New project launched to engage youth in arts and culture across the UK

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New project launched to engage youth in arts and culture across the UK
Summer school. © Trustees of the British Museum.

LONDON.- Where we are... is a new innovative national programme for young people aged 16–24 to co-design meaningful local arts and cultural projects around the UK. Running from 2021 until 2025 and supported by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, the programme aims to give young people agency within their own local communities by creating cultural projects. Launching a national open call to partner organisations today, the programme hopes to inspire cultural and third sector organisations throughout the UK to help co-deliver these projects as part of the British Museum’s National Programmes.

There are so many barriers that prevent young people being able engage with arts and culture locally, from a lack of relevant offers to understanding how to get involved. This funded programme aims to help bridge this gap by working collaboratively with local organisations to create three bespoke projects a year that respond to a local community need with input from young people.

To create these projects, the British Museum is asking cultural organisations and third sector organisations throughout England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales to apply. Successful partners will shape the development and the delivery of the programme with shared decision-making throughout the process. By working in a three-way partnership with the British Museum, local charities and cultural spaces, Where we are…aims to connect with young people who are currently under-served by the cultural sector. This partnership will utilise the networks and community connections that third sectors have locally, as well as the local knowledge and collections of cultural spaces. Interested organisations should apply through the British Museum website by Monday 22 March 2021 to be involved in the first year of programme delivery.

Key Partners, a central part of the project, will consist of a cultural organisation and a third sector organisation working together in a local community; both staff and youth participating in the programme will be remunerated. Organisations who recognise the multitude of benefits that young people can offer and ideally who have worked collaboratively with young people previously will be warmly welcomed. The programme ultimately hopes to support and develop young people’s skills and experience to co-produce their own cultural or arts projects. In a boost for their skills and experience, young people will be involved in project management, communication, creative problem solving and networking. 

Where we are…encourages young people to interpret what arts and culture mean to them, their families and local communities. Cultural expressions can be broad, ranging from festivals, food, music and other forms of intangible cultural experiences that might be unique to communities and of interest to young people. It is hoped a more fluid definition of arts and culture will help create more diverse and unique cultural and arts projects relevant to local young people, whilst at the same time challenging the cultural sector and its understanding of these two concepts.

Museums of all types including natural history, science, technology, history and arts, as well as cultural spaces including libraries, theatres and community centres are welcome to apply. Likewise, submissions from any registered third sector organisation that works with young people are wanted – there’s no need to be an arts or cultural organisation to apply. Each cultural partner will need to be happy to partner with a third sector organisation and vice versa, indicating which partner they would like to apply with.

Once the Key Partners are recruited, the programme will seek to engage youths who are traditionally under-served in the arts and culture sector. Applicants of any background or experience are welcome, especially those who are disinterested in museums in general. By actively understanding what it is that makes arts and culture unappealing, the programme can help increase the accessibility of the sector and work towards removing barriers of entry. This includes young people who define themselves as one or more of the following: LGBTQIA+, from working class backgrounds, neurodivergent, disabled, having a migrant or refugee experience, from Africa, South, East and South East Asian diaspora and ethnically diverse.

This first year of the programme will run from April 2021 – January 2022, with a commitment to these ten months requested from the successful Key Partners. In this first year of programme delivery, three cultural projects will be co-produced with 30 young people and three Key Partners. With the support of the British Museum, each partner will locally manage the recruitment of 10 young people and the co-production of a youth-led cultural or arts project.

Maria Bojanowska, Dorset Foundation Head of National Programmes said, “It’s so important to make our sector as inclusive as possible, and I’m really pleased the British Museum’s National Programmes is able to open up these opportunities for young people. There’s a myriad of really exciting, fresh and dynamic possibilities that the Where we are… programme holds for projects that are truly led by young people. Any organisation in the third or cultural sector that has their interest piqued by the prospect of such a project should apply – even better if you’ve never thought about working in partnership with a museum before!”

Sophie Alonso, National Outreach Manager said, “We are really keen to receive applications from a variety of cultural and third sector organisations across the UK. If you value young people and want to work collaboratively with them to create meaningful arts and cultural projects then we can't wait to hear from you.”

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