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SOAPBOX: It’s not about funding applications and grants or ticket sales

Sarah Longbottom of Ngā Rangatahi Toa
I got the feels as our Prime Minister asserted the necessity of having ‘arts and culture integrated into all areas of NZ society’, but I also got a niggle...


Introducing our latest Soapbox, by Sarah Longbottom, Founder of Ngā Rangatahi Toa:

I have worked in some form of youth development for almost 15 years and, through my mahi with Ngā Rangatahi Toa (NRT), have been embedded in the creative sector for 8 of those years. ‘Youth’ and ‘creativity’ is a potent mix, and our mahi at NRT is testament to this. Holding creativity at the core of youth development enables truly remarkable and transformative outcomes. The same kind of alchemy is possible by holding youth development principles at the core of the creative sector, and the time for this alchemy is now.

Along with the rest of the creative sector, I got the feels as our Prime Minister asserted the necessity of having ‘arts and culture integrated into all areas of NZ society’, but I also got a niggle - I wondered just how ready we (the creative sector) are to lead this integration, because lead this we must. This is not crumbs, nor is it just a seat at the table. We must see this for what it is: a call to action to the creative sector to share how we move in the world in order to change that world for the better.

To be ready, one of the key lessons we must take from the youth development playbook is to identify, interrogate and then unlearn the narrative we have internalised, in this case about what it means to be ‘in the arts’ or ‘creative’. For our NRT rangatahi, they have been told they do not matter, they are ‘less than’ when compared to others, and they are an economic drain on our country. While the context is different I think the predominant narrative in the creative sector is largely very similar. We need to find a way to unlearn the untruths and back ourselves in the role a creative should take in an upside-down world, as humans capable of imagining and then creating the way the world could and should be.

I understand creativity as a panacea for the disconnection, sadness and suffering in our world. It is not funding applications and grants or ticket sales. This is only the reality we have been served, and this has perpetuated the narrative we must now escape. To me, creativity is the essence of what it means to be human and it is up to us as a sector to integrate this into the fabric of our society. The door has been opened; we need to leave our baggage behind and walk through.

By Sarah Longbottom

Sarah Longbottom is Founder of Ngā Rangatahi Toa, a South Auckland based organisation that creates environments in which high-risk young people can be their best selves. Sarah is a previous ART Emerging Creative Entrepreneur of the Year and has been honoured as the NZ International Woman of Courage Award by the US Embassy.

Written by

Sarah Longbottom

31 May 2018

STUFF: Founder of Ngā Rangatahi Toa. Board member of Basement Theatre. Co-host of CreativeMorningsAkl. Advocate for the transformative power of creativity. LOVES: Buddy. eighthirty coffee. Piha. Nature. My truck. NYC. Nick Cave. Change. All things creative.