Working together to identify & create cultural learning opportunities

Through Connected London, Bruce Castle has sought to work with other youth organisations and arts providers in Tottenham to work together to identify and create quality cultural learning opportunities as well as a model of working with young people.

12 August 2014

(Photo: Clay workshops at Bruce Grove Youth Centre - inspired by Haringey’s past pottery industry, and given a modern-day ‘cool’ twist!)

Bruce Castle Museum lies within the historic heart of Tottenham. As the museum and archive service for Haringey, Bruce Castle is the local provider of heritage education for the borough. Its unique position in the community has nurtured cultural educational links and opportunities for all ages and for its diverse communities, especially with local primary schools and children’s centres.

In the aftermath of the riots in Tottenham in 2011, combined with the economic challenges in recent years, Bruce Castle’s role of a cultural provider in the area was more critical than ever to ensure it was able to continue to provide a range of opportunities and positive cultural activities to engage young people in Tottenham.

Immediately following the riots, there was considerable surprise within the media that some people in the Tottenham community spoke highly and protectively of the area – that there was a sense pride and of something to “belong to” in Tottenham. But what young people from Tottenham - especially the 14 – 24 year old age group - feel about where they live?

Reports analysing Tottenham and its communities following the riots, highlighted there were those from this age group who might have felt they ‘didn’t belong’ or felt ‘disconnected’ from their locality. The stereotypical response to create a sense of belonging for this age group has often been achieved through being part of a “gang” or “a postcode”. These reports also pointed to the few opportunities for cultural engagement in Tottenham, particularly for young people.

And so, here lay the challenges not only for youth services and organisations already operating in Tottenham, but also for those working in the cultural sector – like Bruce Castle Museum.

Through the opportunities of Connected London, Bruce Castle has therefore sought to work with other youth organisations and arts providers in the area to work together to identify and create quality cultural learning opportunities as well as a model of working with young people. At the heart of this work,
- It has been important to give young people a voice on what cultural activity they would like to see in their area
- It has been a chance for young people to explore this idea of ‘belonging’, through exploring their local culture, enabling an opportunity to feel more connected with the world around them
- From the museum’s viewpoint, we have been keen to see how we can develop learning programmes that hit the right note for young people to see how they might use, view or be inspired by our local heritage.

Central to creating this model and improving the way we work has been partnership-working. Supported by the Innovation Unit and AND, staff at Bruce Castle Museum have actively revisited and refreshed past working relationships as well as sought and built up relationships to create new working partnerships. On that course of action, it has been important to ensure enough time and space has been given to work on partnerships. Building in enough time has meant we have been able to listen to and to analyse the expectations and needs more effectively of partners so that we can identify ways of moving forward together for the future. We have also been able to use each other’s experience in order to trial and test new ways of working with one other, and with young people.

The result has been the making of a ‘cultural community hub’- for Tottenham in particular, and for Haringey generally, with Bruce Castle at its core; its network of partnerships all have a focus for creating quality cultural projects and learning opportunities for young people in the area, inspired by Tottenham / Haringey’s local heritage.


Bruce Castle itself has become a strategic broker or facilitator within that cultural community hub. We have been able to offer advice, given space and resources to other local organisations, and been actively cultivating new partnerships.

At a time of economic difficulties, the new partnerships within the cultural community hub have all welcomed receiving advice and / or securing new funding resources from providers such as the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Arts Council and Community First Funding.

There have been also opportunities for the museum to be able to position itself to help influence outcomes in creating cultural / heritage projects to support young people. This has involved being part of regeneration projects that can link to pathways to employment for young people and / or raise achievement in their education.

The main aim of all our youth engagement work has been to build a ladder of participation for our local young people. This has also included offering alternative ways or means for young people to engage with us, including skills development, awards, volunteering, and opportunities for employment.

Some exciting projects as a result are in the pipeline, with others already on its way or successfully completed including:

Black history inspires Tottenham public art project

Bruce Castle Finnish Exchange Visit at the College of Haringey Enfield and North East London

Ray Davies visit at Bruce Castle Museum

There is more work to do – aside of delivering current and future projects – about signposting for young people about cultural activities aimed for them in the area. How do young people find out about activities available to them? This is a common them for all partners – and something we all wish to crack.

In the meantime Bruce Castle Museum will continue its programme of delivery – at the moment there are plans for a piece of work with a small group of Tottenham primary schools on engaging younger children in understanding their past and then designing the future of Tottenham – so watch this space!

To find out more about Haringey's work through Connected London go here

About Connected London

A New Direction's action research programme and strategy for local areas in London. 'Connected' is a three-year programme (2012-14) with two years of action-research investment and one of transition or development funding. It is led by A New Direction, in partnership with the Innovation Unit and a number of London Boroughs and other cultural partners.

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