The Gold Arts Award: unlocking creative potential

4th October 2022 - Sharon Rugg

Written by Tess Parker, Story Tiller Communications

COVID-19 put the brakes on learning and life for many young people. But for some, this period unlocked new creative paths. This case study focuses on the journey of Bradford-based student Azimun Begum. Her hunger to learn saw her overcome tough times to achieve a coveted Gold Arts Award. Read below to discover how she found her voice, creative spark and leadership skills.

The Gold Arts Award – changing young lives

IVE, is one of 10 regional Bridge organisations championing participation in Arts Award. Time and again, IVE has witnessed the qualification’s positive impact, “Arts Award Gold enables young people to gain their own nationally recognised qualification. It develops creative career awareness, helping young people to progress into further education and employment. Alongside art form knowledge, young people also develop leadership, problem-solving and communication skills. We are delighted to be able to offer dedicated support for the delivery of the Arts Award in all levels to settings across the region.”  Aoibheann Kelly, Schools Engagement Manager

The Gold Arts Award, managed by Trinity College London, is the pinnacle of a 3-tier, qualification journey. This Level 3 Certificate (RQF) encompasses 150 learning hours. Since 2005, it has motivated 11 to 25-year old’s, to develop new arts research, practice and leadership skills.

Driven by principles of inclusivity and creative development, it actively engages young participants from all cultures and backgrounds.

Arts Award – an anchor in changing times

Starting a new life in the UK wasn’t easy for Azimun and her family

In 2017, Azimun Begum arrived from Bangladesh to start a new life in the UK. For a long time, she was the main carer for her siblings until her mum was able to join the family. With this huge weight on her shoulders, she could have faltered. Instead, Azimun chose to embrace a new life and explore her creative self.

Esther Wilkey, Azimun’s ESOL lecturer from Bradford College, was blown away by her personal strength and drive to achieve.

“Azimun is a determined young woman who achieves her goals because she is focused and works hard. When she joined my class, she had just moved to the UK and was the main carer for her siblings for many months. Azimun’s determination to achieve, her speed at acquiring language and her time management skills make her a truly inspirational young woman.”

Despite her personal challenges, Azimun threw herself into new learning and extracurricular activities. She showed a passion for the theatre, performing with the Shakespeare Club at Bradford College. Azimun was thrilled to achieve her Bronze and Silver Arts Awards with support from the Alhambra Theatre. It has been a remarkable journey for her, “I was first introduced to the Arts Award community when I was completing my ESOL Level 1 course. I was given the opportunity to complete the Bronze Arts Award with the Alhambra Theatre. After completing this first level, I continued to the Silver Arts Award, which further heightened my interest. We started working on bigger projects, watching plays and even performing at the theatre. After obtaining my Silver, I was still curious about what would come next. This motivated me to start working toward my Gold Arts Award, and I’m so glad I did.”

Arts Award – shining a light on identity and diversity

The Arts Award offered new vehicles to explore identity and belonging

During COVID-19, Azimun started on her Gold Arts Award path.  Whilst many fellow students were at a loss through lockdown, Azimun embraced this new challenge with enthusiasm.

Flexing her playwriting skills, she wrote a monologue about the way Muslim women, who wear a niqab, are viewed and treated. Through her piece Azimun expressed her reasons for wearing the niqab and shared the prejudices that she had experienced. She found this process very empowering, “My main goal was to push myself beyond my comfort zone and to demonstrate that, despite wearing a veil and being a Muslim girl, I was still capable of speaking my mind.  Thanks to this Arts Award experience, I was able to learn different skills and be more creative. I shared my deepest opinions and the story about my veil. I wanted them to realise that a veil is nothing to be afraid of and that behind it is a human with loads of energy and courage.” 

Once again, Esther was wowed by Azimun’s bravery and skill in translating this personal subject for the stage, “Through screenings of the monologue, she facilitated an open discussion with people from a variety of backgrounds. The overall feedback was a deeper understanding and respect for women who choose to cover their faces. Her further research then championed the rights of Muslim women to participate in theatre productions and advocated for their right to wear religious clothing of choice.”

Arts Award – cultivating creative leadership skills

Azimun leading an Arts Award session with young people on portraiture

For her Gold Arts Award leadership project, Azimun chose to teach portrait drawing to a class of teenage, unaccompanied asylum seekers with no English skills.

Drawing on her own experiences, of coming to the UK without the native language, Azimun carefully crafted and delivered a series of extra-curricular classes.  She was passionate about upskilling her peers, “I had previously taught a class that knew no English and I always wanted to help ESOL students to gain in confidence. I have been in the same situation and know how hard it can be.”

Once again, Esther was impressed with the skill and sensitivity that Azimun showed, “She helped to create an art exhibition that these young learners were extremely proud of and helped them to feel a sense of achievement and belonging in a very short space of time.”

For Azimun herself, this experience has been transformational, “My communication abilities have significantly increased. I’ve learned a lot about performing monologues, from the actor’s posture to their tone of voice. My level of confidence has increased in ways I could never have imagined. I used to get so anxious before every presentation. Teaching the class, I felt secure, and the words came without hesitation or fear.”

Arts Award – a lasting legacy for all

Today, more than ever, we must ensure our children and young people have access to the arts. Creative learning enriches and empowers us in so many ways.

Azimun’s case study proves that the Gold Arts Award has a key part to play in honing the creative, interpersonal and leadership skills of the next generation.

For Azimun, it has left a lasting impact and she is keen to continue on her journey, “The Arts Award opportunity has completely altered my life and made me more open to new experiences. I would be more than interested in learning about any further programmes.”

Esther, and the Bradford College team, couldn’t be prouder of her achievements,

“I am sure that you would agree that as a young South Asian woman, Azimun is a role model of what can be achieved through participation in the Arts Award and how you can go on to positively influence those around you.”

IVE shall continue to champion and support Arts Award excellence and achievement into the future. Azimun’s experience shows how the qualification transcends backgrounds and cultures, upskilling young people for these modern times.

To discover more about the positive impact of the Gold Arts Award check out this article: https://weareive.org/ive-studio/bridge-organisations/arts-award/

Contact hello@weareive.org if you’ve felt inspired by Azimun’s story and would like to find out more about the Arts Award. 

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