Rebellious Voices

Rebellious Voices explores the socio-political context that has served as a backdrop for Circuit, a programme connecting young people and galleries with a view to sparking change. This series of audio pieces examine the work of galleries and youth programmes under the conditions of austerity, through a montage of political broadcasts and four years’ of interviews and recordings made with Circuit participants. The listener is invited to consider the impact of government cuts on the lives and futures of millennials.

£387m cuts from youth service spending.
A future at risk: cuts in youth services, Unison, 2016.

15% cuts to the arts.
Funding arts and culture in a time of austerity, Arts Council England, 2016.

The work considers five key themes relating to the youth and arts sectors. Beginning with a challenge to prevalent media attitudes, and culminating in a call to action for arts organisations, the piece serves as an audio-archive of diverse experiences in a period fraught with political tensions. Commissioned by Circuit to provide a critical account of the programme and to highlight youth voices, the active research approach taken in this piece enacts the values of openness that have been central to the project itself.

The work was made by Hannah Kemp-Welch, sound artist and Circuit Digital Producer. First shown during the Circuit conference at Nottingham Contemporary, then at the Circuit celebration at Primary, it transferred to Tate Modern in April 2017 along with staff commissions by Sally Noall, Alice Thickett and Rachel Noel.


1. Riot

David Cameron condemns riots across the country in a speech outside 10 Downing Street, 9 August 2011.

Circuit was funded in the wake of the 2011 riots to create meaningful opportunities for young people. Whilst the political response to the riots was initially to point the finger, the young people of Collabor8 Collective, Nottingham Contemporary, saw it as a movement of disaffected young people for whom there is ever less provision.

Exploring the role of the media in propagating negative attitudes towards young people, Young Art Kommunity at Firstsite fired back at the press in a film they produced and broadcast to their accusers, reading aloud from an article published in The Colchester Gazette in 2012 which had labelled them ‘yob menaces’. This piece highlights the power of young people’s cultural production to provoke change.

This work contains extracts Young Art Kommunity’s film Talk Don’t Rant, made in collaboration with artist Ilona Sagar.


2. Creative Education

Nicky Morgan on arts education during the launch of the ‘Your Life’ campaign, 10 November 2014.

Whilst government bodies were busy writing arts out of the curriculum, young people reflected on their experiences as part of a cultural programme taking place in galleries across the UK. Making the case for the value of a creative education extending beyond the realms of gearing people towards jobs in the arts, Circuit participants highlighted the value of arts programmes in connecting them with their peers, and providing scope for personal and professional development.


3. Difference

Boris Johnson urges voters to ‘take back control’ of immigration as part of the Leave campaign, on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, 6 March 2016.

At a time when immigration remains at the forefront of debate in the wake of Brexit, pushing for diversity in our cultural institutions is more crucial than ever. Starting with an exploration of ‘difference’, speakers interrogate the conditions needed for organisations to be truly inclusive. Is there a dominant culture in galleries? How does this alter the demographic of both its staff and its audience? In working to widen participation and to forge new access routes for young people to engage in cultural programmes, Circuit participants give voice to the barriers they’ve encountered and suggest shifts in established models – not just in galleries but in society as a whole.


4. 15-25

Jeremy Corbyn challenges cuts to youth provision in George Osborne’s Budget statement in the House of Commons, 16 March 2016.

Austerity is hitting millennials hard. This piece is a collective response from 15-25 year olds, describing the pressures and anxieties of growing up in 2017.

Circuit participants call on organisations to challenge the social constructs and inherent stereotypes of ‘youth’. They also shine a spotlight on institutions’ use of audience segmentation as a means to categorise, speak for and make assumptions about the needs of a group when devising targeted programmes in ways that fail to take into account its fluidity and diversity.


5. Change

The former leader of UKIP claims that the education system has been ‘hijacked’ by the left in a speech at Hillsdale College in Michigan, 21 February 2017.

As funding for arts and heritage shrinks and organisations seek to align themselves with for-profit business in order to survive, speakers highlight the extent to which this has impacted core values of accessibility and social responsibility. How far does the commitment to providing the next generation with cultural experiences extend, and how can youth programmers push for diversity to become a priority when institutions are under increasing pressure to generate profit to sustain themselves? Voicing the need for widespread and effective organisational change, barriers are identified and a route forward proposed.


Hope you like the work – would love to hear any feedback about it.

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