
Mr Williams declined to say what offences he had committed. All the participants in the scheme – who called themselves ‘United Dreams’ – have been awarded a nationally-recognised Bronze Level Arts Award, the equivalent to a B grade in a GCSE subject.
The young people decided to donate £425 for the Ark T Centre in Cowley and Support for Young People Affected by Crime (SAFE!) to share, after selling their art at market stalls in Oxford city centre during August.
Henrietta Gill, community fundraiser at the Ark T Centre, said the charity was thrilled to be chosen.
She said: “I think the project is absolutely brilliant.
“It’s helped them to gain skills and I think they’ve chosen to make some very interesting pieces.
“From everyone at Ark T – we are thrilled.”
The project began on August 5, and finished on Friday with a stall in Bonn Square where the youngsters sold cupcakes, smoothies, artwork and performed songs they had written.
They were also presented with their Bronze Level Arts Award certificates by the county council’s education, training and employment officer, Tim Parkhouse, at New Road Baptist Church.
Rory Campbell also known as Rawz, who guided the young offenders in workshops at Meadowbrook College in Marston, said the skills learnt by the young people will “stay with them for the rest of their lives.”
The 29-year-old, who also works at the Ark T Centre, said: “They’ve had a structure and a place for them to be occupied, and have experienced lots of different art forms.”
Mr Campbell helped the youngsters write lyrics to songs and create painted matchstick boxes filled with notes about their dreams.
Funded by the Youth Justice Board and Arts Council England, it is the fourth year that Oxfordshire County Council has run the programme.
County council cabinet member for children, young people and families, Melinda Tilley, said: “The project is about providing an opportunity for young people to engage with the arts and develop their creativity in a safe, fun environment, and to produce positive outcomes in relation to offending.“
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