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 the A in STEAM shouldn’t stand for Add-on As another year’s GCSE’s draw to a close, our Creative Director rues the undervaluing of arts education. Recently, while interviewing artists to work with us in youth clubs, I noticed two things: one was that a sizeable number of applicants came from a teaching background or had a teaching qualification. Two, was that all of the applicants we did interview bemoaned the state of current arts education in comprehensive secondary education. I found myself surprised, but not because of this in itself. Arts education and training for children and young people is misunderstood and undervalued. It plays second (or third) fiddle to the subjects seen as essential to success in life – Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) – or as a lofty privilege for those who can afford to indulge in highbrow extracurricular activities. As a partner to a secondary art teacher and a former lecturer in Further and Higher Education myself, I am aware that the devaluing and under-funding of arts subjects in schools is leading to lower numbers of pupils taking GCSE or A-Level arts subjects. It is not news to me that the combination of a target driven curriculum, underpinned by the ideology of learning for workforce sake rather than for thinking sake, is contributing to the slow death of arts in schools as we know it. The narrative of ‘you won’t have a sustainable career if you study art/dance/drama’ persists. This despite recent figures that show that arts and culture contribute more to the economy than agriculture now, and the sector is growing year on year. What surprised me was the almost weary acceptance by both them and me of this status quo in which we find ourselves. The feeling that it is almost a lost cause. The importance of arts in education You may have encountered the excellent Ken Robinson’s Ted Talks on the importance of arts in education. If you’re dead keen you may have even read any one of the many fine and in-depth educational research journals and articles out there evidencing, without any ambiguity, how arts subjects teach and enhance skills critical to almost any profession or life-path - motor-skills, problem solving, communication, risk-taking, public speaking and so on. That arts subjects directly support and enhance learning across all other areas. You may argue that for the majority of people the arts are background entertainment, something to turn to in leisure time. Whilst we all have songs that got us through heartbreak and grief, a film that we love because it speaks to us about the relationships we hold dear, or a book that has particular relevance to us at this exact time in our life, no matter how many times we’ve read it before, in reality artists improve our lives in myriad ways. That sofa you’re lying on to read/watch/listen? Designed by an artist. The kettle you just boiled to fill your mug with Horlicks to cry into? Both designed by artists (maybe even the Sports Direct megamug). Those lovely shoes you just bought? You get the idea. Creativity and innovation To put art out on a limb as ‘other’, as a privilege to turn to when the serious work is done, is a hideously blinkered and ultimately dangerous perspective to take. According to a World Economic Forum survey of skills for future jobs, employers value creativity so much that is has moved from 10th most important in 2015 to 3rd most important. In 1st and 2nd place are complex problem solving and critical thinking, which also feature prominently in arts learning and practice. Along with innovation, these skills are core to the Business School curriculum, and much sought after, but we don’t listen to experts any more. In England the former education minister taught us that. By removing arts from the heart of education aren’t we setting up future generations for failure, and boring failure at that? Time and time again I see the direct and immediate positive impact that taking part in creative expression and exploration of self and society has on young people. I have seen, first hand, young people lifted and empowered to make positive life choices, beaming with pride and achievement in front of cheering audiences who have paid money to see them, forging long-lasting and deep relationships with peers and adults. A minority of these young people will go on to have a career in the arts and culture industries, but every single one of them will have a greater sense of self-worth and belonging. Creativity saves lives As we sit watching terrible reports on a knife crime epidemic (which the government has recently tried to put some of the management of onto teachers and youth workers) we are crazy not to acknowledge the power that arts and creativity has to at least open the doors to these young people’s lives, to understand the fears and pressures that are driving them, if not to enable them to actually make a change. Two decades ago a community theatre saved my life from substance misuse and mental ill-health. It works, believe me. It works because art is all about empathy. It is about seeing the world through someone else’s eyes and understanding that there are as many different versions of the world as there are people in it. When we have greater empathy for others, we can believe that others have empathy for us. We can believe that we are safe and that we belong as we are. We owe that to each and every single child and young person in this country and beyond, particularly as we head into a future where compassion and collaboration are likely to be at the heart of responding to humanity's many complex challenges. We know some of the solutions: STEAM not STEM; adequate funding for arts and culture; more artists, youth worked trained, working in youth clubs and similar settings; and a truly diverse and representative sector are all important. But the health of that sector, and society at large, rests first on understanding and accepting the importance of the untapped potential of young creative minds. 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