In April this year, the Institute of Contemporary Arts announced a new partnership with Peabody and Kingston University. Our shared objective is to place the autonomy of young people aged 16-25 at the heart of a collaborative, exploratory programme of creative activity across London. This partnership enabled us to propose a Challenge initiative that explores the ways increased access to creative and cultural opportunities for young people, from a diverse range of backgrounds and localities, may positively impact people and places.
Working widely across London, but prioritising six key boroughs including Thamesmead, Waltham Forest, Croydon, and Kingston, we’re aiming to achieve real impact for the youth sector. By developing clear pathways into cultural education and employment, our objective is to challenge some of the key social and professional barriers to participation through partnership and collaboration.
Through the Institute of Contemporary Arts x Peabody x Kingston University partnership we can deliver a range of nationally recognised Open College Network accredited awards at Level 1, Level 2 and Entry 3. This means we’ve been able to set up a creative and employability skills programme, a Youth Ambassador scheme, and offer work placements, which all come with Level 1 accreditation attached. We’re working in consultation with schools, businesses, and youth organisations to programme activities offsite, recently delivering artist-led workshops in Pimlico, Battersea, Hammersmith and Thamesmead.
One of our core aims is to generate opportunities for 16-25 year olds to direct their own learning and to have more agency within the institution. So we’re exploring ways we can offer young people the ICA as a community resource where they can explore ideas in contemporary culture, cultivate new skills, and feel enabled to better identify options and choices available to them. In July, our Youth Ambassadors Jide Adetunji and Ibrahim Kamara (co-founders of GUAP Magazine) and The Slumflower hosted a youth festival, IN-VISIBLE. Responsible for overseeing all external logistics, they were given a budget to devise an expansive programme of talks, screenings, workshops and live music performances. Taking control by curating the day-long programme exploring the theme of social inequality, the ambassadors led on artist liaison, technical requirements, flyer design, and marketing; they utilised their skills and networks to deliver a unique, young person-centred festival which highlighted the experiences, talents, and passions of new and more established artists, attracting a young and diverse crowd, many of whom had never visited the Institute of Contemporary Arts before.
We continue to make space for young people’s cultural production within the ICA, with our Youth Ambassadors hosting a Young Kings Lunch in October. This is an exclusive event exploring the roles young Black men are assumed to occupy within contemporary cultures, and featuring empowering presentations, screenings, industry insights, and networking opportunities. And we’re very excited to have the opportunity to contribute to the Croydon Arts Store, a temporary takeover of the old Grange furniture store in the Whitgift Centre by a consortium of local and neighbouring arts organisations, including Croydon Council and Kingston School of Art.
It’s because of the Challenge that we have been able to appoint the ICA’s first Learning Apprentice, Ruth Hayden-Wason, who has already made herself indispensable and who has kindly agreed to share her own thoughts with us on the Challenge so far:
It’s been a really interesting first few weeks here at the ICA and don’t think it could have gone any better! Everyone here is so lovely and is really hard working. I’m really looking forward to getting to know everybody.
I joined Carey Robinson, Associate Curator: Education Programme at a meeting about an upcoming music video project with a charity supporting young asylum seekers, Young Roots. I was quite nervous about going to the meeting because I didn’t know very much about the project at this point and was terrified someone was going to ask for my opinion on something - but Carey made sure I was comfortable which really put me at ease.
I’ve been invited to research how a new, digital, creative youth network for this partnership can best be set up and evaluated. We’re looking at ways young people can engage with the Challenge aims digitally, and how that engagement can feed into the end of project Challenge showcase next year.
I’ve also attended a Challenge Partners meeting, which touched on how different partners have collected feedback from project participants, and the most effective ways of collecting and using the data. It’s been super interesting to see the kind of preparation and planning that goes into each project.
I’ve met so many people from different organisations, companies and charities who have all come from different backgrounds and have their own unique pathways into working with the Institute of Contemporary Arts. The upcoming year looks incredible, with live music events, off-site workshops, and exhibitions – I’m so thrilled to be an apprentice here and I can’t wait to make the most of this experience.
It’s exciting to see how Ruth’s presence has already influenced the extent to which we’d hoped to work collaboratively with young people, bringing her knowledge of rapidly changing youth-centred digital networks and key influencers to the programme!
As the year progresses we’re beginning to deliver strands of learning that embed the Institute of Contemporary Arts’ spirit of enquiry and ethos of nurturing potential. Because we’re able to offer accredited awards, we’re working in a very targeted way with those most vulnerable in our society - with film collective Eye Want Change running a stop-motion animation music video project at Young Roots, a charity in Croydon supporting young asylum seekers, across the months of October and January. We’ve also invited artists Studio-K to develop an employability skills programme for students in Waltham Forest who have been excluded from mainstream education. Studio-K run creative programmes for young people providing access to screen printing facilities and ways of making that are only usually available at higher education institutions.
I can see how clearly the Challenge is also informing our thinking - shaping the team’s approach to qualitative and quantitative research, for example, which will productively contribute to the dissemination of the final project outcomes. Being part of the London Cultural Education Challenge has enriched how the partnership unfolds, adding greater depth and breadth than I’d anticipated.
Find out more about the Cultural Education Challenge