Watching the magic happen

Creative Mentor Amy Spencer describes exploring creative ideas in the ‘safe place’ of the art department with her mentee.

Amy Spencer, visual artist, SCEP Creative Mentor

Hello, my name is Amy and I am a visual artist and mentor for SCEP. Since starting my training for the Creative Mentoring Programme back in November last year, I have been trying to imagine how it might play out in real life.

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Working in partnership to achieve priorities for children and young people

Place-based partnership with cultural and child-focused organisations is key to achieving Southampton City Council’s priorities for children, Councillor Darren Paffey told SCEP (Southampton Cultural Education Partnership) members at a recent meeting.

Cllr Darren Paffey and Child Friendly Southampton logo

With partnership working at our heart, the SCEP was delighted to welcome Southampton’s Cabinet Member for Children and Learning and ward councillor for Bargate as a guest speaker at our last Members meeting:

There’s a lot of belief out there that councils are the sole organisation that can solve all problems in cities. It won’t be a surprise to know that’s not true. Everything that we do depends on the partnerships that we have built up with cultural organisations, with businesses, with our schools, with our early years settings and with the universities,’ said Cllr Darren Paffey.

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The pleasure of offering support

Issa Loyaan Farrah-Kelly shares his first experiences as a Creative Mentor and how he is working with his mentee, a fellow poet.

Issa Loyaan Farrah-Kelly, poet, SCEP Creative Mentor

I applied to be a Creative Mentor with a sense of quiet trust, and enthusiasm…that I would be accepted, and was quietly overjoyed to be brought on board.

I found the training to essentially be a series of digestible, yet explicitly thorough, masterclasses in various elements of good practice of Creative Mentorship…delivered in a somewhat informal, yet explicitly professional manner. In a nutshell, I call my experience of the Creative Mentorship training practical philosophy.

I think there was a mutual/collective sense of excitement shared between myself and my Creative Mentor peers in training, all of us artists in various disciplines. My discipline is poetry.

This sense of excitement was, in my mind…practically, professionally and justifiably kindled by our mentors/coaches/trainers…Matt, Craig, Anna…and Jodie.

When I received word that I had been matched with a young poet, who wished to develop…it was as if abstract excitement, enthusiasm at being invited to share…insofar as I can….so much as I may understand about poetry etc…became solidified/crystallized…the Creative Mentorship role became real, and happily so.

Question Time,
by Issa Loyaan Farrah-Kelly
Question Time, a poem by Issa Loyaan Farrah-Kelly

My role is to support my mentee, which is an absolute pleasure…in developing poems over the course of 8 sessions, each session 1 hour long…held every fortnight after school.

My mentee wishes to write about their experiences of racism, which is unfortunately…a relevant, valid and important thing to be heard.

My mentee already has a sense of themselves as a poet, in a sense I consider myself jammy to have been matched with such a mentee.

Our sessions are basically conversational workshops, wherein we discuss poetry and work on pieces…under my mentee’s impetus, and I generally consider my role as being a sounding board/ideas person…making suggestions…never dictations.

I have a line of contact, via my mentee’s teacher, whereby I can ping ideas/developments etc, and receive them in turn.

I think it works quite nicely


The Southampton Cultural Education Partnership’s (SCEP) objective is to develop a cohort of Creative Mentors as local role models in Southampton, who will work directly with and inspire Children and Young People, including those from at risk, marginalised backgrounds or NEET (not in employment education or training).

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Enjoying the little wins

Creative Mentor JJ gives an insight into the first few weeks working with his mentee.

JJ, actor, theatre maker and young creative, SCEP Creative Mentor Scheme
JJ, actor, theatre maker and young creative, SCEP Creative Mentor

My name is JJ Gale and I am an actor, theatre maker/facilitator and professional wrestler. I have been a part of SCEP‚Äôs creative mentoring programme since November 2022. 

After months of insightful training last year, I am now working 1-1 with my mentee. It has been an interesting journey so far. I was paired with a young person who has no experience in the arts. However, they have expressed an interest in drama and performing arts. 

My first few meetings made it clear that there was going to be some work needed to forge a positive and trusting professional relationship with my young person. They were reserved and cautious. Not wanting to open up or share much information about themselves with me. Initially even having a conversation was a struggle. 

This being said as the weeks have gone on, I have found common ground and began work on creating this relationship. I have found the best approach is to always come to sessions with an enthusiastic and positive attitude. Also, I am trying my best to offer as many opportunities to experience and explore performing arts. 

We have recently been to see their first ever theatre show. This was a fantastic night. Although anxious and pessimistic before the show. Following the play my mentee highly rated the performance and had a beaming smile across his face. This was extremely rewarding.

My goal throughout this process is to open the door into the possibilities for involvement and interaction with Performing Arts in Southampton for my young person. I believe it’s important to take the time to care enough and support you in the first steps in trying and exploring something new. I hope this develops into more of an interest and passion for the performing arts. However, if this is not the case then at least I have facilitated some new life experiences. I believe that already they are learning new transferable skills. Also, I think it’s great to have a safe space to push yourself out of your comfort zone and I am grateful for the chance to help facilitate that in a small way.

I am learning that I have to be in tune with the young person and where they are in life and this process and allow that to inform my goals and plans going forward in regards to the mentoring programme. I am enjoying the little wins. 


The Southampton Cultural Education Partnership’s (SCEP) objective is to develop a cohort of Creative Mentors as local role models in Southampton, who will work directly with and inspire Children and Young People, including those from at risk, marginalised backgrounds or NEET (not in employment education or training).

Continue reading Enjoying the little wins

Big Dreams and Big Impacts at the SCEP Workshop

More than 30 representatives of Southampton’s arts, education, health and police sectors took part in the SCEP (Southampton Cultural Education Partnership) workshop at the John Hansard Gallery on 30 January 2023 to look at how arts and culture could improve the lives of children and young people in the city.

Photographs: Louise Coysh

At the forefront of everyone’s minds was young people; what they want from arts and culture and how to ensure they get it.

SCEP workshop participant

Participants undertook various activities investigating the needs and aspirations of local children and young people before taking part in a group Big Dream Big Impact workshop. The groups were given a hypothetic scenario where an anonymous donor had given £2 million to improve the lives of children and young people using arts and culture, and then discussed ideas to use the money which could be feasibly implemented in the city if funding was available. These included:

  • A fleet of community arts and education buses which could visit individual communities with community-led activities and then create a centralised festival site showcasing what had been produced in each area.
  • Increasing the opening hours of existing spaces like libraries to run arts activities and connecting the city with bus passes for every young person.
  • A social enterprise initiative focused on youth led events and activities with free transport for young people.
  • ‚ÄėYou Belong Here‚Äô ‚Äď an arts award hub with go-and-see transport and neighbourhood road shows.
  • An adolescent crisis lounge with a hub-and-spoke support system.

Key elements were then discussed to see which could be taken forward in the work of the SCEP over the next year including transport and building on past projects, utilising and revitalising community assets, arts linked with additional provision such as health, a focus on places and neighbourhoods and neutral spaces for young people. Some young people attended the event and threading through all the discussion was the need to give young people the power to direct and drive future activity.

I was reminded all over again of the power of a creative act to inspire people to work together and come up with amazing new ideas.

SCEP workshop participant

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