The London Cultural Education Challenge is an ambitious three year programme designed to bring about a step-change in Cultural Education and young people’s cultural engagement. From its outset, it sought to involve young people in its creation and decision making. In part, it has done this through The Young Challenge Group (YCG). This group is comprised of young people aged 15-23, who provide advisory insight to the A New Direction (AND) team. It has brought together young people from a variety of London boroughs with diverse experience and interests. The Young Challenge Group sits in parallel to the independent Cultural Education Challenge Group, who meet three times a year and provide advice and overall direction.
For the past year, I’ve had the pleasure of facilitating this group of intelligent, engaged and inspiring young people. As we move into year two of the challenge, it seems like a good time to reflect on their involvement and share some of their highlights from the past year.
The group were recruited through a workshop day in April 2015 at the Museum of London, where they discussed the six themes at the centre of the Challenge and how they related to their own experiences. Through facilitated activities, they debated the challenges that face young Londoners in engaging with arts and culture.
Once recruited, they established their own aims for the group. They were interested in making the arts more accessible, getting more young people involved, having a say in the development of cultural education in London, and giving young people a voice in the decision making processes. They went on to read applications to the Challenge; posing pertinent questions through their unique lens as young people in the capital. Members of the group then sat on the interview panel, giving them a chance to actively contribute to the selection of funded initiatives.
In addition to their advisory role, it was important that they also have developmental and networking opportunities. They attended the first London Cultural Education Challenge meeting, where they had a chance to meet the initiatives and ask questions. We have had members of the adult’s Challenge group attend YCG meetings to present on their work in the arts sector. They attended a networking event at the House of Lords and, finally, at the end of the year, they decided to plan and run their own event.
Partnering with City Hall in April 2016, the YCG facilitated their own workshop and panel event looking at arts, culture and creativity for young Londoners as part of the WAY (Who are Ya?) Festival. From gantt charts and marketing text, to facilitating a session in one of London’s most iconic buildings, the group felt that this was a definite highlight: “It felt empowering to lead the City Hall event and listen to young people’s opinions and about disparities in London.”
In their overall reflections for year one, the group highlighted how much they valued their opinions being respected and how ambitious the Challenge initiatives were. One young woman explained:
“It has cemented my interest in arts for young people and helped me understand how outreach works. I’ve learned a lot about new organisations and sectors and the social and political issues that face the arts sector. I had never thought about housing associations and how they can work together with arts organisations, for example.”
This year they are delving more into the action research evaluation process and are getting more time to visit the individual initiatives and their borough-specific work.
Their hopes for year two are that the existing initiatives learn from the young people they are working with, and use these learnings to influence their future work. They want the Challenge to continue to nurture friendships and professional opportunities for young people and to see more sustainable, lasting partnerships. The Young Challenge group feel that this will be a successful programme if the organisations involved can become self-sufficient, fully inclusive and really engage local young people.