The Symposium Team

The young production team behind the Symposium project


Tom Basista, Tunbridge Wells

Tom organises creative art workshops for young people who are on non-formal education courses.

Tom is also a musician and performs as a solo and collaborating artist and under his stage name ‘Mr Basista,’ has written produced, recorded AND released his own album independently.

He entered the NOISE festival in 2008 and was picked as a Curator Choice by Bless Beats. Tom also performed at the NOISE Creative Futures Manchester in November 2008.

Tom wanted to join the NOISE symposium on Non-Formal Education because of his own experience in formal education. As Tom did not enjoy school himself, he feels he can relate to young people in the same position and is passionate about finding new ways of engaging with and inspiring young people to progress using their creative talents.

David Ault, Walsall

David‘s education started very formally, through school, then University and then onto a Masters in astronomy and astrophysics.

However throughout that time he was pursuing other courses in media and broadcasting, such as the ScreenWM Moving Up course and training days at the Birmingham Hippodrome. This brought him eventually, via the world of planetarium presentation, to study for two years of an acting degree before he went off to India to perform Shakespeare for six months.

David’s creative specialities are acting, writing and presentation and his particular area of interest in this project has been ‘International Comparisons in Education.’ 

Rael Gough, Bolton

Rael is the perfect example of how taking a non-formal education route can lead to huge success. Feeling a little bit frustrated at the lack of creativity, Rael left school at 15 and got himself a place on a Foundation Art course in Bolton aged 16. Merely three years later, he had his own working studio and gallery, and a steadily growing reputation.

From working in his own gallery Rael has learnt a lot of management and business skills and has gained confidence in his work and his artistic merits. 

Rael will be working closely with NOISE to help produce a magazine in conjunction with the Symposium project. 

Since the project NOISE has kept in touch with Rael and in 2011 raised EU funding for him to organise a pop-up exhibition to kick off the NOISE Art of Protest Project.

Damien Hayward, 25, Manchester 

Damien’s creative speciality is photography, however he is also interested in graphics, fine art, film editing and shooting. He has had experience in facilitating workshops and has worked with Full Circle Arts, a North West based arts organisation. 

He has had varied educational experiences with both formal and non-formal education, but became concerned about the lack of support surrounding some further education courses in terms of funding. 

After the project Damien got involved in the NOISELAB particularly the Guerrilla Graffiti workshop where he learnt how to spray-paint with the help of a professional Graffitti artist. 

Hannah Mansell, Buckinghamshire

Hannah’s creative speciality is fine art, in particular installation and video. 

Like many of the Symposium participants she has had a lot of experience of non-formal education: 

  • Hannah’s artwork submission was chosen by Art Below curator’s to be displayed at Regents Park Underground Station.
  • She was a participant in the Tate Modern Arts and Ideas course for young people. 

Hannah would love to see more recognition of Non-Formal Learning as she has found learning within an academic establishment in creative subjects often prescriptive, stifling and full of clichés. 

Since her involvement in the Symposium project Hannah was invited by the NOISE charity to be the first Youth Representative on the NOISE board of Trustees.

Amna, Oldham 

Amna, originally from Qatar moved to Oldham where she first experienced non-formal education activities. She found that non-formal education focused on practical skills and knowledge whilst school tends to focus primarily on academic information. 

Amna had originally intended to go to medical school but after deciding that was really not for her, she has taken a more creative route and decided to study fashion at college. 

She participates in non-formal education opportunities in her area such as doing charity work, and she would love to see this kind of education get more recognition.

Robert Parkin, Manchester

Rob has a wide range of experience in education. He did HND at The Manchester College in music production which would have led on to a third year at Salford University to complete the degree.

However when he started the course he realised it wasn't really what he had expected or was looking for and on top of this felt the course was badly run. When he eventually dropped out, he found himself in debt which contributed further to his finding the experience to be overall a negative one. 

Since Rob left his degree he has since discovered online tutorials in music production which he has found to have been an invaluable source of help in teaching himself, and have strengthened his opinion that the college course was a huge waste of his time and money for him.

As a practically trained work based accountant in his earlier years, having gained ‘on-the-job’ experience he was well ahead of university graduates in that profession when he returned to it.  He found that students/employees who were rated higher because of their degrees asked him for help in the workplace and this made him question the value of education over first-hand experience.

The coursework took up all of my time and the huge amount of writing I had to do decreased the amount I actually learned on a practical level.

Robert Parkin

Overall Robert’s most valuable education experiences have been non-formal ones which is why he was such a valuable participant in the Symposium.

Steven McIntyre, Birmingham 

Steven did his apprenticeship in filmmaking but has since discovered that his real passion is making music.Steven has completed an apprenticeship at Gallery 37 and achieved a Bronze Arts Award. 

The NOISE symposium originally attracted him because he was stuck for things to do in his area and wanted to see a change with more alternative non-formal education opportunities being established and offered to young people who are not in education, employment or training.

Sean Barr, The Wirral 

 Graduate Sean feels he learnt nothing from his Graphics design University course as he was “mostly just arguing with the head teacher about my work.” 

He did not feel that the staff on his course were able to give him constructive criticism and overall he did not graduate with a positive experience of formal education.   

However, that never stopped him doing what he loved and he achieved personal success doing projects at Tate Liverpool and designing logos for Liverpool based companies.

Sean feels that he has learnt a lot more from going out and experiencing the real working world than he ever did whilst in formal education. He believes that what counts in the creative world is your experience rather than your qualifications.

Sam Pedley, Manchester

Sam is a multi-talented freelance artist and workshop facilitator. Sam has particular expertise in music with skills ranging from singing, raping, writing lyrics and poetry, beatboxing, and playing the piano and guitar.  

Sam works with Contact Theatre in Manchester and has performed with Baba Israel. She has also had experience in facilitating workshops in educational establishments and community centres, and particularly enjoys working with young people.

Stacey-Louise McKeown, Liverpool

Since Stacey was 17, she has worked on various projects including a youth council and Young Tate, and has been lucky enough to work with a wide range of people and organisations, from the police and MP's to artists and photographers .

This experience has helped her develop a passion for learning, which she continues to nurture.

Stacey feels that non-formal education has helped her to develop her confidence and public speaking abilities as well as improving her listening and organisational skills. Non-formal education has also provided her with the chance to have unusual experiences, meet inspirational people and push her knowledge to the boundaries. 

 I am educated, I do have qualifications but non-formal education gives me more than that, it gives me skills I can use in my life, important skills that were looked over in formal education in exchange for high grades.

Stacey-Louise McKeown

Ashley Middleton, Liverpool

At around fourteen Ash left high school and enrolled at a community college. Within three months she had dropped out, and after a year volunteering at a charity shop, she returned to attain a GNVQ in Art & Design. She pushed forward and joined the BTEC Fine Art Foundation course. When she then dropped out halfway through, Ash was advised by her former GNVQ tutor to seek out Young Tate at Tate Liverpool. 

Ash spent two flexible and intensive years with Young Tate building on the independence she had developed earlier in life to become a confident and knowledgeable gallery educator.  In 2007, aged twenty, she caught up with her peers academically and attained a place at university Liverpool John Moores University studying History of Art & Museum Studies. Her application was accepted on the basis of her non-formal learning experiences in lieu of A-levels.

Aaron Cunningham, Manchester

Aaron Works with Contact Theatre Manchester, facilitating, directing, acting and exploring new art forms.

He has made a documentary film project about suicide among young men, been a guest spokesperson on the same panel as former president of India, Abdul Kalam and performed a new piece of theatre which fused Grime music and Burlesque.

Aaron has also facilitated workshops to young people in the favelas of Rio, Brazil, an experience which he found to be “surprising and challenging.”

As someone who did not enjoy formal education, Aaron enjoys facilitating workshops with young people who are in the same position he was in.

Chaz Jupiter, Liverpool

Chaz was doing his GCSE’s when he started doing voluntary work at the Tate Liverpool. This involved leading workshops and organizing events at the gallery. Through contacts he had made at Young Tate, Chaz continued to do voluntary work throughout college, taking part in projects involving Merseyside Police and Liverpool City Council. The projects often involved people labeled ‘Goths’ that were being targeted as a problem in Liverpool City Centre.

Chaz was part of a team that helped avoid a Section 30 being placed on a public space. This would have meant that any group of two or more young people, would be forced to split up and move away from the area.

Chaz continued his academic career through to A Level and then took a gap year before he started his University degree in Pharmacy.

Ashley James, Birmingham

Ashley’s formal education was disrupted by moving house during his GCSE’s, and as a result of moving areas he didn’t get into a new school. He was home tutored and achieved some GCSE’s including Maths.

He undertook a number of courses, such as a Media course at the Drum in Birmingham, which he credits with having motivated him to follow a career in the creative industries. He set up his own company last year, providing multi-media services to a range of clients.

Ashley, who also mentors young people, has worked as a support worker developing skills with the long-term unemployed. He recently interviewed the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, and senior business leaders as part if the initiative ‘Backing Young Britain’, which was aired on the Community Channel in October.