Some of England’s top theatres; libraries, museums and galleries will be supporting young people from disadvantaged and vulnerable communities as part of a special programme that has got under way this month.
Strong Voices has been developed by the Bridge England Network, a group of 10 Arts Council funded organisations using their experience and expertise to connect young people, schools and communities with arts and culture.
Every year there is an investment of around £360 million into arts and cultural organisations in England. Recent intelligence suggests that the most vulnerable and disadvantaged young people are the least likely to benefit from these world-class facilities.
The Department for Education has funded the Bridge England Network to develop Strong Voices to address the needs of these young people including those with special needs, those in / leaving care, young parents and those classed as NEET (Not in Employment, Education or Training).
Over the next two years activity will be targeted in five key areas of England – the North East, North West, London, South East and Yorkshire and the Humber, and will involve organisations such as The Customs House arts centre in South Shields, More Music in the North West, National Museum of the Royal Navy in Portsmouth and youth organisations such as London Youth and Myplace centres in Yorkshire.
Empowering young people by getting them to speak at local and regional events and meetings and working to progress them onto employability programmes such as Creative Apprenticeships are just some of the areas which the project will focus on.
Strong Voices will bring together the expertise and provision from some of the best arts and cultural organisations to make strong connections and partnerships with youth and education settings in the regions, giving them a stronger voice for the future.
Derri Burdon – Chief Executive of Curious Minds said: “Curious Minds is proud to deliver the Strong Voices initiative to the North West of England so that more young people will be equipped with the knowledge, skills and confidence they will need to access the exciting and rewarding jobs available in the region’s vibrant creative and cultural sector, including Media City.”
Katherine Zeserson, Director of Learning and Participation at Sage Gateshead, the organisation managing Strong Voices on behalf of BEN, said: “The power of partnership will enable Bridge England Network to make a huge difference to the lives of vulnerable young people through Strong Voices. By sharing and disseminating learning and best practice across the network we’ll ensure that the whole is always greater than the sum of its parts. Sage Gateshead is proud to be managing this innovative programme on behalf of BEN.”
In the North West, the Strong Voices programme this year will be focused in Manchester and Lancaster. In Manchester we’re really pleased to be working closely in partnership with 42nd Street, an excellent organisation supporting young people under stress and experiencing mental health difficulties and four arts organisations (Let’s Go Global, the Chinese Arts Centre, Z-Arts, and The Edge) to deliver a programme of activity that will introduce them to the opportunities around them. In Lancaster we’re working with three arts organisations (The Dukes Theatre, Ludus Dance and More Music in Morecambe) who will work closely with a group of third sector organisations including Unique Kidz, The Marsh Community Centre, Strawberry Fields and CEEP. These organisations are skilled at engaging disadvantaged and vulnerable young people.
Both projects will provide bespoke and targeted activity, with a view to the young people becoming involved on a long term basis. Both the arts and the young sector professionals will also receive bespoke training to help them develop their skills and ensure the project leaves a legacy.
Young people will also be offered opportunities to take up creative apprenticeships and paid work placements in cultural organisations to provide a clear pathway to developing their skills and career prospects further.