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Dream Depot - how it went in practice

Dream Depot North was a difficult project to plan. The difficulty began with the subsidy request. The Amsterdam art funds were quick in letting me know that they had granted the requested amount. The local city council however took 9 months to award the subsidy request and during this time went through the hands of three different civil servants instead of one, which is the usual case. During this time the City council appointed quite unexpectedly a new youth organisation to take over the existing one in North Amsterdam.

The new organisation then needed to agree to undertake the project and a new youth worker was to be appointed under the guidance of a new team leader and a new manager. This all went smoothly at first, the new manager and team leader were very enthusiastic about the project. The team leader had studied fine art so this was very encouraging for us. At the same time (in may 2009, more than one year after the subsidy request was made) The Noorderparkkamer also agreed to become a partner.

The Noorderparkkamer, introduced in an earlier post, is a pavilion in the Noorderpark (until recently called the Florapark). It was initiated by the artist Floor Ziegler to provide a cultural centre and activities for the residents of this neighborhood.

The youth worker, a man called Tim, in his early twenties, from North Amsterdam, was appointed to collaborate with us on the project. He was well known and liked by the target group of young people. The project was planned to start at the end of the summer when everyone was back from vacation. However, the project had only just begun when both the manager and team leader were re-appointed somewhere else and it took six weeks before a new team leader was appointed.

It turned out to be very difficult to work with the youth worker. He promised to do a lot. including reminding the young people and checking with them about the next workshop, but he did very little. He did not answer our phone calls, messages and emails so it became impossible to plan anything with him. We were using the youth centre as a base to work with the young people and could not gain access to it without him being present. His working schedule kept changing do we did not have one fixed afternoon / evening throughout the project. He canceled a workshop more than once just hours beforehand.

It was not always possible to contact the young people at such short notice. We felt that we were not being taken seriously by the youth worker, and the young people felt the same. It caused a lot of friction. We asked ourselves "how can we make this situation better?" We spoke to Tim about it and even asked him if he would rather that another youth worker take over, and he was shocked by this suggestion. The project leader, Floor Thomasse, from the Noorderparkkamer (who he seemed to take very seriously) tried to intervene but he also did not answer her calls or emails.

Things improved when a new team leader was employed. Partly because he gave us permission to use the youth centre at a time when it was open for another activity. (At that point we were working outside close to the youth centre building the `hangout`). This meant that if Tim was not available another youth worker would be there to help us if we encountered a problem and we could access the facilities of the youth centre (such as electricity). At that stage in the project we had built up enough trust with the youth involved to plan ahead with them ourselves. The new team leader visited the project very regularly and informed the police and local authorities about it.

Some months after the project was finished, during a conversation with the the team leader, it became clear that Tim, the youth worker was let go as he was not functioning well with the youth organisation.

Although this was an particularly negative experience of working with a youth worker, it was also not always easy in the first two phases of the project in Vlaardingen and Kildare. I think this is partly due to a different outlook and priorities when it comes to working with young people, and partly lack of understanding of all the work, planning and thinking invested in such a project. 

After Dream Depot North was finished and Anja and I were considering going further with the project. We decided to use all our research and experience with this project to date, to develop a new phase which will challenge us more as artists and also challenge the way in which we `communicate` with the young people. Without being dependent on a youth worker. We hope the Noorderparkkamer will want to be a partner in this new phase.

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