Contemporary Celebrations

I am 23 years old and originally from Northampton. I began studying Print Journalism at Nottingham Trent University last September. After attending an event at the Contemporary and finding out about it’s youth work and events, I decided to write an article about it for my university assignment. I think the Contemporary is a great place to visit if you are interested in art and music and it offers something for people of all ages.


In the past art galleries have been stereotyped as a venue for those aged over 40 with an interest in the theatre, classical music and similar sophisticated activities.

But with the help of hip and modern institutions such as the Nottingham Contemporary, this has changed and galleries now offer a wide range of events and activities specifically designed to appeal to the younger generation.

Holly Skelton investigates the rising popularity of art galleries and the techniques being used to attract a younger audience.

It’s a cold, dark Thursday evening in November, but the lights of the Nottingham Contemporary shine bright as it holds a late night gallery opening to celebrate its fifth birthday.

The complimentary cocktails, film screenings and spot talks on current exhibitions have attracted an impressive audience, although the average age of guests may come as a surprise to most people.

Phoebe Ball, an aspiring jazz musician from Keyworth, Nottingham is one of the young attendees among the selection of guests.

“It’s nice to be at such a special event. The combination of music and art makes the Contemporary unique and sets it apart from other venues in Nottingham,” says Phoebe, 18, a regular member of the gallery’s youth group.

When she’s not attending weekly youth group sessions or working part-time at ethical cosmetics chain, Lush, Phoebe often performs at the gallery and plays an active role in planning and participating in events and exhibitions.

“The youth groups give young people a voice, and allow them to have an input in the exhibitions and events,” she says.

Phoebe explains how the gallery have helped her music progress and enabled her to develop as an artist.

She says: “They have supported me and my music a phenomenal amount – if it wasn’t for them I would have really struggled to be where I am today.”

Keen to showcase the talent that has been so greatly supported by the gallery, Phoebe performs a selection of songs including a crowd pleasing rendition of 80’s classic, Tainted Love.

Following the performance she tells guests about COLLABOR-8, a

Birthdaymonthly visual arts and social event held at the gallery which creates a ‘safe social scene’ for aspiring young artists and musicians.

She says: “It has helped uncover some great local talent!”

The event aims to give 15-25 year olds the opportunity to develop skills and meet new people while enjoying free art and music, and has been credited for attracting a younger audience to the gallery.

Phoebe says: “The project has helped me gain confidence and work with other young people in the area – it really is a great event.”

Josh Fowler, 23, a musician, is a collaborator of the progamme and often performs at COLLABOR-8 alongside his band, the Wanderlings.

He says: “I come here to see the exhibitions and watch performances. I like the space and layout, the gallery has a good character.”

Josh explains how youth projects such as COLLABOR-8 help young people develop an interest in art and music.

He says: “Youth groups are a great way for young musicians to get noticed – they have opened up a whole new world for young people in the area.”

The Contemporary’s extensive space, modern facilities and quirky character make it the ideal location for activities tailored to the younger generation.

Built on Nottingham’s historic Lace Market, the gallery boasts over 3,000 square metres of space, making it one of the largest contemporary art centres in the UK.

Along with four galleries, the modern building has its own film space, performance area and Contemporary Café Bar, which has become a popular hangout for locals aged under 25.

Charlotte Neep, Gallery Assistant says: “The fact the gallery hosts a range of international art, films and free music events suitable for all ages make it such a popular venue.”

COLLABOR-8 and the Contemporary’s weekly youth group are part of Circuit, a national four year programme for 15 – 25 year olds.

Charlotte, 28, explains: “Circuit is designed to encourage 15-25 year olds to manage their own learning by participating in cultural activities such as festivals and art projects.”

The four year scheme involves a number of UK galleries including the Tate Modern and Tate Britain, and is supported and funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation.

“The programme enables young people from a variety of backgrounds to get involved in art and music – it really is unique,” says Charlotte.

The Contemporary has also recently revealed even more opportunities for young people to be involved.

Gallery Youth Programmer, Alice Thickett says: “The Contemporary youth programme is quite a huge project and it has undergone some major phases since the opening of the gallery.”

Kicking off on January 9, the gallery will begin a series of workshops led by Associate Artist, Sam Metz.

Sam, freelance artist and researcher, specialises in sculpture and construction and has worked with several youth projects around Nottingham.

Alice, 25, explains: “The workshops invite under 25s to drop in, share ideas and work as a group to create based on the Contemporary’s building and the main exhibitions.”

Following the final workshop, a social event will be held in the Contemporary’s Space which will coincide with the Cafe.Bar’s Saturday music programme and present a young, local musician as the support act on the night.

Alice explains: “We are always keen to introduce young people to the gallery. Projects like Circuit appeal to a younger audience and have visibly increased the number of visitors aged under 30.”

Now a place to enjoy acoustic performances, discover talented musicians and get involved in exciting art projects, the Contemporary proves that galleries are no longer the dull places you were once forced to visit on school trips.

Instead, a refreshing and rewarding world of culture, talent and opportunity lie behind those big glass doors, simply waiting to be embraced by the younger generation of today.

Holly Skelton