The Community Foundation is highlighting the vibrant charity Soft Touch Arts – a creative organisation which helps disadvantaged young people who have challenges in their lives and others to build confidence and find their talents in life through arts, media and music projects. Chris Wigmore, one of the directors, who organises many of the projects, told us about the charity’s work.
Soft Touch Arts was founded in 1986 to achieve increased participation in the arts, especially focussing on involving disadvantaged young people in creating arts, be it music, fine art or performance. The children they work with are generally between the ages of 11-19, although their community-based projects often target both younger children and adults.
The children they help are frequently disadvantaged; young offenders are also helped as are children who have been excluded or whom are not attending school for some reason; children who have English as a second language or who are finding school difficult. Between 2011-2012 Soft Touch worked with 1,131 young people and 95% of these lived in deprived neighbourhoods. Creative activities are used as a means of expression and to enable communication skills, as well as to help children to find out what they are good at, which may be a creative skill, or it might be supporting others or contributing and developing ideas. Soft Touch run art projects across the city and the county, some of which are issue-based and relevant to the community. Police in the neighbourhoods Soft Touch carry out street-based work, say that in the areas and times they work, anti-social behaviour has been reduced by up to 100%.
In 2012, Soft Touch received £1,000 from the Community Foundation for a craft project in New Parks to support unemployed women and people with caring responsibilities. Recently they have tackled such diverse topics as bullying, healthy eating, and guns, gangs and knives. These projects are developed after there has been a needs analysis conducted in a particular area, to ensure that the work is relevant.
The labyrinthine building in Clarendon Park utilised by Soft Touch Arts at the moment, is soon to be left for a much more public and accessible space at 50 New Walk in the heart of Leicester City. It will house the staff team of 11 and provide a range of creative spaces for young people. In association with De Montfort University, some students are able to get involved as mentors to the young people. Chris says that it is always their aim to try to move young people into leadership roles as volunteers, peer mentors or future sessional workers. New projects planned for 2013-2016 include Creative Mentors, which will support young people to develop creative and enterprise skills; Well Cool, which will create positive healthy eating messages and Hidden Treasures – an arts and heritage programme to facilitate intergenerational relations and help young people learn about the city’s history.
Soft Touch are organising a special business reception at 50 New Walk on Wednesday 17th April from 5-7pm. It’s a chance for local companies to learn more about the charity, meet some of the young people and staff involved and find out how they can get involved in supporting the work of Soft Touch. If you are a local company and would like to attend, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0116 2702706.