Talking about young people and the role of arts organisations

27 January 2015

A conversation with Lara Stavrinou, programme manager for A New Direction’s (AND) Strong Voices and Stella Barnes, Ovalhouse’s Participation Director.

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In this video, Stella and I discuss why AND’s research is interesting and relevant to our programmes with vulnerable and disadvantaged young people. Strong Voices explores the role of both the arts and culture and the voluntary sector in young people’s lives and Ovalhouse specialises in working with some of the most isolated and marginalised young people in South London – those who are unlikely to access the arts independently. Both our organisations seek to understand how and why young people engage, so as to make opportunities as accessible as possible.

  • We discuss how publically funded arts organisations can link with cross sector partners and the benefits this can have on young people’s participation levels.
  • We consider how publicly funded arts should benefit everyone and why it is problematic when there are groups of society that are consistently missing out – there are not ‘hard to reach’ young people, it is services and opportunities that have a duty to reach out and can be hard to access.

Without stipulating that one form of art or culture is better or more worthwhile for young people, both Strong Voices and Ovalhouse aim to provide full access to high quality arts and culture. This is because the arts and culture can have a positive impact on well being and social and emotional capabilities. They can increase the life chances of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds by offering them a chance to creatively engage with a different form of learning, progression and opportunity. Whilst the arts can benefit all young people, it is especially important that vulnerable and disadvantaged young people are able to access the opportunities the sector has to offer in order to be in a position to make the most of their lives.

This begs a few questions of the arts sector;

  • Does the arts sector consider how to reach young people who are not already cultural consumers and who do not have the vocabulary to access their opportunities?

  • Who should the arts sector be working with to ensure that their opportunities are widely accessible?

  • How can the arts sector facilitate more youth leadership, mentoring and positive role modelling?


Lara Stavrinou

Lara Stavrinou is a project manager, consultant, producer and facilitator. She currently manages two projects; Strong Voices for A New Direction and the Creating Change network for Ovalhouse, as well as freelancing alongside this. Her expertise is in projects that promote social change, community cohesion, self expression and development, and cultural capital, primarily through the arts and culture.

As a freelancer, Lara has consulted on targeted programmes and their use of Arts Award for the Roundhouse and on access and audience development for events during the Cultural Olympiad.

Lara was previously Youth Arts Inclusion Coordinator at Ovalhouse theatre, which involved managing disability arts projects, outreach work with young people Not in Employment Education or Training and young offenders, and setting up a national network for arts organisations working with at risk young people. She has also worked as a freelance creative facilitator in arts organisations, youth centres and schools across London and as a freelance producer. Lara has also worked for Arts Council England, Hampstead Theatre, Tamasha Theatre Company, The National and the Royal Court.

Stella Barnes

Stella Barnes is a theatre maker, arts facilitator and trainer with over 30 years experience in Participatory Arts and Theatre in Education in London. Stella regularly works as a guest lecturer in universities and have presented work at conferences and seminars in the UK and internationally.

As Director of Particpation at Ovalhouse in south London, Stella manages and delivers a wide ranging programme of participatory arts and build partnerships with non arts sector agencies to address the cultural and social exclusion of young people.

Stella has a particular interest in arts and migration and works in partnership with Counterpoints Arts on Platforma, a national network for refugee related arts. She also delivers national training in participatory arts with young migrants. In 2002 Stella created Flight Paths, a five-year arts-in-education training programme for exiled artists. She is currently involved in exploring ethics in participatory arts, focusing on work with marginalised communities. Stella have produced two award winning short films with young refugees and organised New Beginnings, the first youth-led conference about the arts and exile.

Stella is committed to developing youth leadership and alongside work at Ovalhouse, she has delivered several youth led projects with the British Council including I&D, training young people in Southern Africa to be social action arts facilitators and facilitated Global Change Makers Euro/Afica youth summit.