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The University of Southampton

Children and young people at the heart of Connecting Culture in Southampton

Published: 17 September 2019
Image of children being creative
Space To Create at the University’s John Hansard Gallery.

Children and young people from across Southampton will be at the heart of a new ground-breaking project focused on addressing the question of how the city’s thriving Cultural Quarter can enrich the lives of those aged five to 25.

Led by the University of Southampton, ‘Connecting Culture’ is a two-year project supported by a £75,000 grant from Arts Council England and involving a large consortium of arts organisations and child-focused services, to catalyse a new future in the arts.

The aim is to enable young people to produce a Young People’s Manifesto and Map to be adopted by ‘Child-Friendly Southampton’ and create a sustained programme that reflects their needs.

This large and ambitious pilot programme will serve as a new model of cross-sector working for Southampton, leading to a step-change in how the city engages with children and young people by directly drawing on their real-life experiences to shape future actions and activities – the first ‘place-based’ case study of a city in the UK.

“We’re very excited to be launching ‘Connecting Culture’ which will place strategic cultural development at the centre of our work whilst enabling the voice of children and young people across the whole city of Southampton to be heard and acted upon in such a positive way,” said Louise Coysh, Associate Director, Arts and Culture at the University of Southampton.

Professor Mark Spearing, President and Vice-Chancellor (Interim) of the University, added: “I’m delighted that the University of Southampton will be leading the ‘Connecting Culture’ project which will put children and young people at the heart of our community and give them a voice in determining the culture future of Southampton. The University, in partnership with the city’s leading arts organisations, is keen to lead Southampton in considering culture as a way to transform the physical environment and social progression and we are dedicated to developing collaborative programmes like this long-term as an example of the vision for the University’s partnerships in the city, and beyond.”

The project will involve: 

  • over 350 participants, aged 5-25, and Early Years families in a city-wide artist-led consultation;
  • the recruitment of 10 new ‘Cultural Connectors’, a programme for young people aged 16-25 integrating ‘youth voice’ leadership and organisational development;  
  • the commissioning of a series of new public artworks led by young people;
  • the use of data gathered by the consortium, participants and partners to trial, develop and shape activities for children and young people - now and in the future.

“'Connecting Culture’ contributes perfectly to the delivery of the University’s Arts and Culture Strategy,” said Louise Coysh, “creating a superb evidence base which will increase our knowledge and experience of Southampton’s cultural sector and the impact that creativity can have on children and young people.

“This programme also demonstrates how the University of Southampton can support the cultural sector, locally and nationally, to be more resilient and sustainable, especially in the face of the many factors that tend to limit investment in the arts.”

Phil Gibby, Area Director, South West, Arts Council England, said: “Arts and culture activities are great for people’s wellbeing and bring communities together, making them proud of where they live and work. This project is a timely and forward-looking approach to integrating young people into the city’s cultural offer, helping to inspire future generations and provide more experiences for people, no matter what their age or background.

“We are delighted to support the University of Southampton in this ambitious project, all thanks to National Lottery investment.”

Cllr Satvir Kaur, Cabinet Members for Homes and Culture, Southampton City Council, said: “Southampton City Council is thrilled to be part of this partnership project led by the University of Southampton, building on the significant investment in regenerating our Cultural Quarter. What’s really exciting about ‘Connecting Culture’ is that children and young people are at the heart of shaping this project and it will provide invaluable evidence and insight to make sure we meet the needs of young people as we develop the city’s ambitious plans for inspiring future generations and become a child-friendly city.”

Amanda Talbot-Jones, Chair Southampton Primary Heads Conference, said: “This is an invaluable opportunity to strengthen and build upon the diverse range of cultural opportunities that Southampton has to offer. As educators, we recognise the immense power of learning through first-hand experience. I am sure that the 'Connecting Culture' project will enrich the learning journey of the children and young people in our City.”

Through its own Arts and Culture Strategy the University of Southampton is committed to its civic role in Southampton, animating the City’s inspiring arts and culture offering, increasing access and engagement by placing students, staff and diverse communities at the centre of its plans. The ‘Connecting Culture’ programme is a key part of that strategy and a vital part of the University’s close relationship with Arts Council England following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the two organisations in November 2018. Arts Council England is the national development body for arts and culture across England, working to enrich people’s lives.

The University and Arts Council England are working directly to embed creativity as an essential part of everyday life for everyone in Southampton and the surrounding area, particularly children and young people. 

The ‘Connecting Culture’ consortium includes Artswork, Art Asia, ArtfulScribe, ‘a space’ arts / God’s House Tower, Black History Month – Southampton, City Eye, John Hansard Gallery, Mayflower Theatre, Mayflower 400, Nuffield Southampton Theatres, SeaCity Museum, SOCOMusic, Southampton City Art Gallery, Southampton Central Library, Solent Showcase Gallery, Southampton Music Hub, SÓN, Turner Sims, Unity 101, Voice FM, ZoieLogic Dance Theatre.

Strategic partners for the project include: Southampton City Council (SCC) Children’s Services (Children, Young People and Families), Southampton Youth Forum, Southampton Children in Care Council, Southampton Cultural Education Partnership (SCEP), Southampton Education Forum (HE/FE), Virtual School Head (Maria Anderson), Primary Heads Conference, Southampton Cooperative Learning Trust, Youth Options, No Limits (Young People, Young Carers), Diverse City (Dorset/Bristol), Creative Youth Network (Bristol); UoS: Public Engagement with Research Unit, Widening Participation Department, Social Impact Lab. 

Connecting Culture will commence in Autumn 2019.

‘Connecting Culture’ is a two-year project supported by a £75,000 grant from Arts Council England
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