Review: Art workshop for young people at the Samuel Coleridge Taylor Centre

By - Tuesday 20th February, 2018

Keeping art alive for young Croydonians

Photo author’s own.

On Wednesday 14th February I attended an art meet-up for all of the teens and kids of Croydon at the Samuel Coleridge Taylor Centre. The Samuel Coleridge Taylor Centre is a historical building which was left behind by the composer, Samuel Coleridge Taylor, for the youth of Croydon to express their creativity in. And that they have; in fact, the first things that I noticed as I walked in were the imaginative pictures and paintings which were placed carefully around the entrance – most portraits of Samuel, in a variety of artistic mediums.

But the walls themselves were beginning to crumble – the building was loved immensely but not funded enough to match that love. I thought that it really is a shame that the building wasn’t able to be refurbished. This, after all, would keep Samuel’s legacy alive. But the youth of Croydon don’t let this hold them back and when organiser Ally McKinlay had welcomed me I went upstairs and walked inquisitively into the art room. It would be an understatement to say that it was an explosion of colour.

Despite the onslaught of warm colours in front of me, I felt a chill down my spine. It was freezing! I wandered outside to observe what was going on as I heard a noise; a club leader was preparing the walls for the graffiti which we were going to be taking part in later. I offered to help him to set up the cloth atop the wall, which he gladly accepted as it was quite the arduous task – this paved the way for some small-talk in which we got to know each other fairly well. More and more people began to arrive and before I knew it the art club was in session.

I put my blood, sweat and tears into producing a graffiti canvas

Roughly fifteen people had shown up to see what this was all about and the two actual members gave us a brief exercise to help us to introduce ourselves to everybody, as not everyone was particularly confident. But then, quick as anything, we got to work. We had a choice between making a dreamcatcher or doing graffiti art. Now, you may have read my article on a graffiti workshop in Croydon I went to (if you haven’t, here it is). I was, therefore, acquainted with graffiti art and genuinely enjoyed doing it, so I chose it over the dreamcatcher and for the entire morning I put my blood, sweat and tears into producing a graffiti canvas with words and stars drawn on with a paint pen, which I was pleased with considering the difficulty of using spray paint close-up without producing a liquid mess on the canvas, which I was guilty of doing. I found that the task demanded a considerable amount of focus, and this helped me to produce something that I was happy with.

Photo by Ally McKinlay, used with permission.

Lunch was well-earned and we returned to the lounge area to eat together. It helped to give me the energy to carry on with the day, as it was a six-hour session. Then we were thrown back into the art and given the choice of decorating a large plant pot or creating a mosaic on a tile. I decided to go for the plant pot because it was much larger, and because of this I could express my ideas on a larger scale. We all had fun decorating as we talked amongst one another, and thought that listening to some music would be a good idea. We all put names of songs in a hat and picked them out at random. While I must say that not everybody could sing very well, listening to music that we liked together definitely brought us closer considering that hours earlier we had never even met. While we were focusing on drawing our respective art pieces, a woman who was running the club brought us some fruit to munch on, which is all we were offered in term of food (which I’m sure all the parents wholeheartedly endorse). After we finished our artwork, we gathered in the lounge area to conclude the day.

The two members of the art club talked to us about what they had done in previous art sessions and I must admit that I was surprised at the calibre that the members of this art club were performing at. I mean, they went on to tell us that they had done commission work for festivals and events which took them weeks – they only met up every Wednesday. Even though it interested me I have decided not to go to the club due to exams coming up on the horizon and other personal events that would hinder my ability to attend. Nonetheless, I took a lot from this visit, such as my eyes being opened to the true creativity which the youth of Croydon kept in secret. If anything, I would have loved this event to have received more attention publicly because the people running it all truly cared for the building and the children. After all, they’re all trying to preserve Samuel Coleridge Taylor’s legacy.

Rufus Jones

Rufus Jones

Rufus is in year 10 at Archbishop Tenison's School, Croydon. He has a passion for art and design and a keen interest in history and writing, taking after his father. In his spare time he enjoys gaming.

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