How can a building make you smile?Reimagining and redeveloping The Courts Imagine a place where a young person’s background, race, beliefs, gender, physical ability and economic status had nothing to do with how good they could be, what they could achieve. A space where they could fully explore their creative potential, receive support and mentoring, and find meaningful work. That place is the Old Bristol Magistrates Courts (The Courts). An enterprise centre to help young people set up their own creative businesses and develop their opportunities. A place where there are no barriers to their future, where the only things that count are their abilities and talents. Thanks to the The National Lottery Heritage Fund and Bristol City Council we are developing detailed business and architectural plans to reimagine and redevelop this historic city landmark as a place that will complement Bristol’s renowned and growing creative industries sector. To get involved and keep up to date with our progress, sign up to our newsletter. The Problem with Creativity The Creative Surplus UK creative industries are a true success story. They are growing at twice the rate of the UK economy, while employment in the sector grows at four times the rate of the national workforce. Creative industries form a key sector of UK industry, generating around £92 billion per annum and contributing more than 5% of the UK economy (DCMS, 2017). Taken as a whole, the creative industries employ about 15,900 people in the Bristol and Bath area. The region’s creatives are estimated to be 50% more productive than the UK average and productivity in creative businesses across Bristol and Bath has increased by 106% since 1999. The Creative Deficit All those positive statistics mask stark reminders about how inequality and other disadvantages are stopping many very able young people from entering the creative industries. White people hold 88% of the jobs and only 11% are occupied by BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) people. Men dominate the sector holding 63% of the jobs. In the gaming industry, a creative field in which the UK excels, 86% of jobs are held by men, 96% by white people. It is also significantly difficult if a young person comes from state education. Since 2010, there has been a 28% drop in the number of students taking creative GCSEs, with a corresponding drop in the number of specialist arts teachers. Our Solution The Courts will throw open the doors to creativity through an open, enabling and supportive environment for those talented but disadvantaged or marginalised young people seeking to enter the creative industries. Floor by floor plan Basement It is envisaged the basement level (the old cell block) will contain incubator space and enterprise workshops for young people. Our plan is to let this space on a short-term and quick-release basis for people looking to develop a business, or starting out as a young professional. Ground floor The ground floor currently has four courtrooms, one of which will be restored to its original condition and offered as a film, television and performance location. The remaining rooms will be developed into lettable spaces for multipurpose use. These will include space for Creative Youth Network services, for creative industries, youth participation work, performance, gallery exhibition and a bar/café.A public entry will ensure everyone, regardless of their physical ability, can use the same entrance. First, second & third floors The first, second and third floors will provide 1,115m² of high-quality office space let commercially and accommodating around 110 workers. These tenant organisations will share our organisational values and ethos for the building.A new lift will connect all four floors, again ensuring full access, while the old staircase will be retained as a heritage feature. We are also considering a green-roof across some of the open spaces covering the rooftop to complement the high-spec insulation, heating and cooling, and energy conservation measures planned to ensure The Courts has the lowest possible environmental impact. About us Blog Why equality of access is not the same as equity of access to the arts and creativity There’s a quote, often paraphrased, that goes “Talent is equally distributed, opportunity is not”, which raises interesting questions about equality vs equity. We see this time and time again at Creative Youth Network and we're keen to even out the playing field through innovative projects such The Courts - an enterprise centre to help young people set up their own creative businesses and develop their opportunities. Take the world of arts and creativity, for example, where diversity and inclusion is a particularly thorny issue, one which, to their credit, funders and businesses are keen to address. And no wonder – the stats are pretty dire. Only 18 per cent of those who work in the visual and performing arts sector are from a working-class background and four per cent from a Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic (BAME) background. When you consider that nearly half of the UK’s population is working-class and nearly one in five BAME, this is shockingly low. This lack of diversity is not just an issue of social justice - it also has real commercial consequences. This sector relies on its creative output for its success. If this doesn't reflect the diversity of its audiences, or it's irrelevant to the experience of an increasingly diverse and global market, then its long-term sustainability is in question. How do we break the cycle? Many believe that equality is the answer – by providing a level playing field we will ensure everyone has access. This may be correct, but should we not consider addressing needs and barriers at an individual level to ensure that access is sustained and reflective of all? Here at Creative Youth Network we know that young people’s potential is unlocked through meaningful professional relationships. By working with each young person on a 1-2-1 basis we can understand their individual needs and barriers to best support them and signpost them to the most suitable provision. It’s only by identifying individual needs that we can address inequality. Think about your journey I’ve been passionate about breaking down the barriers of access to the arts ever since my very first work placement at the Tate in St Ives after completion of my Fine Art Degree. It was a great experience only made possible by my own ability to self-fund the time, and because my parents encouraged me to take the opportunity. Here at Creative Youth Network we want to ensure every young person has access to high quality creative provision. From the young person who’s disengaging in education, to the emerging young talent, we want to provide high quality creative activities to enable young people to unlock their potential. But what happens when they reach the point of transitioning as professionals into the creative industries operating on an equality model rather than an equity one? Failure. Young artists' journeys Let’s take the journey of a young emerging artist from a care leaver background (a common occurrence at Creative Youth Network), and let’s call them Sam. At the age of 16 Sam meets one of our Creative Youth Workers at their supported accommodation whilst the worker is delivering outreach to recruit young people for one of the many creative courses we run. These are 10-week programmes to support young creatives to learn new skills, make new work and gain the Arts Award qualification. Until this point, Sam was unaware that their ability and interest in film offered anything other than a hobby. Sam’s meeting with our Creative Youth Worker, a professional filmmaker, is the first encouragement they’ve had to explore their talent and potential in this medium. On the course Sam flourishes, and is encouraged to apply for the next step on our creative pathway, a six-month programme that enables talented young emerging artists to establish their professional career. We offer mentoring, employment, commissioning and studio space, all of which would ordinarily be beyond Sam’s reach. At the end Sam launches a short film, releases it online and receives a fantastic response. Now Sam is ready. They’ve been introduced to the sector, they’ve networked and developed links, and their portfolio is brimming with new, innovative work. What’s the next step? Unpaid internship where Sam won’t be able to afford their new social housing as they’re now 17 and out of supported living? Unpaid volunteering as a runner giving Sam the same problem as option 1? And both opportunities arise in London, so Sam needs to relocate, or travel and pay for temporary accommodation as well as accommodation in Bristol. And what happens if Sam does move to London temporarily, but in so doing misses a meeting with the housing officer who then decides Sam doesn’t need social housing anymore? This is all whilst Sam needs at least a 32 hour a week job to support his living costs. Can you see Sam’s conundrum? Sam’s story is not an isolated case. What about the homeless person who wants to attend a theatre production or work in theatre, but the time of the shows is the same as the food banks on which they rely? What about the dyslexic person who needs to write a funding bid or tender to get the money they need to sustain their career? The list goes on, which means that the sector, consciously or not, is constantly providing barriers to those interested or talented young people who we and others are tirelessly trying to support in accessing the sector. To truly diversify the arts and creative industries, and to reap the many benefits this will bring, we need to radically change the way the industry operates. That is why we are redeveloping and reimagining the Old Magistrates Courts as a city centre space where emerging, diverse talent can meet and work with industry professionals. From hot desking together in offices, to attending workshops and masterclasses together, we will encourage meetings and engagement rather than emails and applications. There will be social events and free opportunities, and tenants will commit to providing access to their organisation through employment and paid apprenticeships to emerging artists from diverse backgrounds. Our vision for the Old Magistrates Courts is to provide pathways and progression for emerging and diverse young talent into the industry, whilst supporting the industry to diversify access and support to engage, nurture and sustain emerging talent well beyond the current norm. And all of this builds on the pathways we are already creating for exploring creativity and talent for young people from the age of 11. For us equity of access to the creative industries is not a politically correct ideal, it’s a fundamental requirement if our arts and cultural sector is to continue to succeed over the longer term. But that’s just our view – let me know what you think. How can we help?