Reflections of Beatfreeks Brum Youth Trends 2019, a report that aims to bust myths about young people and their attitude to culture.

November 14, 2019

Brum Youth Trends 2019 is a report recently produced by Beatfreeks, a community of people who believe in the power of creativity to do the incredible, to provide information and insight about young people’s ‘trends’ in Birmingham. The (now annual) report provides insight into:

  • Career choices
  • Desires for security
  • Home ownership
  • Health and safety
  • Spending habits
  • Attitudes to climate change
  • Thoughts on Brexit
  • Relationships and communication

The report aims to, and is successful in, bustin’ myths about young people.

I attended the launch of the report at Birmingham Town Hall on 24 October 2019. Here are some of my thoughts...

One particularly relevant section is ‘Is My Culture Central?’ which explores the responses to questions on engagement and interest in arts, culture and heritage. Although 60.8% of respondents think the arts are important, 36.9% answered they didn’t know what culture is and 63.3% felt neutral about, or didn’t know where to explore, heritage:

“young people experience, consume, create and curate arts and culture every day; but our current definition of what counts as arts and cultural practice does not accommodate it.” (page 40)

The sector frequently acts, however unintentionally, as a gatekeeper which can exclude young people from engaging in culture. To address this we need to adapt the current definition of culture to include the vast cultural experiences young people engage in; from K-Pop to street dance, from memes to generating YouTube content, from Spotify to social art installations. We need to consider the spaces we culturally engage young people, how we communicate culture to them, how we make culture feel inclusive, accessible and welcoming.

At The Audience Agency we are actively seeking out projects that place young people at the heart of cultural engagement through collaboration and co-creation. For the British Council’s Our Shared Cultural Heritage project, funded by National Lottery Heritage Fund's Kick the Dust programme and in partnership with Glasgow Life, Manchester Museum and UK Youth, we have employed nine Young Evaluators to work alongside our Consultants and Researchers. Together we are developing an evaluation framework, creating evaluation tools, training stakeholders, collecting data and will ​be eventually be analysing and reporting. Their aim is to peer-evaluate and establish why young people, particularly those of South Asian heritage, face barriers in accessing and enjoying museums, museums spaces and heritage collections. For The Lowry’s Stage Directions project, funded by Arts Council, we are working with Stage Directions Salford stakeholders to create an evaluation framework to record the process of co-created theatre making in schools and community settings in Salford, including training children and young people to be peer evaluators.

The Brum Youth Trends 2019 report describes how young people feel ghosted by power; 85.7% felt their voices weren’t heard by those in power and that this lack of communication left them unsure how to proceed. However, by placing young people at the heart of decision making in the cultural sector, treating them as our equals, as experts because they are young people with a unique insight and as collaborators rather than contributors, we can begin to shift the balance of power in favour of a more inclusive cultural sector.

At TAA we are very aware that their have been some powerful initiatives like these projects over the last decade, so it's important to question what has to happen to embed the impact that project or externally ​funded work starts. Capturing the change through nationwide evaluations, recognising the value in sharing evidence and building up strong research into how young people live (like this report) has potential to move things on.

You can download a copy of the report here

Featured in the August edition of The Learning Diaries. Aimed at those working in learning, engagement or participation in the cultural sector, this newsletter will share updates from our team on sector events, ideas from some of our projects and links to new research. To receive The Learning Diaries, visit the sign up page.