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 Youth work - the new emergency service? I have worked in youth services for some time. As Creative Youth Network approaches our first anniversary of delivering youth services across the whole of Bristol and kicks-off a new contract to work with young people in South Gloucestershire, I’m aware that services for young people have never felt as stretched as they do now. Take The Station, the central Bristol youth hub we own and run in the city centre. It opens at 9.00am and remains open until 10.00pm weekdays, long after other services have closed, and most evenings we run popular open-access sessions. Ever since The Station has opened we’ve worked well in partnership with police, our neighbours and wider community to manage these and keep young people safe in and outside the building. But lately we’ve had a spike in anti-social behaviour from a few young people attending. This is to be expected. The Station is a citywide destination accessible to all young people, some of whom are in crisis. When creating spaces and places where young people with different issues and needs come together, there will sometimes be consequences, and we are experiencing ever greater demand coupled with growing complexity of need. Everyone who works in youth services will be familiar with the balancing act of meeting the needs of very vulnerable young people while supporting the needs of a wider group. When a small number of our users pose a risk to the safety of other young people and our staff, we have to take difficult decisions. As a result we have recently banned a small number of young people who have been a threat to other young people and staff in recent weeks. Our learning We’ve learned lessons. We’ve reviewed training for staff, particularly those on reception who are the first point of contact for any of our users, around identifying when a young person is at risk, or a risk to others. We’ve reviewed our rosters to ensure we have an even more robust ‘duty’ offer whenever The Station is open, with a youth worker able to spend time with any young person who is in need of more 1-2-1 support, and to support session youth workers if faced with challenging behaviours including violence. But this is a complex area. Bristol City Council is already doing good work to meet this complexity with cross-agency working between health, police, education, social care and youth services (including ourselves) to respond to growing exploitation of young people by criminal gangs, and a rise in knife crime and youth violence. But it’s also not rocket science. What does a gang offer a young person? Power, safety and solidarity amongst peers, a sense of belonging. We’ve known about the hierarchy of needs for decades now. So when we get young people who experience none of this in their personal lives, who are often in care, who have gone missing many times, and who come to The Station looking for help because it’s one of the few places for them that remains open after 5:00pm, but whose needs we can’t meet because of their aggression, and who we have to ban to keep other young people safe, I ask myself what is the solution? There are no quick wins. Rather than knee-jerk responses to high profile issues like knife crime, and proposals for a duty on teachers and nurses to be responsible for spotting and reporting youth violence, let’s invest in meeting young people’s needs early in order to minimise the adverse childhood experiences that become indicators of problems later. Over the shorter term here are my top two suggestions for better supporting young people in Bristol and South Gloucestershire: More local open access youth centres, providing a safe place where young people can build relationships and be in the company of peers and experience a sense of community and belonging. Youth workers in every school to support young people when they need it in a place where they spend a lot of time, with particular focus on engaging pupils in danger of exclusion. To paraphrase Mahatma Ghandi you can judge a nation by how it treats its vulnerable, and I’d say these two things well-resourced would be a really good indicator of how we value young people. What do you think? How can we help?