Caring for Cultural Freedom

Caring for Cultural Freedom: An Ecological Approach to Young People’s Cultural Learning is A New Direction’s latest research exploring how cultural learning happens in a place and how it can best be supported.

Building on our programme of research on creative ecosystems, this report makes a significant contribution to recent debates concerning the value of understanding the cultural sector ecologically and provides new ways to interpret how cultural opportunities operate for young people within cultural ecosystems. It focuses on young people within the London Borough of Harrow, showing how issues related to space, place and mobility, relationships and institutions, knowledge production and cultural agency impact on young people’s cultural learning.

The research puts forward a new model for supporting cultural learning, in which the supported autonomy of young people is a central goal. The findings show that young people place great value on freedom and on the spaces and activities that enable them to experience freedom and creativity, yet we know that young people require support to flourish and systemic intervention to tackle inequality.

This research proposes that an approach to the management of the places where young people’s cultural learning takes place which is characterised by the principles of care (that is attentiveness, responsiveness, competence and responsibility), is key to ensuring young people flourish, and better and more effective interventions are made.

By indicating ways for cultural policymakers and practitioners to move beyond the supply side ‘deficit model’ of cultural provision and participation, this research offers a new ambition for cultural policy: cultural democracy, characterised by cultural capability for all.

The report has been commissioned by A New Direction and written by Dr Nick Wilson and Dr Jonathan Gross from the Department of Culture Media & Creative Industries (CMCI), King’s College London. A New Direction would like to thank the research participants from across Harrow for participating in and supporting this work.

Download the executive summary

Download the full report