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Cuba Gooding Jr: ‘Troubled young people need the arts’

Cuba Gooding Jr will make his UK stage debut as Billy Flynn in Chicago
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Actor Cuba Gooding Jr has argued that it is essential for “the troubled youth of today” to have the opportunity to engage in the arts.

The American film star is making his West End debut in Chicago. In light of recent cuts to the arts in education, he warned that if young people could no longer express themselves artistically their energy could “come out in other, negative ways”.

Speaking at the launch of the West End revival of Chicago, Gooding told The Stage that his first entertainment job – breakdancing in the closing ceremony at the 1984 Olympics – had been down to a free arts engagement programme for young people.

“Even if it takes public subsidies or government subsidies, you have to keep these kids in a place of opportunity,” he said.

“You can’t invest enough in the youth of today. I’m a big supporter of an organisation called the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, a series of programmes that take inner-city youths off the streets and give them shelter and a place to do their homework and practise whatever it is they want to do, be it singing or rapping or dancing. It was one of these programmes that allowed us to perform our routines for breakdancing in the Olympics.”

Gooding added: “We need to have this place, this refuge specifically for the troubled youth of today. They have to have somewhere they can express themselves or it’s going to come out in other, negative ways.”

The actor also emphasised the importance of arts education in schools, adding that he partially attributes his own career success to “drama training in high school”, as well as his breakdancing.

“Children are our future and if we want to expand their creativity it has to start when they are young, we have to expose them to artistic endeavours, and allow them to express themselves without judgement,” Gooding said.

“What better way to do that than to do it at school, and to do it at a very young age and let them fall on their face if they have to until they find success in whatever artistic endeavours they are meant to succeed in. You have to allow kids that freedom to experiment without judgement,” he added.

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