Challenge London check in: Barnet and Culture for Youth

6 January 2021

Francesca Cross from Barnet and Culture for Youth reflects on the successes of their lockdown work and how they've overcome challenges with digital delivery

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Image: artsdepot Togetherfest 2018, credit Kairos Creative (Andrew Twesigye)

Barnet and Culture for Youth is the Local Cultural Education Partnership for Barnet. They are one of the projects receiving investment through A New Direction’s Challenge London programme.

In this blog, Francesca tells us how they have adapted their work in the borough to support schools and young people through the pandemic.


In response to the pandemic, we received a grant of £20,000 from the John Lyon’s Charity, who match-fund Barnet & Culture for Youth. Because of this, we were able to invest in artists and bring some of our participation projects online.

Over the summer holidays, we ran an online drama project for pupils called ‘Life After Lockdown’ to ready them for their return to school. This project along with HomeQuest (digital theatre workshops for 10-14 year olds) and Together Apart (storytelling project for primary schools taking place this term) enabled us to develop relationships with Barnet schools and young people in the borough. We were also able to work with creative design organisation, Sisterhood, to shift a logo design workshop with our youth panel to online delivery. The workshop centred on participant’s input into the design of the new logo and name for the partnership.

After having to cancel our second member’s event in May due to the pandemic, we decided early on to move our winter event to take place online. Working with our steering group, we decided the format should include a number of different sessions, focusing on a variety of topics across a week-long period. Sessions included a keynote speech from Jacqui O’Hanlon, Director of Education at Royal Shakespeare Company ‚Äčand Chair of Cultural Learning Alliance. Voicebox delivered a practical session for teachers, focusing on masculinity and wellbeing, and we had a panel Q&A discussion exploring the benefits of creative careers. We also trialled a number of online networking sessions.

The multiple session format ensured that our members were able to take part in whichever sessions were most relevant for them. As a result of the online format, we were also to record the majority of sessions, and they are now resources that members can refer back to whenever it’s useful to.

The festival was really successful and we engaged over 100 people in 13 sessions. The networking sessions allowed for our members to connect as well as contribute their feedback on the partnership and what they’d like more of. Overall, we found that a limited number of teachers attended the sessions, with more arts organisations and artists in attendance.

The festival was an opportunity for us to trial a new format and to reflect on the partnerships next steps, which are as follows:

  • We want to connect with more local teachers and schools, so we plan to establish an insight group made up of arts specialist teachers, acting as creative champions. We will support schools to achieve being ‘arts-rich’
  • We will engage with more freelancers as members, and work closely with independent artists to help connect them to arts organisations and schools
  • We will be planning and developing our youth panel programme, focusing on youth voice, advocacy and connecting with members who already run youth panels
  • When evaluating the success of the online festival, it was noted that members wanted more opportunities to engage with the partnership. Therefore, instead of our original plan of having two major events a year, we will plan at least one event with a networking opportunity per term. The themes for these will be nominated by members, but some suggestions so far include best practice for distance learning, how to support artists and schools to deliver live in schools in the context of COVID-19, further info and discussion on diversifying the curriculum, and what makes an art rich school
  • One of the discussion groups will be focused on the borough cultural education strategy, linking to progression routes, led by Lesley Main, Head of Performing Arts at MDX
  • We will continue to offer CPD sessions where useful
  • Finally, as part of the online festival, we announced our new name and logo, created with our youth panel and Sisterhood. As Barnet & Culture for Youth, we will ask that all members should put the logo on their website and promote its work to encourage further membership and collaboration

Although the pandemic have brought many obstacles, it has given us as a partnership an opportunity to dive into delivery, support our memberships, and try out new formats. We step into 2021 taking these actions as a starting point for continuing the development of Barnet & Culture for Youth.


Where next?

More Challenge London blogs

Find out more about Barnet & Culture for Youth

Find out more about Challenge London

Find out more about Local Cultural Education Partnerships