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Dream Depot, the background

Land and buildings and infrastructure are expensive, especially in urban areas. Young people have little or no influence over the spaces that are allocated for their use. The development of towns and cities is becoming increasingly more regulated and controlled, therefore there`s no way in which young people can create a space of their own.

Because of their age, lack of financial independence and socio-economic environment, socially disadvantaged the young people involved in the Dream Depot project both in Ireland and in the Netherlands spent a considerable amount of their free time on the street or in other locations such as vacated dwellings and the shopping mall. There they feel less restricted.
During the three phases of the project I worked with three different groups of young people aged between 13 and 19 years. The first group was in Vlaardingen, the Netherlands, the second in Kildare town and the latest, a group in North Amsterdam. (In the third phase I worked together with Anja Hertenberger).

During the project in both Vlaardingen and Amsterdam, both local city authorities were making plans to build big new youth centers that in their opinion would help young people to nurture their talents. It is currently a policy in the Netherlands to promote `talent development` and a considerable amount of money is being invested in this. This directs artists to develop projects that fit into a conservative idea of talent development and interferes with other ideas of how to work with young people. Plans were being devised for these youth centers without consulting the local young people. The young people involved in the Dream Depot project did not want to partake in the `activities` (mainly sports or cultural activities like dance and music) offered by these new centers. They would also be chic in design and not be to the taste of the youth. In North Amsterdam it meant that the smaller local youth centers would be closed down. The youth who regularly came to the local youth centers were generally young people at risk. The young people had a hand in running them so they felt very at home there. The plans for the new centers seemed to further alienate them. North Amsterdam consists mainly of working class neighborhoods. It is geographically separated from the rest of Amsterdam by water. There is also a big psychological boarder. The North Amsterdammers including the young people tend to be very territorial and stay in there own neighborhoods. The neighborhoods themselves are often quite segregated from each other.

For each phase of the Dream Depot project a youth worker was involved and the project was supported both financially and structurally by the local youth organisation. The youth workers task was to bring the young people in touch with the artist/s, to act as a mediator when necessary and to remind them to attend the forthcoming workshop. The youth worker was also there to handle any problems the young people had which were not related directly to the project but which would interfere with the project.

It was not always easy to entice these young people in off the streets to participate in the project and it was not always clear if they would turn up the next week to continue. Sometimes one subgroup with in the group would not turn up and it would remain unclear as to why. This is to be expected when working with groups of young people from such a background.

There were many positive aspects about the project and how the young people responded to it. In an evaluation I would say each phase of the project was successful in its aims. The young people worked very enthusiastically. They really enjoyed realising their idea and clearly felt proud when it was finished. 
The main aim was that they engage in a collaborative process of making their own artwork and gain insight into their own potential and the general resources available to them in society. This they did by pooling their idea`s together, researching materials and how much they cost and building the hangout together. They also investigated how to get a permit and funding for a more permanent shelter and even went and talked to a staff member of the Amsterdam art funds. Through their dealings with the regulations and bureaucracy, they learned that they could negotiate and make informed decisions. For example getting a permit for the hangout would have taken to long so we all decided to place it illegally and hope it could stay. One of the local people made a complaint to the city council but to of no avail. Because the young people could choose the location of the hangout, they continue to use it. During the project they called Anja and myself "de mooi-makers" which means the makers of beauty. They said they would like to work with us on a follow-up project. There have been subsequently no problems between them and the Noorderparkkamer and they seem less inclined to set objects in the park on fire.

In the next posting I will tell about what worked and what didn`t work within the project to date, I will talk about what structural and artistic changes we would like to make for phase 4 and what aspects of the project we would like to hold on to.

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