Empowering the next generation
While Tonic knows that change has to come from the top, we also see the importance of fostering change at grass roots level. Since 2018 we have delivered Participate, an extensive programme for young people who are training for careers in the performing arts.
Through a series of workshop-style sessions, we support them to develop resilience, judgement, empathy and respect for one another. We also work with their teachers, enabling them to reflect on and respond to the values and behaviours that are increasingly shaping students’ expectations of training and careers.
Initially prompted by the issues in the performing arts industries that the #MeToo movement highlighted, Participate was Tonic’s practical response. We wanted to disrupt patterns which encouraged young people to accept unhealthy power dynamics as the inevitable price of a career in the arts and the initial focus of Participate was heavily focused in this area.
While we still deliver this core work on supporting students to identify acceptable vs unacceptable uses of power and associated topics such as consent and forming respectful working relationships, the focus of Participate has expanded. It now encompasses a wide range of workshops relating to equality, inclusion and identity, all delivered in a way that is tailor-made for performing arts students and which is pragmatic yet empowering and hopeful for the future.
The programme for teaching and administrative staff that we deliver alongside our student sessions creates space for reflection as well as providing a range of highly useable tools.
The popularity of our Participate sessions has demonstrated the great need for them. In the current academic year over 1,750 students and staff have experienced Participate workshops.
Future plans for Participate include developing further sessions that respond to the nuance of teaching ballet and music. If you or your institution would be interested in working on this with us, please get in touch.
“After the sessions, I feel I have gained the tools to navigate my way through difficult situations in the industry. Being able to communicate assertively and stand by my morals is absolutely necessary practice not just for work, but life.”Third-year Acting Student
“I think this was really useful for us all to take stock and look at the way we teach and how that can affect the students not only whilst in our lessons but also for the rest of their lives.”Faculty Member