Fellow Kayte Judge has been working on an interactive ‘culture map’ of Bedfordshire alongside a ‘culture checklist’ setting out a cultural entitlement for young people, based on curriculum needs and research with support from RSA Catalyst.
The Culture Challenge is the second Catalyst fund I have been awarded. For my first I ran pop up shop projects over two years in Bedford and while I achieved a lot and learned a lot, what I didn’t do was build a sustainable model. Therefore I was determined that any new venture would need to evolve from the ‘fuelled by raw energy’ school of social entrepreneurship and be something much more sustainable and partnership driven.
In 2013 I ran the Bedford Culture Network, a network seed funded by the Royal Opera House Bridge with the aim of encouraging more young people into arts and culture through better engagement with schools. Through this year of conversations we identified the need for better communication to ensure schools have awareness of cultural provision as many schools simply couldn’t find the information about who and what was out there. Some hard data emerged that was cause for concern - just 5.2% of schools had achieved the quality mark for excellence in art provision, (Artsmark wish to have 50% to have Artsmark status by 2015). Alongside this I discovered that Bedford has pockets of significant social deprivation. Eleven areas of Bedford town are among 10-20% most deprived nationally. Almost 20% of children in the Borough are raised in income-deprived households, rising to more than 50% in parts.
So in Bedford we had some areas of low-level engagement with the arts (via schools) and areas with high levels of social deprivation. Meanwhile the Cultural Learning Alliance was campaigning for cultural provision for schools and young people and had established a link between cultural engagement and social mobility. Meaning that access to culture impacts positively on the current attainment and future prospects of young people.
The goal, then, became bigger than simply encouraging young people to engage with the arts but rather social mobility for young people through cultural provision via schools. Taking inspiration from The National Trust’s 50things to do before you are 11 ¾, I began to think about what a cultural entitlement list might look like.
Through consultation with young people, cultural leaders and teachers we have developed the 'culture checklist'. The list provides an aspirational checklist for young people, and a practical tool for schools to identify opportunities for cultural learning. It is loosely themed into seven sections ‘Art & Craft, Culture & Community, History & Heritage, Music & Performance, Nature & Adventure and Words & Verse. The list no doubt will change over time but is offered as a starting point for the discussion around cultural engagement. There are omissions – technology for example – but it was important that we listed things that could be done locally, and we don’t have many tech opportunities for young people here. Something I hope will change.
Behind the Culture Challenge sits a searchable database of Bedfordshire culture providers and a culture map of providers. This is crucial for time-poor teachers who simply need to find good quality cultural provision, fast. We have included an indication of cost, referees and safeguarding information on each practitioner, at the request of teachers. Already cultural providers have seen their bookings increase and the 12 pilot schools have requested to meet a selection of providers face to face.
The hidden benefit to this project is the business support it providers to creative and cultural practitioners.
The hidden benefit to this project is the business support it providers to creative and cultural practitioners. By enabling them to market themselves better to schools we are strengthening the cultural landscape here and hopefully, longer term, this will create jobs and opportunities here. We serve to strengthen the cultural landscape here by building today’s audiences and tomorrow’s creative people.
The project has been funded by a range of organisations, The RSA, The Royal Opera House Bridge, Bedford Borough Council and the Harpur Trust. I need to find a sustainable funding model and feel that the project has the opportunity to be rolled out to a wider geographical area. I need to help to make this happen and would be happy to hear form anyone with ideas for developing further.
Contact Kayte via email or twitter @kaytejudge
To get support from RSA Catalyst to fund your social venture visit the Catalyst webpages