Young People as Co-Producers

Giving young people voice is a core aim of The Mighty Creatives.

Below are a set of reports and films explaining why.

Between 2013 and 2015, our Locally Based Partners (LBP) programme invested in children and young people's arts and cultural activities to overcome inequality of opportunity caused by rural deprivation, coastal and rural isolation.

Our Locally Based Partners programme used methods of co-production: children, young people and adults working together to devise stronger solutions. Using funding from Arts Council England, we built partnerships in priority places across the East Midlands, targeting communities where opportunities for children and young people to engage in the arts and culture appear to be low. A further 150 partner organisations contributed additional funding and resources to help every child thrive.

A key piece of learning to emerge was how this programme used young people as co-producers to enhance their projects. A report and a set of case studies from the programme details this approach and below are a series of films which explains why young people led projects work so well and how best to go about securing support, agreement and resources .for them.


1. Co-production is different from participatory arts

The research revealed that LBPs did indeed distinguish between these two forms of practice. Andy Dawson (County Youth Arts), James Steventon (Fermynwoods Contemporary Art) and Vince Attwood (Soft Touch Arts) discuss how having a co-production approach means having more flexibility around the outcome, and how a practitioner role can support and enable young people to be directors of the outcome.

2.Co-production does help young people on an artistic journey

The research revealed that there were many examples of LBP projects enabling young people to go on to develop leadership qualities and inspire and support other young people to engage sometimes for the first time. This film features Emily Bignell (Shooting Fish Theatre Company), Dean Lievers (Pedestrian) and Carole Hirst (North East Derbyshire District Council) discussing these findings.

3.Keystone people are important

The commitment and drive of individuals seemed important to most LBPs. The majority of LBPs were able to name at least one person that was crucial to enabling young people to become co-producers. The nature of their importance varied across projects depending on the young people's background and the setting. Chris Sudworth (The Core @ Corby Cube), Jessica Tickell (Writing East Midlands), Juliette Winter (Film City), Caroline Barth (Derby Theatre) and Emily Bignell (Shooting Fish Theatre Company) discuss these findings in this video.

4.Local authority priorities are influential

The research demonstrated that not all LBPs were influenced by priorities set by their local authority, but several LBPs saw relationships with councils as important and beneficial. Julian Butt (Baby People), David Lambert (Cultural Solutions), Juliette Winter (Film City) and Vince Attwood (Soft Touch Arts) describe the considerable pressures on local authority resources and how this has resulted in a shift in priorities, subsequently having a knock on effect to their offer to young people as they align the project.

5.The application process was different for some LBPs

The research revealed that most partner organisations felt that TMC put a lot of effort into working with partners to build up their projects before their bid submission. This happened in a number of different ways: helping to steer the focus, encouraging organisations to partner, holding a briefing event and having an open door policy of talking projects through and directly encouraging some organisations to put a bid in where they hadn't received any applications from that area of the region. Sarah Burkinshaw (Derwent Valley Mills), Natalie Pearce (Growth Activities) and Caroline Barth (Derby Theatre) discuss their findings.

6.Networking does add value to LBPs

Research showed that for many LBP's seeing themselves as part of a network of other projects being funded by TMC was a completely new way of working whilst others, particularly those that have worked with TMC previously, were familiar with this way of working. Belonging to a network of different organisations with similar aims around working with young people as co-producers across the region was valued. Rachel Emmet (Dance 4), David Lambert (Cultural Solutions), Chris Sudworth (The Core @ Corby Cube) and Jessica Tickell (Writing East Midlands) discuss their findings from this research.

7.LBPs are reaching new participants

There is good evidence that the programme has led to new audiences of young people encountering art and culture for the first time – including 'priority people' in 'priority places' across the East Midlands. Andy Dawson (County Youth Arts), Rachel Emmet (Dance 4), Carole Hirst (North East Derbyshire District Council) and Juliette Winter (Film City) discuss this idea. During visits, young people talked with excitement about the experiences they had had as co-producers and the new skills they had learnt.

8.There may be systemic change

For many organisations this programme has either shaped or reinforced how they want to work with young people going forward as co-producers. Emily Bignell (Shooting Fish Theatre Company), Donna Booth (Growth Activities) and Vince Attwood (Soft Touch Arts) discuss their findings.

There is evidence that some partner organisations of LBPs have experienced a culture change too, with pledges of commitment to continue working with young people as co-producers in some form because they have seen impact such as improved communication skills.

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