MAC, or Media Academy Cardiff, is a firmly established, not for profit, voluntary organisation that works directly with children and young people who may need additional support in area’s such as education and personal development. A highly dedicated, absolutely incredible team of multi-disciplinary people who work with upto 1000 young people a year from across South East Wales.
They have facilities in Cardiff and Barry and work in partnership with approximately 150 statutory and voluntary agencies. Their variety of programmes primarily work with children and young people that are not in traditional forms of education and also young people who are at risk of entering the criminal justice system. They also have an impressive arts programme that provides free activities (drama, music and singing) to up to 100 children a year.
MAC’s educational programmes aim to equip young people with the skills and motivation to either return to school or to make a positive transition to training or employment. Their incredibly effective Triage programme (The only one operating in Wales), aims to divert young people from the criminal justice system and stop them getting stigmatised with a criminal record. The work at MAC has already won numerous awards and is regularly cited as exceptional provision by youth justice agencies and educational establishments across the UK.
Living Wales managed to catch-up with the full team at Media Academy Cardiff for a chat and to primarily ask for an interview with Nick Corrigan, Director of MAC.
1) What made you decide to establish MAC?
Previously I had worked for bigger charities that had a UK national reach but was disappointed at how much of the work was based on the needs of UK urban areas not Welsh specific. I was particularly frustrated that essential skills weren’t as important or the mental health needs weren’t provided for, which I believe should be the fundamental building blocks in developing work for young people in Wales. I always wanted a service that met the needs of Welsh children and actually even more specifically, the needs of South Wales children. Before the set up of MAC, I was working with some very impressive colleagues who said if I set up a new way of working they would follow as they had the same ideals to support Welsh children. They were really the driving force; they were willing to follow when I didn’t have any contracts or know where the money was coming from. I decided to use the medium of media as I thought that it was highly likely to be an effective engagement tool to get the children and young people through the door (the hard bit), where we could then do the important work. The mission stays the same as it did 5 years ago, to develop skills in young people so they can make a positive contribution to Welsh society.
2) What do you think MAC’s biggest successes have been so far?
By far the biggest successes have been the life journeys of the children and young people that we have had the honour to work with. From some desperate places we have had young people go on and achieve their own personal goals, including getting back into school, stopping offending, learning to read and write, securing employment or getting into university. I’m proud of the number of national awards the organisation has won over the last 5 years. I am also very proud of being able to offer free arts activities for hundreds of children and young people who potentially would not be able to afford to participate. Free arts for all is an ethos we want to be inherent in all of our work.
3) Where would you like to see MAC in five years time?
I’m passionate about the power of working restoratively to support (and challenge) young people and families. I would like to see our restorative work expand to more communities across South Wales that face similar challenges to communities in Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan.
4) What is a typical day like at MAC? Is there a typical day?
There is no typical day, we go from meetings with partners to restorative conferences with victims who are angry or hurt to performances of music and drama by smiling children. The constants that I have are talented and committed staff and cakes. A number of staff like baking and over the 5 years we must have sampled over 300 beautiful creations. (Linda’s coffee and walnut happens to be my personal favourite).
5) What do you think the legacy of MAC will be?
Wow, it’s hard to think of legacies when there is so much to still do. I’m very proud that MAC has worked with partners to create different, smarter ways of working. Diverting children and young people from the criminal justice system is such an important piece of work. Giving criminal records to children is only going to create more barriers to transitioning into successful adults. We’ve worked with over 5000 children and young people over the 5 years, I want our legacy to be witnessing them succeeding and reaching their potential.