Swindon selected for prestigious British Museum youth project

By Anita Jaynes on 23 June, 2023

Swindon Museum and Art Gallery and Prime Theatre have been announced as one of only two national partnerships in the prestigious British Museum ‘Where We Are…’ youth programme for 2023.

The 10-month project will see Swindon Museum and Art Gallery working collaboratively with Prime Theatre and 16 to 24 year olds in Swindon to co-design and deliver an arts project in the town.

The aim is to bring the voices of young people centre-stage, particularly those who are often under-represented in the cultural sector, giving young people a chance to shape arts and culture in Swindon.

‘Where We Are…’ is a national programme, run by the British Museum, and supported by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation. It aims to break down barriers to cultural access and to engage more young people directly with arts and culture in their local area.

With support from Swindon Museum and Art Gallery and Prime Theatre and other professional artists, 15 young people will design and deliver an arts project, culminating in a celebration of their work next February.

Swindon Museum and Art Gallery cares for collections, which tell the stories of Swindon, from pre-history to the present. This includes natural sciences, archaeology, world cultures and social history, alongside a nationally significant collection of modern and contemporary British art. As part of the ‘Where We Are…’ project, young people will lend their voices to these stories, helping the Museum find new ways to understand, explore and share the Town’s rich cultural heritage.

Prime Theatre is Swindon’s professional theatre company for young people supported by Arts Council England. As an arts and education charity, Prime works in partnership with other heritage and arts organisations to give young people early access to culture and essential opportunities to develop their own creative voices. 

Prime works in partnership with Swindon Borough Council’s Children’s Services department to deliver Arts Award qualifications to children in priority groups; those with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND), Children Looked After, Care Leavers, and young people who are working with youth justice services. Prime and the Council are a national Arts Award Champion for this unique programme.

Mags Parker, Learning and Engagement Officer at Swindon Museum and Art Gallery, commented, “This is an amazing opportunity for us and for young people in Swindon. We are really excited to be involved in a project that enables us to work alongside young people and to benefit from their expertise, as well as that of Prime Theatre and the British Museum.

“This project will make our work more relevant for young people and will create a legacy of strong youth engagement for the future.”

Mark Powell, Artistic Director at Prime Theatre, said, “It’s brilliant that Swindon’s youth have this timely and rare opportunity to influence the new museum and art gallery and to share with adults exactly what arts and heritage could and should mean to them. We have as much to learn as they do.”

Councillor Marina Strinkovsky, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Culture, Art and Heritage, said, “I’m incredibly proud of the energetic and dedicated Museums team and the fantastic crew at Prime for this achievement.

“The British Museum choosing Swindon as one of only two awardees is a testament to the richness of our town’s culture and the wealth of talent it nurtures. I look forward to seeing the work our young people will create as part of the programme.”

Hanouf Al-Alawi, National Outreach Manager at the British Museum, added, “We are excited to be partnering this year with Swindon Museum and Art Gallery and with Prime Theatre. This is the third year of the Where we are… delivering projects nationally, and since 2021 we have been building a national network of cultural and third sector organisations that place local young people at the heart of co-production. 

“Our partners bring a wealth of expertise and knowledge of working with young people who face multiple barriers to engaging with the arts and cultures. They have been pivotal to our understanding of how to create safe and welcoming spaces to young people and how to engage meaningfully in co-producing arts and cultural projects with them. We are looking forward to work closely with our Swindon partners to shape their youth-led local project.”