Developing a Participatory Arts Youth Leadership Programme (South Africa)

Rearabilwe Tsakane. Participants framing their photograph. Credit: Bishop Simeon Trust.


Changing the Story are delighted to announce a small series of follow-on projects awarded to members of the CTS community who have developed strong and sustainable partnerships and generated outstanding momentum via their CTS project for the communities they work with. A full list of projects will be published here soon: Watch this space. CTS would like to thank all those who have contributed to our ongoing work, including the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s Global Challenges Research Fund, the Fraxinus Trust and University of Leeds, for their continued support of this network.


The Bishop Simeon Trust has been working in partnership with the University of Leeds since 2015 through a series of action research collaborations focussed on supporting vulnerable young people in South Africa to use participatory arts as a means of empowering them, developing skills and critical thinking which helps them to claim their voice and become future leaders in their communities and nation. This approach has helped the Bishop Simeon Trust to develop a youth leadership programme model, which uses a participatory arts based youth led participatory filmmaking model and supports young people to use the creative space to consider their rights, the issues in their lives and communities, along with the potential resolutions to problems, transforming the common narrative and helping them to identify community and peer education campaigns aimed at change. This model also acts as a means of early identification for intervention and support from child support workers.

Over the last two years South Africa has faced the common global challenge of the COVID19 pandemic. This has absorbed the capacity of  stretched social and health services and we are yet to see the broader impact of this on children in the poorest communities. The Trust worked with Changing the Story and the University of Leeds throughout this to help mitigate the threats to what we had achieved in our youth leadership programme, developing a secure online forum for continued engagement with vulnerable young people, using creative arts as the basis for exploration of the experience of the pandemic, as well as the broader and continuing issues they faced in their lives. Now that our local partners have been able to reopen post lockdown, our Changing the Story follow-on fund project aims to review our youth leadership model post-COVID19, map out the challenges of integrating the digital and face to face models and to further develop our Youth Leadership Programme with the inclusion of photography and PhotoVoice in our arts based model.