Urban Ambush

Urban Ambush is a 4 week summer festival of exciting creative courses during which young people aged 8-18 take over Watermans. The entire building buzzes with creativity as young people – from all backgrounds and of all abilities – work with inspiring, professional artists to develop new projects over a week, learning new skills and showcasing their work. The project culminates in a main-gallery public exhibition of the work produced.

Impact of Urban Ambush 2015 Urban Ambush 2015 built on the success of the 2014 programme to deliver a more varied range of workshops for young people than ever, with 15 workshops delivered over 4 weeks. Developed in consultation with local young people, the programmeincluded Hip-hop and Fashion, Manga, digital animation, digital game design, documentary film making, Sound Machine (light and sound mixing) and VJ/DJ.

Workshops were run for children aged 8-12 and young people aged 13-18. Responding to customer feedback from 2014 and our understanding of local audiences, we successfully launched free wrap around care, allowing children of working parents to attend and also to allow young people to extend their experience into new art forms.

Young people could be dropped from 9am for a supervised breakfast and stay after 4pm for ‘taster’ sessions where they could try other art forms. This proved extremely popular both with 3 out of 4 participants staying on for these sessions.

The young people taking part were drawn from across Hounslow and surrounding areas, with 156 young people taking up 206 workshop places overall. Of these, young people with special and additional needs took up 55% of the places. Overall 26% had significant disabilities which prevent their participation in mainstream life. Disabilities ranged from depression and learning difficulties to cerebral palsy and autism, some requiring one-on-one support.

The children and young people with disabilities integrated seamlessly with the mainstream participants. This was achieved with the support given by care workers from the London Borough of Hounslow Children’s Team and Watermans’ team of specialist Youth Workers especially recruited for the programme. It was also made possible by the fact that we consciously offered art forms that we knew would have a wide appeal: in particular Sound Machine (sound and light mixing) and Manga (detailed drawing which appealed to autistic young people).

“I don’t like going to autism camps, because nobody really talks or plays there. They all sit in the corner being quiet. Here people talk and play and everybody is the same.” UA Participant, 2015

We would like to share a typical story to give a little more background about the kind of children and young people with disabilities we welcome to Urban Ambush:

Hannah’s* Story

Hannah hadn’t been to school for several months as she had experienced severe bullying and was receiving counselling through CAMHS (child and adolescent mental health service). She has a learning difficulty and some medical needs. Her mother was extremely concerned when she dropped her off on day one of Urban Ambush, worried that she would be isolated and unhappy as it was her first experience in several months of mixing with peers outside of her family. Her mother came to collect her at 4.30 but Hannah asked to stay until 6.15 as she was having a fantastic time! She then booked into courses for the next two weeks (through a few remaining bursaries). Hannah participated in the Sound Machine project – making music and performing live on stage on Friday was something her mother never thought she would be capable of but was in fact a real opportunity to shine and feel very proud. Over the three weeks she was with us this young person flourished and made new friends, she enjoyed creative challenges and tried her hand at many new opportunities. (*Name has been changed)

Urban ambush is about helping Young People to have fun exploring new artforms, thus supporting their personal development. A large part of the workshops is concerned with the young people experiencing coming together as a group, making new friends, exchanging ideas and working together to develop a project – all key life skills.

“As the week went on and I saw his involvement in the workshop… he had a genuine interest and need to learn and become better and better.”

UA2015 Youth Worker

Urban Ambush also encourages young people to push beyond what they knew before, with the wide range of bespoke courses and new art forms giving the opportunity to experience something completely new, again building confidence and skills. 54% of the young people had no prior experience of the workshop art form. All the participants were asked how positive they felt about the workshop experience and they reported an approval rating of 94%.

We also asked the young people how they felt participation in the workshops had helped them in their personal development, on a scale of 1-5 and the results (fig 1) show the impact of the workshops overall on their confidence in leading a team, expressing their ideas and more.


Extending Urban Ambush’s Impact

An important part of Urban Ambush was the engagement of young peoples’ support networks and the wider community. So the courses were complemented by showcases at the end of each week to which families and supporters were invited. These wellattended events enabled young people to display their work and the skills they had developed, giving a sense of achievement.

In September and October, an exhibition of the work from Urban Ambush 2015 was displayed at the Watermans Gallery. The exhibition launch event was attended by families, the Mayor of Hounslow, local business dignitaries and other interested parties.

The visitor’s book shows the positive impact the young people’s work had in the community:

“Great inspiration for young minds – keep up the good work!’ UA Exhibition Visitor

“Really enjoyed this exhibition, make me want to laugh and dance! Especially liked the ‘Growler’ animation. Well done all involved!UA Exhibition Visitor

We aim to build on the success of 2015’s festival in 2016, with more bursary places, an exciting creative line up and more opportunities to engage with the Arts in new and interesting ways. If you are interested in finding out more or in supporting Urban Ambush, please contact Vikki via info@watermans.org.uk.