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Introducing…our Arts Co-Ordinator, Ali Gadema

A little over a month ago we were joined by our latest staff addition – Ali Gadema – the Arts Co-Ordinator at Blackburn Youth Zone. Charged with the somewhat daunting task of facilitating a vivacious and all encompassing arts activities for Blackburn Youth Zone – we caught up with Ali to find out what exactly attracted him to the role here at Blackburn, and to snaffle a bit of a sneak preview of the sort of things he has lined up…

Ali Gadema

How have you found your first month at Blackburn Youth Zone?

My first month has been really exciting. It’s been great settling in to the office and getting to know my colleagues. It feels wonderful to be working for a company with a can-do attitude. I can approach people with ideas and they don’t look at me like I’m crazy. Maybe it’s because they’re just as crazy as me….

What attracted you to the Arts Co-Ordinator role, here at Blackburn Youth Zone?

My partner’s family live in Blackburn so I am familiar with the area. I have a soft spot for the town and talking to young people in the area, I’ve always felt that there was a need for effective arts programming and projects to engage them. When I saw the Arts Co-Ordinator role come up at Blackburn Youth Zone it made me feel very excited that an organisation in the town were taking arts programming for young people seriously. I had to apply!

Tell us a little more about your background…

I started writing poetry when I was able to pick up a pen. As a young person I faced a lot of challenges in my every day life…it was my writing and a love of music that helped me through those hard times. When I hit my mid-twenties I came across a building in Manchester called Contact Theatre. Contact is an organisation that places young people at the centre of everything they do. After spending some time around the building I was invited to audition for Contact’s young actors company. I was accepted into the company and over the next year worked with some of the most forward-thinking theatre directors in the country, and indeed, internationally. It was through this nurturing relationship that I rediscovered my love of theatre and storytelling. I have since made a number of successful touring theatre pieces, taught young people all over the country and have performed internationally. I am very lucky to have lead this life, and hopefully I can now bring some of these rich experiences to the arts programme at Blackburn Youth Zone.

What will you be working on in the run-up to our launch?

At the moment I am working on a project called Youth Zone Out There. I am planning to wrap the inside of a bus (kind of like an inverted Christmas present) in cardboard, I have recruited a film-making company, mask-maker, three world class graffiti artists and an amazing DJ to drive around the key areas of Blackburn – then invite young people on board to draw all over the bus and take part in workshops in the disciplines of film-making, graffiti, mask work and DJing/music production. The purpose of this project is to recruit young people to take part in follow-up workshops of the discipline of their choice leading up to our opening in February when all the young people involved will have a chance to share what we’ve been working on. This project is not just designed to raise awareness of our services but to set a precedent of the way we want to work with the local communities and the quality of art work we plan to engage with.

What forthcoming Blackburn Youth Zone arts projects are you most excited about?

I’m not excited about one project more than another, there are a number of things in the pipeline at the moment that are looking great – but I’m mainly excited about devising this new programme, engaging young people in Blackburn and putting them at the centre of everything we do.