Grow, learn, change: the evolution of a CEP (Cultural Education Partnership)

Adults put their hands into a circle and their hands touch

It has been almost a year since we have existed as a Cultural Education Partnership under the title of ‘Shout Out for the Arts’. We thought this was a good time to sit down and evaluate how far we have come and where we are going.

Shout Out for the Arts is almost entirely focused on the learning and development of young people – growing their skills, discussing their visions and shaping their futures. We decided that no project can be a success unless it is willing to do the same!

In December 2022, the adult members (partner organisations) of Shout Out for the Arts worked with a company called World Pencil to ask some important questions about our existence and future.

Two school children sit at a wooden table and record a podcast, they are being guided by an adult podcast producer
Students work with a professional producer to record their podcast series.
A woman with blonde hair is interviewed in the foyer of a theatre for a podcast
Young people interview staff at arts organisations for their podcast idea.
A group of five students in black and white uniform perform a scene as part of an art workshop
Rugby students create theatre pieces about issues important to them.

What have we been doing so far? How have we collaborated as partner organisations? How do other CEPs operate and what can we learn from them? Have the young people we worked with grown, learnt and changed?

These were just some of the questions that were discussed in our sessions with Ben from World Pencil – in a series of workshops that encouraged us to reconsider the aims of Shout Out for the Arts and how it can perform even more efficiently for the young people of Warwickshire in the future.

These hours of strategic work with Ben allowed us to think about, not just the past, but, more importantly, the future – how to truly understand the young people of Warwickshire, deepen our engagement with them and create a strong vision that actively listens to their needs. One of the main things we have been reflecting on is the vastness of our county and how we must adapt in order to better serve all of the areas and communities within it.

Six students stand on a stage for their school assembly and behind them is a presentation showing the words ‘arts for all’
Students at Heathcote Primary tell their fellow students about their idea for an arts festival in the community.

Another big question on our lips is – how can we be even more youth-led and truly put young people at the heart of this entire programme? The most poignant aspect of being the first youth-led CEP in the UK is that, in the last year, we have truly let Shout Out for the Arts in its entirety be moulded by the young people who have been part of it.

The children we have worked with have been true agents of cultural change and learning – producers, creators, investigators and leaders whose ambition and determination has in fact now completely re-framed the structure and purpose of this CEP. They have not just taken forward the art project ideas they have been producing but have inadvertently allowed Shout Out for the Arts itself to become something different from what it was originally envisaged to be.

Acknowledging this has encouraged us to now reconsider the ways in which we run aspects of Shout Out for the Arts, such as our Youth Board. How can we make all elements of this experience even more stimulating, fun and meaningful for those who choose to be part of it? How can we let young people lead this project, not because they are guided by us as adults, but because of their own deep passions and motivations? What challenges do they face engaging with us and how can we eliminate these? How can we further combine the work being carried out by our Youth Board and Arts Ambassadors so that they link together? Can we be even more youth-led than we already are? How can we adults take an even bigger step back?

Children perform in a workshop in their school
School pupils workshop ideas for their art projects.

All of these questions and considerations, all of the looking back at the work that has been carried out so far, allows us to arrive at a point at which we now prepare to re-group with young people and re-write our original mission statement in its entirety.

With many exciting things still happening at the centre of Shout Out for the Arts and multiple art projects and events that have been months in the making now preparing to fully blossom, we now also have lots to think about and lots to action with regards to how we exist and function in the future.

We’d better get to it.

We grow, we learn, we change – and we’re not just talking about the kids.

Are you a teacher, student or organisation that wants to be part of our future? Get in touch. Header photo by Unsplash.

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