Getting young people into galleries isn’t all about art

“Nottingham Contemporary is massive. The basement would be great for a party.”

When a friend said this to me the other day, it got me thinking. I work on the Circuit programme at the gallery, a national programme led by Tate and supported by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation.

It aims to connect 15-25 year olds to galleries across the UK. In a nutshell, we want young people from Nottingham to feel more included and inspired in our work. All elements of the programme are free and peer-led, giving 15-25 year olds unprecedented creative scope, regardless of their backgrounds. Ultimately we want to change the way society perceives young people.

And as simple as it sounds to get young people into the gallery by holding say, a huge party, it isn’t as simple as that. The barriers which exist between young people and galleries are many. From being perceived as highbrow, to art feeling irrelevant to young peoples’ lives, Circuit is aiming to do a mammoth thing by breaking down these assumptions.

We are already making significant ground. In September last year, our young people held Collabor-8, an art and music social which attracted over 300 people to the gallery. These socials are now monthly, in addition to workshops and an advocate project. We’re also working with some incredible groups, such as the Refugee Forum, Crocus Fields and Parkour. Lots of young people are getting stuck into the programme and learning loads about their capacity to do great things.

A big moment for our young people comes this October, when they will hold a massive festival, taking over Nottingham Contemporary’s spaces. And it is here where I think Circuit can play an exciting role in the lives of 15-25 year olds across Nottingham.

Nottingham Contemporary can be pioneered as a space which welcomes different youth subcultures to interact, from sport to gaming. It’s not about forcing interaction with art. It’s about showing them that galleries are spaces which provide a platform for creativity to be appreciated.

If they subsequently connect with works they encounter in the galleries, then all the better. The arts truly allow the opinions of young people to be valued and impactful. Now if that doesn’t call for a party, I don’t know what does.


By Becky Timmins