June 24 2010

Our Future Jobs Fund Trainee Looks Back

Claire Toner

Claire Toner’s Evaluation

A bit about me

Before I came to Valley and Vale Community Arts I studied film and theatre acting at the International Film School of Wales, Newport. I have worked in film, television and theatre professionally. I have also been training in Opera for the last two years with Patricia O’Neill.

What I expected before coming to Valley and Vale.

I was actually quite nervous about joining the team as I had never worked in Community Arts before and I also didn’t know anything about it. I didn’t learn anything about Community Arts at my University so I was intrigued as to what it was all about. I was also very pleased to be given an opportunity to explore the arts further and to work with a team of like-minded creative people.

Why did I go on the Future Jobs Fund project?

I thought the Future Jobs Fund scheme was a great idea for the 18-25 bracket of unemployment. Experiencing job unemployment fresh out of University was soul destroying. Having a university degree you “expect” to get the job of your dreams but when faced with the prospect of not having any job at all, it was very difficult to stay motivated and upbeat. So when I was approached with the FJF placement, I jumped on it. What was great about it was the fact that it got me off jobseekers and into a job! Being on jobseekers for six months chips away at your morale and I personally think that it is having a horrible affect on the younger people today, the ones who should be charging full steam ahead into the employment sector and offering industries fresh and exciting influences. The FJF scheme, gives young people the boost that they need. However, I didn’t think the placement was long enough. After so long out of work, it has taken me a long time to finally settle and begin to think about ideas…now I have to leave! A year’s placement would have been ideal.

What have you been doing at Valley and Vale?

I have been working with children at Bryncethin Primary School and Betws Primary School, helping the leaders with their workshops in theatre, film, dance and forest arts. At the beginning of the placement, I worked with Paula Lawrence at her dance workshops with people with learning difficulties. I experienced working with the refugees in Cardiff have also joined Issie Lloyd in her dance workshops with the over 60s. I took part in a five day OCN course in Digital Storytelling, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Throughout the placement I have learnt all manner of skills…I.T., camera skills, sound recording, animation, editing, admin work etc.

What help has this placement given you?

Mentally, the placement has given me a tremendous boost. Being out of work for a considerable amount of time lowered my confidence and also made me feel quite isolated. This placement got rid of all that feeling from me. I feel I have learnt a lot from working here, I have learnt about Community Arts and the amazing work that it does for people and I have also learnt that I am capable of working with young children and people with special needs. It sounds awful but I was scared of working with these groups of people before…purely because I didn’t know anything about it and didn’t understand it, didn’t know how to cope with it. But working in this way has made me far more aware of people’s needs and also more aware of myself – that I am good at communicating with people, especially children. I avoided them like the plague before this placement! It has taught me that the arts can do so much more than what we see on the surface, that it actually goes much deeper than that and offers people an outlet in life and gives them a way of expressing themselves in a fun atmosphere with no pressure. It gives children the escapism that they need for their imaginations to thrive…the list is endless.

Where do you hope to be in the future?

I was lucky enough this year to get signed to a London acting agent, so I will continue to attend auditions and hope for the work to follow. My training in Opera is already proving to be quite successful with Eisteddfods and Opera courses in Porthcawl and Seville this coming year. I will continue to push on in my career and strive for success. This placement has provided me with a great platform of confidence for achieving this goal.

Any more help that you think you might need?

My only wish was that this placement was for a longer duration. I feel that with a bit more time, I may have been able to bring my own skills/talents to the community and offer them something new. It is a real shame that they are thinking of scrapping the scheme. With all the mental health issues surrounding South Wales in recent times, I personally think that with longevity, this project could have helped many people.

Anything else?

I just want to thank everyone at Valley and Vale for their never-ending support. The team are not just work colleagues, they are like a big family and I was accepted and really looked after here. They never failed to be there for me whenever I had a question or a problem and nothing was ever too much trouble. I have seen first-hand the amount of hard work that they put into what they do and they are constantly looking for new ways to improve society and the general well-being of the community. I will deeply miss working here and again, I thank everyone here so very much. I will thank you in my Oscar speech too..!