The Norwich Castle Conference Adventure

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A few months ago, I was given the opportunity to go up to Norwich to speak at a conference about my experiences with the JK collective. (If you’re new here and don’t know what the JK Collective is, you should probably read this post first.)

Along with some other members, I got up ridiculously early, got on a train and figured out what exactly it was that I was going to say in front of all these people. The journey took a few hours, so there was plenty of time for planning and more importantly, breakfast. I’ve never been to Norwich before, but the little bits I saw of it were lovely.

The conference was set up by Engage, and was called “ARTIST ROOMS, Young People, Galleries; exploring models of best practice”. As the title suggests, it was full of discussions of how to run projects for young people; we talked about what we did as the JK Collective, what worked and what we learnt from it.  We even got to show a clip of our flash mob. It goes to show how much of an impact the project had, that we’re still talking about it years later.

After our presentation, there was another presentation by the young people at the Castle Museum, who just so happened to be working on their Jeff Koons project (seriously, I can’t seem to get away from the guy!). It was interesting to see what they were doing and how it compared to ours.  It was clear that they had a bigger budget than us, but we led a Conga line into our museum – so who’s the real winners here?

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After what was a pretty spectacular lunch, there was the chance to go and look around the exhibition. It was great to see the work again, and to see how different the display was. For example, in Brighton, the Winter Bears were on a podium making them appear at eye level and you could get close to them. To be honest, they were a little terrify and looked like they’d move if you turned your back for too long. Whereas, in Norwich, they were in the middle of a much wider platform so they were less intense.

I remember walking into the Brighton exhibition for the first time and seeing the work in person, and not really “getting it”. This time, when I walked in the room, it was like being reunited with an old friend. An old peculiar friend that asks a lot of questions but doesn’t give you any answers.

At the end of the day, everyone split into groups and discussed their experiences working with young people (I, as the young person, talked about my experiences getting involved in galleries and museums), and it really brought home how much of an impact these projects have on peoples’ lives.

Of course, I can only talk about my own journey, but now that I’m reflecting on it, the JK Collective sparked something inside of me that’s got me to where I am today. It came about at a time when I was lost with what to do with my life – I’d left sixth form, but the last year hadn’t exactly gone smoothly – working on the project gave me my confidence back, and showed me what I can achieve when I put the effort in. I learnt a ton of new skills, made some amazing friends, and have memories that people can’t quite believe when they hear them.

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