The Big Idea: Working with young people to re-imagine space

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Chelmsford Young Urban Explorers was started by Annabel Brown to get 16-19 year olds involved in re-imagining forgotten spaces within their town.  As an age group they are often under-represented in decisions concerned with urban renewal yet they tend to know the streets of their town better than anyone.  The premise was that groups of young people would explore routes on foot throughout the town and discover left over space - spaces which had a wealth of potential for new activity. 

Groups of young people from local secondary schools, Chelmsford College, and YMCA Chelmsford and Interact charities became involved in exploring.  Initially at the weekend, and then in school time, spaces of potential were photographed and marked on a google map, building up a new picture of Chelmsford.

The launch event in April 2011, involved turning a shop unit in the town centre into a 5m long 'idea wall'. Over 100 young people drew and wrote their vision of changes they would like to see happen in Chelmsford. 

Shop front

June 2012 saw an exhibition set up in the busy shopping centre showcasing the work of some of the explorers.  This included a model of their ideal town made by 80 students at Chelmsford County Girls school.

As momentum is building and more spaces are found, more projects are beginning to emerge.  This includes a football cage installed outside the police station with the help of the YMCA and supported by the High Sheriff's fund and in 2013, some artwork with the help of a group of Young Offenders (as part of their reparation) the YMCA and secondary school students is being completed in an underpass under the ring road separating the main park and town centre.

Gradually we are pushing for more spaces to be changed. If anyone has any ideas please get in get in touch.

RSA Catalyst funding has enabled the Young Urban Explorers to be run in schools, run design workshops, exhibitions and the making of a short film by 70 young people called Chelmsford Voices.  This was a project in which young people asked three people they knew what they liked about Chelmsford and what they would change. 

Young Urban Explorers has attracted local interest and built up teams of young people involved in making change happen.  We want to hear from any Fellows who are involved in education or working with young people and who want to help out.

Visit the Chelmford Young Urban Explorer's website to find out more or you can contact Annabel by email.


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