Jesuit Social Services’ Artful Dodgers Studios in Collingwood is one of Victoria’s longest-running community spaces for marginalised young people often experiencing multiple and complex challenges in their lives.
The Studios invite young people to explore music and art in a safe, welcoming and vibrant space. It creates, as one participant describes it, a sense of ‘radical inclusivity’. The ongoing physical distancing restrictions in Victoria, however, meant the team had to urgently adapt the way services were delivered to ensure participants don’t feel shut out while we all stay in.
Jesse Sullivan, Music Studio Coordinator and mentor at the Studios, recognised the effects COVID-19 restrictions had on participants. “A lot of our young people were quite upset. They understood why they couldn’t come and perform and create, but it was really hard,” says Jesse.
“So, the question of how we can keep engaging people was on my mind. In just two or three weeks, myself and other members of the team learned how to stream live through your computer, how to utilise Zoom and to facilitate the same music sessions we used to have.”
Megaphone and Braided are productions that demonstrate how the Studios have adapted their work so participants can perform and connect. Megaphone is a regular lunchtime concert that started five years ago. It gives participants the opportunity to perform in front of fellow participants, mentors and the wider Jesuit Social Services community. The first online Megaphone lunch meant the chance for participants to develop confidence and performance skills was not lost to the pandemic. The event was a huge success.
Similarly Braided, an original Podcast series, ensured that a diverse group of eight participants could tell their stories of isolation for its second season. For Co-Host Agum Maluach, the thing she treasures most about creating Braided is “the friendships I have with the people who are in this with me”. The voices heard are those of young people who are not often represented in traditional media. Reflecting on this, fellow Co-Host Matisse Laida, says “it’s important that these conversations are broadcasted and normalised”.
Despite every challenge presented, the Artful Dodgers Studios community has grown ever closer, more connected, more braided together.
Find out about the next Megaphone lunch by signing up to the Studios mailing list at artfuldodgers.tv/get-involved/
Listen to the Braided podcast at braidedpodcast.com or wherever you get your podcasts