Why 15-25? Exploring the Circuit Age Group

The marketing assistant for Circuit at Nottingham Contemporary has been thinking about the 15-25 year old age bracket, and the things which matter to young people during this ten year period of their lives.


I’m Becky, newly appointed Marketing Assistant for Circuit here at Nottingham Contemporary, and I am really excited to be working on such an exciting and groundbreaking project.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I find it hard to remember how I felt when I was 15.  It was only back in 2007, yet it all seems a little fuzzy. I suspect a lot of my time was spent wearing black, whilst unsuccessfully trying to convince my parents of the benefits they would reap from buying me a first-generation iPhone. That, and eagerly awaiting the year’s Harry Potter film release, The Order of the Phoenix. It did always take months to emotionally prepare.

The reason I’m reminiscing about my mid-teen years is due to my involvement with Circuit, which is specifically aiming to increase opportunities for 15-25 year olds in the arts. Now it might seem like an oddly precise age range to you, which was my thought exactly too! What motivates 15-25 year olds to do what they do? Whether ‘what they do’ includes engaging in the arts by choice or not, it is an interesting and challenging consideration. So I did some research into the programme’s aims and reasoning behind this decision, and was very intrigued by my findings.

Mark Miller, Circuit Programme lead and convenor of young people’s programmes at Tate Britain and Tate Modern, raises many insightful points. He says that the chance to broaden horizons, to have some creative ownership, and the ability to progress as an individual are all elements which young people from many different backgrounds want to gain from creative engagement. Galleries and museums can offer creative collaboration amongst young people in a supportive and liberating environment, thus playing a big role in well-being and confidence-building at this pivotal stage in their lives.

According to Mark Miller, there is a misconception that young peoples’ involvement in the arts needs to have an air of ‘cool’ about it. You might think that for young people, engaging with the arts is all about being seen reading a copy of Frieze Magazine in the gallery coffee shop whilst listening to a band so obscure that even the members themselves haven’t heard of them yet…! In reality, the chance to develop as an individual, and to gain valuable experience whilst making a tangible impact, are more crucial elements in motivating young people to engage with the arts.

The 15-25 year old age group has additionally been identified by Tate and the Paul Hamlyn Foundation as a crucial period in terms of building pathways and aspirations. Many shifts can take place in young peoples’ lives during this ten year time frame, for example from National Curriculum based learning to Further and Higher Education, and then onwards into work experience and employment. The Circuit programme aims to “support the learning, social and cultural changes experienced by young people,” and to encourage a challenging and confident mindset in young people.

It’s all about valuing and utilising young peoples’ contributions. As Mark Miller rightly says, “young people are our future visitors, curators and critics, and they need to experience the rich potential that museums and galleries have to offer.” If somebody had told my 15-year old self that I could have been working with friends on creative projects which would actually reach out to other young people and make a positive difference, I’d have snapped their hand off. And I’m clearly not alone.  So far Circuit has positively reached 135,000 young people across the 9 participating galleries, providing the chance to gain experience in teamwork, marketing and events planning in the creative industries, all through exciting peer-led events.

Here at Nottingham Contemporary we’re hoping to attract 500 people to our upcoming COLLABOR-8 event >> http://on.fb.me/1xDASSU. And we’re eager to continue getting even more young people involved with the gallery. Thanks to Tate and the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, the voices of young people are finally being heard. And with every Circuit step forward helping to cement connections between galleries and the youth sector, it looks set to stay that way.