New Funding Allows Young People to Explore Their Forgotten Local Histories
From connecting different generations of LGBTQIA+ communities in Newcastle to share stories and tackle loneliness, to encouraging young people to seek out the rich history of a former fire station in Hull that now serves as a community hub, Historic England has announced brand new funding for 11 youth-led place marking projects across northern England.
The ‘History in the Making’ programme will empower young people in the north of England to explore and celebrate their local histories through new and different ways of place marking.
Following an open call out in May, Historic England received over 40 applications for the scheme and was guided in the decision-making process by Historic England’s Young Advisors. Eleven grants of up to £15,000, a total of £151,000 in funding, will fund projects over the next 18 months.
Among those chosen for funding are projects exploring the Roman era multiculturalism of Hadrian’s Wall, the diverse history of Sunderland’s musical past, Blackpool’s historic connection to tourism and the theme of pride within the industrial seaside communities of Redcar.
Using different artforms, from art works and murals to immersive walking trails and theatre productions, young people will decide who and what to celebrate and how best to do it. These projects will provide new opportunities for young people to discover, engage and connect with their local stories and ensure the history that matters to them is not forgotten.
The aim of the programme is to improve young people’s wellbeing, from increasing connection to and pride in their local place, to gaining skills, confidence and social connection.
Historic England’s Young Advisors
Our Young Advisors are a group of 10 young people (18-25) from across England. They are from a diverse range of backgrounds but are united in their passion to widen access to history and heritage.
Their role is to advise us on our young peoples’ engagement. We want young peoples’ voices to be central to our provision for young people, so their input has genuine impact on our practice.
They were part of the youth panel that decided which History in the Making projects to fund and will be informing the next phase of the project.
We value our Young Advisors for their expertise and pay them for their time. The current panel members will stay with us for 12 months after which time we will recruit a new cohort.
As a young person, we hear about how important it is to have youth voice and youth inclusion, but often there is a lot of dictation and leadership from those who aren't young people. It can be hard to truly find an initiative that is for young people, with young people at the forefront. In every History in the Making project selected, the quality of not only engaging with young people, but allowing young people to take decisions and creative control has been incredible. It's been a wonderful lifeline of hope to see.
The eleven projects being funded by Historic England’s History in the Making grants
Heritage and Art Project, Blackpool
This project, led by a collective of youth organisations in Blackpool and Blackpool Council, will ask young people what matters to them about the architecture and character of Blackpool. Using this as a starting point, they will create a final place marker in the form of a street art mural. This final output will embrace the role of street art in the city and the skills of young people in the community.
Inspiration will be sparked by walking the local area and learning about its heritage, specifically around Blackpool’s connection to tourism. Young people will record the project, the making of the art and their personal journeys through a variety of methods, including photography, videoing, drawing or cartooning, spoken word or rap performance and written word.
Life of the Wall, Newcastle
A group of 11 young people have been meeting weekly to visit an allotment near Hadrian’s Wall. These visits have become crucial to supporting their mental health and wellbeing, but they have never had the opportunity to learn more about the history and significance of the ancient wall to their local community. The young people will work with a member of staff from the Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums to explore the history of the wall. Then they will work with a creative artist (selected by the young people) over eight sessions to produce a place marker.
Life of the Wall will help this small group develop their pride and a strengthened sense of belonging as they contribute to the community’s understanding of its past and celebrate their research. The project will reveal a new place marker focused on stories about the people from different communities and countries that lived together during the Roman period, linked to the multiculturalism of modern-day Newcastle.
What form this place marker will take is yet to be decided by the group but they are currently interested in it becoming an image or sculpture. An intergenerational celebration event will also be held at the allotment, bringing together community allotment owners, local residents, and friends and family of the young people.
Byron and on and on, Horden
Seaham has many markers commemorating links to Lord Byron, but some in the community feel he had little to do with the town aside from marrying the local Lord’s daughter. Young people think it's time to draw out more of the town's interesting characters and explore other important people who have helped to make the town what it is, particularly women. This project will see young people from Seaham youth groups lead new research and consult with the wider community to decide on alternative people to commemorate through new plaques.
When You Were Me, Newcastle
Research released during the pandemic by national charity Just Like Us found that ‘LGBTQIA+ young people in the Northeast are the loneliest in England’. This project will bring together multiple generations of LGBTQIA+ artists, using a variety of artforms, to increase the visibility of the LGBTQIA+ community in Newcastle. The city currently has no specifically queer spaces beyond the Pink Triangle, which is an exclusively adult space for only some of Newcastle’s LGBTQIA+ community.
As a result, young LGBTQIA+ individuals can feel excluded from their own history. This project, guided by Curious Arts, will see young LGBTQIA+ people connect with older generations in workshops led by ‘Queer Elders’ and local LGBTQIA+ historians. This will encourage story-sharing across different generations to create bonds and make space for learning about personal and shared experiences. These young people will then inform the wider public about Newcastle’s LGBTQIA+ story through an interactive queer map of the city linking to virtual mini-murals and a performance at Curious Festival 2024.
Westoe Colliery, South Shields
The specialist neurodiverse education and wellbeing centre of the community group Autism Able stands on the original site of Westoe Colliery, St Hilda’s Colliery and the Harton Electric Railway. For this project, neurodivergent young people will investigate the rich history of mining in Westoe and discover more about the historic colliery buildings that are still being used for alternative purposes in the local community.
This project will give young people a connection point and platform to explore their history and creatively express their feelings. Creative place markers that the young people on this project may decide to produce include a sound walk, zine, webpage, local launch and a physical place marker, all written and directed by young people from the local community.
Big History, Bright Future, Rotherham
In 2022, Children’s Capital of Culture ran consultation workshops with over 1,300 local children and young people in Rotherham which revealed that although there were many aspects of living in the borough that they loved, such as its green spaces, many felt that Rotherham has a negative reputation. They are passionate about changing this by celebrating the diversity of cultures in the borough and helping to build connections between communities.
Guided by Imagine Rotherham – a steering group of local organisations experienced in co-creating art projects with young people – this project aims to create a mural that speaks to young communities living in Rotherham. Three paid apprentices will be hired to support this work, which will include outreach with Slovak and Roma communities. Meanwhile, a filmmaker will help to capture the workshops and creation of this artwork while interviewing residents participating in the project. Oral histories will become part of the Rotherham archive collection at Clifton Park Museum.
Redcar Peeps, Redcar
Coastal towns have traditionally had a more eccentric side as a place for theatre, amusement, casual beach activities and leisure. This, in turn, has led to a connection between coastal towns and LGBTQIA+ communities. Redcar has a seemingly empty LGBTQIA+ archive and record, so Tees Valley Arts would like young people to question this narrative and explore how queerness has always existed, especially within working-class coastal communities.
Young people participating in this project will produce a piece of public art based around the theme of pride past and present within the industrial seaside communities of Redcar, juxtaposed with themes of LGBTQIA+ pride, joy, and the queer histories surrounding coastal towns. Final artworks will be inspired by classic seaside amusements such as peep-show boards and mutoscope film (an early motion picture device) and will be shared with the public on the seafront in Redcar.
Women’s Histories in Wakefield, West Yorkshire
This project sees artists Emma Hardaker and Emily Ryalls working with a group of young women to uncover the overlooked history of Wakefield’s women. The project will be co-created with the community and will see Emma and Emily share arts skills traditionally inaccessible to young women to develop their creativity beyond the project.
Exploring local identity, lost narratives and overlooked histories, the project will use the Forgotten Women of Wakefield campaign for blue plaque parity as a springboard, with the final installations aiming to create more place markers for women of importance.
The group will develop skills in construction, craft and photography. Workshops will build up to co-creating a series of sculptures/3D forms, narrated by the group's photographs and inspired by Wakefield's architecture and the often overlooked stories of women in the town.
Untold Stories, Sunderland
With co-creation centred at the very heart of this project, young people will decide on the direction and final output of Untold Stories. Led by experienced youth facilitators The Six Twenty, young people will create an audio-visual walking trail to celebrate the local and overlooked histories they consider the most important. Along the way, they will share skills, get creative and hopefully ignite a new passion in themselves for history and heritage.
A selection of potential project themes has been suggested that include investigating Sunderland’s LGBTQIA+ history, its diverse musical past or the forgotten past-times, sports and hobbies of the town’s workers. Following a period of workshopping and co-creation, the final stage of the project will be a launch event including live performance elements and the premiere of the online trail and documentary film.
The Unseen Firefighters, Hull
The Warren Youth Project has been providing vital support services to young people in Hull for over 40 years. This project aims to look into the rich history of the building they occupy – Queens Dock Chambers – a Grade II listed former fire station that sits within Hull’s Old Town Conservation Area. Using local resources such as the Hull Local History Centre and tapping into the knowledge of the community, this project seeks to construct a comprehensive creative record of the building's historical significance.
Using archival research, oral histories, and local historians, young people will learn about the evolution, history, and notable events associated with Queens Dock Chambers and the old dock it used to serve. This is particularly important as the community in Hull will soon be the custodians of the building for the next 100 years following an imminent Community Asset Transfer. They feel very strongly about trying to connect with and explore the building’s past, sensing a powerful connection with the fact that the fire service which once occupied this building shared a similar aim of helping people in need.
Oldham’s 21st Century Origins, Oldham
At present, historical and archived information in Oldham can be seen as inaccessible and not visible or relevant to young people. This project will challenge this perception. A partnership between Peshkar (an arts charity working with underrepresented communities in Oldham) and Waterhead Academy, Oldham College & Oasis Academy with Mahdlo Youth Zone, it will focus on the teenage experience throughout the decades of people living in Oldham, with a specific focus on White British and the South Asian Communities.
Young people from the local community will have the chance to explore what heritage means to individuals from different generations and capture the impact of cultural changes on the social make-up of these towns. Young people will curate and exhibit a digital and in-person exhibition at the end of the project showcasing their research in Oldham Schools and Oldham Gallery. It will highlight how global heritages have shaped Oldham and enable future young people to learn about the origins of Oldham. Themes explored will include changing fashions, cuisines, education, values, recreational hobbies and events that shaped the community's political views.
These History in the Making grants really show the breadth of what heritage can mean to different communities and the range of creative ways we can form connections to our local heritage through place marking. These projects will improve young people’s wellbeing by encouraging a sense of pride in their local place and enabling them to gain new skills and confidence. It’s been fantastic to get the input of our Young Advisors to help us ensure we are funding projects that truly allow young people to lead and explore their local history. We can’t wait to see what they discover and how they decide to share and mark their heritage.