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8 creative courses you can take at the Barbican


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The Barbican is a leading international arts centre, and presents a diverse range of music, theatre, dance, visual arts and film. It’s one of London’s best-loved venues – and, with applications for their learning programmes open now, you have the opportunity to develop your creative talents there, too.

By taking part in one of their programmes, all of which are totally free, you can receive tuition from world-class artists and musicians, be given opportunities to curate your own film festival, be published in a poetry anthology, or play with a leading jazz band.

The Barbican was opened in 1982 by The Queen, who declared it “one of the modern wonders of the world.” It was developed from designs that aimed to transform London after bombings during the Second World War and is one of London’s best examples of brutalist architecture.

History aside, the Barbican offers a great range of courses for students aspiring for a career in the arts. Here are eight creative courses that you can be part of this summer.

1. Barbican Young Programmers

In this programme you’ll get the chance to curate a film festival at the Barbican’s cinemas. This will involve you researching and creating a brand new programme of films, tailored to your interests and tastes.

Nimmo Ismali, who took part in the programme this year, says: "I wanted the opportunity to work alongside other young people who share my zeal for film in my favourite arts space.

"The Barbican trusts young people. We are provided with a bevy of resources, trained in the details of development and distribution, have meetings with industry professionals, are supported by enthusiastic Barbican team members and gifted with an amazing teacher."

Applications now open

2. Barbican Young Poets

Barbican Young Poets is a poetry workshop that caters for all types of poetic expression, including spoken word, which will help you to explore diverse aspects of writing and performance.

The programme is led by Jacob Sam-La Rose, author of Breaking Silence, who has spent years working with young people in education. He and a team of professional poets and creatives will support you in responding to your passions, personal experiences, and the Barbican’s rich cultural environment to create your own personal portfolio. In addition to this, you’ll contribute to a published poetry anthology.

Applications now open

Visit the Barbican website to read previous anthologies and watch a video of Jacob Sam-La Rose below.

3. (Im)Possibilities

The Barbican is a world-renowned music venue, which hosts a wide range of classical and contemporary performances, from leading classical orchestras such as the London Symphony Orchestra to Nico Muhly or Laura Mvula.

If you’re an aspiring musician, (Im)Possibilities offers you the opportunity to be in a band with musicians from the Guildhall School of Music & Drama and their collaborators. You will even get the chance to perform in their famous music hall.

Applications now open

4. Young Visual Arts Group

For any aspiring visual artists, London is the place to be. The Young Visual Arts Group gives young people who are passionate about art a chance to engage with London’s best-loved galleries, as well as up-and-coming exhibitions, and the opportunity to work with professional artists.

You’ll take part in a range of workshops, visit exhibitions, and receive guided tours from curators, witness talks from successful artists, and gain advice on how to build a career in the art world.

Phoebe Nightingale took part in the Young Visual Arts group from October 2016 to May 2017. She says: "I decided to take part because I am an art student at university, but I often feel a great barrier between my cosy, left wing, art school 'bubble', and the rest of the world.

"In a time when arts education is being cut, culture is becoming a luxury for the elite, and funding is at an all time low, I think that many artists and audiences are becoming disillusioned with the arts world.

"I was intrigued by the Barbican's Young Creatives programmes, because they didn't require grades, an art foundation, or money to apply. They only required an interest in the arts, which is something I definitely have!"

Phoebe adds: "My proudest moment was applauding everyone at the exhibition we put together, and looking around at our work on display, and all the people enjoying it. Not many artists can say their first exhibition was at the Barbican Centre!"

Applications now open

5. Young Jazz Big Band

For those who play trumpet, trombone, saxophone (soprano, tenor, alto, baritone), drums, piano, double bass or guitar, this band is the perfect opportunity for you to work with musicians not only from London, but from New York too.

If you’re inspired by Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Billie Holiday or other sultans of Swing, Young Jazz Big Band is perfect for you.

Applications now open

6. Young Songwriters

You will work with professional musicians and songwriters from across London in order to develop your songwriting skills and further your prospects for a career in the industry. Music is a notoriously difficult industry to crack, but this programme will help to give you the confidence needed to take the next steps. 

Applications now open

7. Barbican Young Reviewers

Looking to develop a confident critical voice? This programme, led by an arts journalist and a YouTuber, will help to build your reviewing skills and give you confidence to both wield a pen and sit in front of and behind a camera. 

Check out the Barbican YouTube channel to see what you could be creating.

Applications are open now

8. Barbican Young Photographers

This scheme will develop both your professional camera skills and help you appreciate photography as an art form in its own right.

Barbican Young Photographers is led by professional photographers and artists and gives you the chance to shoot exhibitions and events across the Barbican’s artistic programme.

Applications are open now

Barbican is currently recruiting for a number of talent development programmes, including the Young Visual Arts Group, the Barbican Young Programmers, the Barbican Young Poets, Young Jazz Big Band and Young Songwriters, and (Im)possibilities.

To learn more about the programmes on offer, visit the Barbican website.

Images: Camilla Greenwell / Matthew Kaltenborn

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