University of Cambridge Museums

Projects, events and news from the University of Cambridge Museums

My Cambridge: Creativity and Culture in the everyday lives of children and young people

Cambridge City Council, with the support of Norfolk and Norwich Festival Bridge, are currently undertaking an exercise into developing a shared vision for the development of the cultural lives of children and young people in the city.

Jane Wilson, Arts and Events Manager for Cambridge City Council, invited representatives from schools, youth services and charities, arts and cultural organisations and creative industries and young people, to come together and test the idea that: ‘Every young person in Cambridge should be able to confidently construct their own cultural life, drawing on, and feeling connected to, the whole of the city in which they live’.

In a week where Education Minister, Nicky Morgan MP, was criticised for downgrading the significance of arts and humanities as important subjects for young people to study at school, you may ask why should we be concerning ourselves with ensuring that our young citizens should construct their own cultural life by connecting with the city in which they live.

Cambridge is a world-class cultural city but with a population which has highly significant variance in the life chances and aspirations of young people. Cambridge City Council shared the outcomes of Arts Council research on the life long impacts of long term engagement with culture which include:

  • Improved ‘good ageing’, i.e. positive and active old age
  • Positive impact on health and well being
  • Arts and cultural participants are more likely to volunteer and trust their community

In small groups participants debated three themes:

  • Perceptions and presentation of arts and culture within the city
  • Knowledge and gatekeepers – who and how introduces young people to the culture in their city
  • Access and continuity – how to develop opportunity for long-term engagement

A number of ideas flowed and examples of good practice discussed including the Children’s University, Somewhere to, school fresher’s fairs, long-term community partnerships, young ambassadors, Circuit and stART.  Cambridge City Council will share the outcomes and vision for consultation in early December with the finalised version circulated in later January.

The University of Cambridge Museums work with the ChYpPs Summerdaze programme seemed to spark an interest through small group discussions at the event.  This year we have been considering how we further entrench the link between our activities with ChYpPs on parks and recreation grounds back into the museums. ChYpPs offer trips for the final week of the summer holidays and this summer the Whipple Museum, Kettle’s Yard and the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology welcomed families on fun and creative visits to the museums.

The first visit was inspired by science.  Education Officer, Lorena Bushell, welcomed and introduced us to the Whipple Museum and developed a special trail to help our families discover the amazing collections and objects that can be found there.  The zoetropes’ proved very popular and everyone enjoyed experimenting with images and ideas of what worked well and what didn’t.

Following a picnic in St Peter’s Churchyard the group visited the Gustav Metzger temporary exhibition at Kettle’s Yard. Lucy Wheeler showed us some of Metzger’s creative experiments and we were able to try some ourselves both in the gallery and in the studio.  In the gallery we looked at the Light Drawings where Metzger guided curator Lizzie Fisher’s hand to create new images on photographic paper. In pairs we guided each other to create new drawings without looking and discovered how challenging it must have been to create the artworks.  Then, inspired by the Liquid Crystal Environment, we created our own collaborative and experimental artwork made with marbling techniques.

The second trip was to the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology where Sarah-Jane Harknett introduced to their amazing collections.  We discovered how the Roman female skeleton found in Arbury had bad teeth and thought about why we should look after our own teeth.  We then went on a dragon-hunt around the museum and discovered how many of the creatures could be found roaming the galleries.  Finally we all created our own Star Carr headdresses and talked about our visits.

Parents told us that either they had never visited some of museums or hadn’t since they themselves had been on school trips.  They found out about each museums children and family programmes and told us they would bring their family back again in the future.

ChYpPs youth workers shared that they hadn’t considered signposting families to the museums but after discovering how much there was for families to do that they would in the future.

Finally, the children and young people enjoyed visiting new places and trying different activities.  Many had visited with school but it was their first visit for pleasure and they wanted to do more again in the future.

The ChYpPs trips emphasise the importance of reminding adult ‘gatekeepers’, be they parents, child-minders, youth workers or teachers, of the cultural opportunities in the city for children and young people – and all of us.

Karen Thomas, Community Officer, University of Cambridge Museums

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