Test Risk Change

Exploring democratic practice between young people, youth organisations and galleries


Circuit Programme National Conference

Nottingham Contemporary, Friday 10 March 2017

On 10th March 2017, delegates from arts and youth organisations across the country gathered at Nottingham Contemporary for a day of lively debate.

Framed around four years of learning from Circuit and the theme of democratic practice, the conference explored how the two sectors can work together effectively in turbulent social and political times, to challenge inequalities and champion young people’s cultural participation.

Take a look below to find out more about what happened on the day…


Conference highlights


Test, Risk, Change was the first of a series of platforms for conversation hosted through Circuit in 2017, between the arts and youth sectors and young people, investigating what steps can be taken to engage with wider social justice agendas and to push for change within and beyond institutions.

A provocation set the tone for the day, posing questions relating to the agency of young people, the authenticity of partnership, and the dynamics of organisational change.

Discussions between youth practitioners, gallery staff and young people interrogated these topics, drawing upon everyone’s collective experience to identify how to make our programmes more socially inclusive, politically relevant and creatively diverse.

Panellists from within Circuit and beyond voiced their views. Delegates posed questions, engaged in open conversations, and shared expertise. Together we thought about how to collaborate meaningfully while cuts and policy changes are altering the landscape of national youth provision, and proposed actions to advance future alliances.

All sessions were recorded – please email circuit.tate.org.uk if you would like to request the audio.



Kay Hardiman, Head of Learning, Nottingham Contemporary
Anna Cutler, Director of Learning, Tate

Circuit: An Introduction

Maria Balshaw, Director, the Whitworth, University of Manchester and Manchester City Galleries
Rachel Moilliet, Circuit National Programme Manager
Régis Cochefert, Director, Grants and Programmes, Paul Hamlyn Foundation
Ernest Wereko, Tate Collective London member
Julie McCarthy, Creative Producer, 42nd Street
Abigail Christenson, Curator, Young People, Tate Liverpool

Provocation: Youth, change and honesty

Raluca Moraru, Circuit Assistant, Nottingham Contemporary

Cross-sector partnership: Is democratic practice possible?

How is agency and power distributed in partnership activity, and can youth and gallery organisations, young people and artists work together equitably? Speakers unpick the challenges of cross-sector partnership and propose ideas for trialing different ways of working.

Jeff Mills, Director, Business and Communities, tasc Manchester (Chair)
Isabella Martin, artist, Wysing Arts Centre & Kettle’s Yard
Nicola Sim, Doctoral researcher, Tate/The University of Nottingham
Alice Thickett, Youth Programmer, Nottingham Contemporary
Calum Watts, Residential Social Care Worker, Crocus Fields
Charlotte Winters, Young Artist Kommunity (Y.A.K) member, and Trustee, Firstsite

Breakout sessions

What does authentic peer-led working look like?

A series of reflections on the realities of co-production between diverse groups of young people, organisations and staff members. Participants highlight different models of peer-led practice and question how much autonomy can be afforded to young people who are not familiar with galleries. Drawing upon examples of practice in the youth and cultural sector, this session asks: does ‘peer-led’ work in hierarchical organisations? How do young people learn through these semi-professional models? And could they be more inclusive?

Will Dean, former GLITCH Collective member, Mostyn
Sufea Mohamad Noor, Tate Collective Liverpool member
Tracy Ramsey, Professional tutor in youth and community work, Liverpool Hope University
Deborah Riding, Programme Manager, Children & Young People, Tate Liverpool
Rebecca Scott, former Circuit Cambridge member
April Taylor, GLITCH Collective member, Mostyn

Just a gig in a gallery? Cultural democracy in the museum

How serious are galleries about connecting with popular/sub youth cultures beyond the visual arts? And can engaging with different art forms help to make galleries more relevant social spaces? A discussion on investing in young creatives, and developing emerging talent through social practice.

Mike Baines, Whitworth Young Contemporaries Emerging Artist, musician/MC
Angela Diakopoulou, Circuit evaluator
Araba Mercer Banson, Tate Collective London member
Adrian Newman, Station Manager, Reprezent Radio
Adrian Shaw, Late at Tate Programmer, Tate London
Andrew Vaughan, Learning Manager, the Whitworth

Spatial democracy

Programmers, artists, young people and youth workers from Circuit sites share learning from a range of experiments in deformalising and democratising space to build relevance through everyday social encounters. In former cafes, shops and bus stations, many Circuit projects have created new relationships with communities and youth workers, and tested innovative ways of working beyond the site of the gallery or youth centre. Can galleries and youth organisations learn from these methods, as well as use art practice to navigate tensions surrounding young people's presence in the public realm?

James Davidson, Y.A.K member, Firstsite
Judith Merritt, Head of Talks and Exhibitions, National Theatre
Ben Randall, Youth and Community Based Commissioner, Essex Youth Service, Essex County Council
Emma Saffy Wilson, artist, St Ives
Marijke Steedman, Curator
Rachael Woodhead, Learning Curator, Tate St Ives

Red tape and glass ceilings: who speaks for young people?

How much say and responsibility do young people really have in youth programmes? What are the factors that limit and amplify their voices? From LGBT cultures to campaigns for racial equality, how can organisations embody underrepresented issues and communities that young people relate to? Circuit’s young evaluators ask who is speaking, who is listening, and whose voices may be missing.

Rachael Coward, Tate Collective St Ives member
Lou Greenwell, Circuit Cambridge member
Roz Hall, Circuit Critical Friend
Jackie McManus, Circuit board member and education consultant
Bradley Stephens, Y.A.K member, Firstsite
Decarla Phillip-Riley, Tate Collective London member
Dominique Phizacklea, former Collabor-8 member, Nottingham Contemporary
Gaby Sahhar, Tate Collective London member

Organisational change? Directors’ Question Time

How are institutions committing to future work with young people? How can we learn from, and extend the influence of these types of programmes? And how can galleries expand their civic role and share resources with communities? Young participants and partners of Circuit put questions to directors about the capacity for risk-taking and strategic change in their institutions.

India Cawley Gelling, Tate Collective Liverpool member
Michael Irwin, Curatorial Assistant, Firstsite
Francesco Manacorda, Artistic Director, Tate Liverpool
Julie McCarthy, Creative Producer, 42nd Street
Emily Pringle, Head of Learning Practice and Research, Tate
Roxanna Sultan, Intern, the Whitworth
Sam Thorne, Director, Nottingham Contemporary

Where were we, where are we and what next?

The riots of 2011 shone a light on young people’s frustrations with racial, generational, class and social inequalities, and were seen by many as a consequence of cuts to youth provision. This panel revisits the original motivations for Circuit and confronts the social urgencies that have shaped the creative energy of the programme. Can the art and youth sectors work effectively as allies to bring about future change, and what should this change look like?

Janna Graham, Lecturer and Programme Leader, BA in Curating, Department of Visual Cultures, Goldsmiths (Chair)
Edward Boott, Artistic Director, Nonsuch and National Programme Lead, Undivided
Pat Farrell (aka Cave Man), former Whitworth Emerging Artist
Hannah Kemp-Welch, Mental health programme manager, Raw Material (& Circuit Programme: Digital Producer)
Mark Miller, Convenor: Young People’s Programmes, Tate, and Circuit Programme National Lead
Angela Wereko-Anderson, Tate Collective London member

Closing comments

Peter Hamilton, Circuit board member and youth practitioner
Anna Cutler, Director of Learning, Tate