Festival will celebrate brilliance of young artists

AN annual festival showcasing the exciting artistic talents of young Wearsiders opens this February half term.

This year’s Bright Lights: Youth Arts Festival features the annual Bright Lights exhibition and a week of special events at its usual venue, Arts Centre Washington (ACW).

The festival is supported by Sunderland Culture and the exhibition has been curated by the Celebrate Different Collective, a group of young people aged 13-25 from across Sunderland who co-produce and run their own cultural events, work with artists and learn new practical skills.

The Youth Arts Exhibition 2024: Bright Lights begins this Saturday (February 10) and will continue until Monday, March 11.

The Bright Lights Festival will follow later – Tuesday, February 20 to Saturday, February 24 – and feature free workshops, exhibitions and performances, delivered for and by young people.

The first festival events will be a creative typography workshop with artist Tommy Anderson (1pm-3pm) and a SEN-friendly mask making session for young people aged eight or more (1pm-3pm) on Tuesday, February 20. The mask making workshop will be run by Autism In Mind, a group supporting autistic adults without a learning disability in Sunderland, South Tyneside and Northumberland.

The following day, Wednesday, February 21, will have three events – a stop-motion animation workshop, a ‘Make a Play in a Day’ workshop and a films short showcase.

The free animation workshop will take place between 10am and 3pm and is aimed at young people aged 11 or over. Participants will be able to join animator Robin Webb to make a character, create a world for them to exist in and then bring it all to life using traditional animation methods as used in Wallace & Gromit, The Nightmare Before Christmas and Coraline.

The Make a Play in a Day session will take place at the same time, when participants aged 11 or over will join actor Mat Hobbins to create a play.

The Bright Lights Film Showcase will start at ACW at 6.30pm and is aimed at young people aged eight or over. The evening will be led by Washington Young Film Makers Collective who will screen all of the films they have made since the start of the Creative You project including ‘The Gray Lady’, ‘Slice’, ‘Vampire Noir’ and some new unseen projects, alongside some of their favourite film shorts made by other young people.

Emily Nelson, 13, who attends the weekly Fim Makers Collective meetings, which are held at The Millennium Centre, Washington, said: “We’ll be sharing all the films we’ve made over the last year or so. We do everything ourselves – from writing, directing, acting and sound and filming. We usually produce a film every school term.”

The film showcase will be followed by a question and answer session with the group and its leader, Alasdair Cummings.

Thursday, February 22 will have four festival events, including a show written and performed by Sunderland College students, a Creative You session for young artists, a metal embossing workshop and a T-shirt design workshop.

The college students’ show is called Growing Pains and incorporates stand-up comedy, spoken word poetry, singing, dance and inspirational monologues. The show will start at 6.30pm and tickets cost £5 for adults or £3 for students.

Matt Blyth, Culture and Heritage Officer at ACW explained: “The show is aimed at everyone who has navigated the rollercoaster of youth, capturing the essence of coming-of-age, and tackling themes such as body image, toxic relationships, and mental health.”

The Creative You Junior … Mini Masterpiece session is free from 10am to 3pm and is aimed at young artists aged between eight and 10. Artist Sally Anderson will lead the activities during which the young people will create their own canvases, responding to the themes of this year’s Youth Arts Exhibition.

Artisan Kate Hunter will lead the free metal embossing session, 10.30am to 12.30pm when young people aged 11 or over will get the chance to emboss a recycled metal sheet and create a word, symbol or design on metal that will be mounted to a beach pebble.

The T-shirt design workshop (1pm – 3pm) will be led by artist Liz Carter who will help youngsters aged 11 or more experiment with a range of fashion illustration techniques to create a unique hand painted t-shirt.

Among other events on Friday, February 23, will be the much-anticipated Washington Emerging, an evening of performances by the North East’s best up-and-coming young musicians, plus craft stalls from Washington MIND’s Teenage Market and drop-in arts activities. Washington Emerging will be at ACW from 6-9pm and tickets will cost £2.50.

Earlier events on the 23rd include a free eco writing session with poet and writer Kym Deyn (10.30am – 12.30pm for those aged 11 or over); an introduction to DJ-ing (free from 10.30am – 12.30pm); a free songwriting workshop led by young musicians Right Tracks (1pm – 4pm), and a free SEN-friendly animation workshop led by animator Sheryl Jenkins (1pm-3pm for those aged 11 or over)

On the last day of the festival, arts group Curious Arts will lead a Creative Youth Challenge when 11-19 year olds from the LGBTQIA+ community will take part in a day of workshops exploring the theme The Future is Queer. The session will start at 10am and finish at 2.30pm and snacks and drinks will be provided. Sign up through ACW’s website is required.

Meanwhile, a series of Bright Lights Fringe Festival events will be held at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens (SMWG).

These include a Bright Lights: Young Wildlife Photographer Exhibition, which has already started. The free exhibition, in the museum’s Art Lounge, has been curated by the Celebrate Different Collective and features work from local photographers aged 11-19. The exhibition supports the world-renowned Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition, which opened at SMWG on Monday (February 5).

Other fringe events, which also support the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition include a cyanotype workshop (Monday, February 19 from 1pm-3pm in the Learning Space, £5); a digital nature photography walk (Tuesday, February 20 from 11am – 1pm in the Learning Space, £5 for children aged eight to 12) and a session to create animal or landscape prints (Thursday, February 20, from 11am to 12.30pm in the Learning Space, £2 for young people aged eight to 12).

The fringe events can be booked through www.sunderlandmuseum.org.uk or through the museum shop. A 50p charge applies to website bookings.

Matt Blyth added: “Our Bright Lights Festival gives young people a perfect platform to celebrate their creativity and to recognise young people’s talent and imagination.

“We’re delighted that this year the Festival has some brilliant fringe events based around the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens.”

Bright Lights Youth Arts Festival is supported by Sunderland City Council’s Washington Area Committee as part of Sunderland Culture’s Creative You project.

For more information on the programme, or to book a place at one of the workshops, log on to ACW’s website at https://www.artscentrewashington.co.uk

Stay connected with Sunderland Culture Instagram Twitter Facebook