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 young people deserve better The All Party Parliamentary Group released its review of youth work this week. Having taken evidence from across the UK, they conclude that local authorities have been forced, by austerity, to cut services for young people by nearly £0.5bn each year. This is a 62% cut since 2011. And the cuts fall squarely on open access and universal services – to you and me that means youth clubs and activities. Bristol and South Gloucestershire mirror the national picture, with the two local authorities cutting their investment since 2010 by about 40% and 60% respectively. Local authorities have, understandably, focussed their diminishing resources on the most hard to reach. In fact, our Head of Bristol Youth Services Kate Gough, wrote about it in our last blog. As a result, youth services have often been forced into becoming social services ‘lite’, offering support and guidance to the most vulnerable and disadvantaged young people. Whilst youth workers have always supported the most vulnerable, we have done so in their communities and where they are. This might mean chatting whilst cooking a pizza, building teamwork skills playing football, or learning to express yourself by making music. The youth club is one of the best places for young people to build confidence and make new friends. This was brought home to me when I visited one of our projects in the Dings, close to Barton Hill, where a vulnerable and shy young person came for the first time with her youth worker. It was nerve wracking for her, but she simultaneously took her first steps towards making new friends and developing her self-confidence, and first steps away from isolation and potential mental health problems. Our challenges The report highlights that we are losing these services at the rate of 150 youth clubs each year (between 2012-16). Rural areas have been effected more severely than urban. We know many young people in South Glos and other rural areas can’t get to what remains because transport is either expensive or non-existent. The report notes that, whilst Parish Councils and charities like Creative Youth Network have picked up the pieces, the service is highly dependent on short term funding and volunteers. It highlights too that there are real challenges with the workforce. Fewer and fewer people are training as youth workers, and fewer and fewer universities are offering courses. This is a sign of a skilled trade in decline just when we need it most. The pressures facing young people through school and social media are growing and young people’s mental health is suffering. At the very sharp end, vulnerable young people are becoming more and more isolated and, at the worst, drawn towards gangs, violence and exploitation. The report notes that government spending on young people is now being focussed almost entirely on the National Citizen Service (NCS), purely for those aged 16 over the summer and autumn holidays. While it’s a good programme, the focus of almost £200m a year on NCS in no way compensates for a similar loss in income for universal services offering activities, youth clubs and support for all 11-19 year olds. Belatedly, the government is waking up to the problems they have created, but until we return to investing in these universal services at the place and point of need, young people will continue to slip through the net. How can we help?