Creative YOU

Creativity is everywhere. Opportunity is not.     

We are part of the solution. The secret is in our name. Every year Creative Youth Network gives thousands of young people a taste and thirst for the arts and culture and the joy, life-skills and opportunity they bring.   

But we want more.   

Creative YOU is our campaign showcasing how we, you and the engaged, emerging and amazing young creatives we support, come together. 

We want to reveal how, together, we are ambition, quality, cultural democracy and social mobility in action. 

Every young person deserves the right to access creativity and development opportunities in the creative and cultural industries.

It all starts with education.

If all young people have access to creative subjects in school, then talented young people from all backgrounds can pursue their passion, develop crucial skills needed in so many industries and improve their wellbeing.

1. Pledge

Add your name and join the many people passionate about bringing creativity back into our schools.   

With all the pledges we’ll be reaching out to headteachers in Bristol and the South West. We hope this will encourage local academies to give more space to creativity in their curriculum.  

Bristol, being the creative city we know and love, can pave the way for other regions to do the same, showcasing the true value of creativity.  



2. Sign up

Join us by signing up to our newsletter where we share best practice of how to support young people. 

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3. Find out more

Join us by reading and sharing our CreativeYOU report which shows how our work brings opportunities for creative expression and enables young people to explore their talent, regardless of background or circumstance.  

Download our Creative YOU report


I’m now nearly 50! A long way from being young. But I’ve worked with young people for a generation now, that’s technically 33 years, and as I head towards the end of my time as CEO of Creative Youth Network I wanted to jot down my (Old Man) thoughts on how things have changed.

Let me start with a confession – I love working with young people. I love their energy, their potential, their curiosity and passion. At the start of life everything is open and possible – it can often be frightening and daunting but that’s what makes being young such an adventure. 

And young people, like older people, are as diverse and different as you can imagine. I long ago stopped judging what I thought a young person would be like from what they were wearing or how they looked. I remember vividly a young man in a hoodie arriving at a session I was running, he appeared angry, sullen and disconnected from the rest of the group – his body language spoke volumes about how he wanted the world to see and treat him. He caused trouble in the group and so we went outside to cool off and kick a football around. The change was stunning! On his own he became a kind, cautious, articulate and thoughtful person. He had dreams and ideas about his future, and he was painfully aware of how he behaved with others but found himself stuck in a rut and pigeonholed by others.  I hope we were able to help him just a little to find a way back to the person he really wanted to be.

I have had the privilege of working with young people like him, who have had a tough start in life and seen, first-hand, the resilience they need to carry on. 

But since then (2006) I have noticed a change in the issues and intensity of the challenges young people face. When I first started work, mental health was barely mentioned, but has become the single biggest issue young people talk about. A combination of increased pressure at school and in life along with the 24/7 pressures of social media mean that there is little let up in the need to conform and present your best face to the world. Add in cuts to support and services from schools to the NHS and we are storing up problems for individuals and society as a whole. Decades ago, young people would come to us with ‘one issue’ they needed support with but now often come to us with multiple problems – housing, family breakdown, drug use and exploitation.

But the rise in mental health and other issues is also a sign of something good. A willingness to talk about how you are feeling. Young men especially are beginning to feel freer to talk about their inner lives and understand how it effects their lives and relationships. This ability to talk more freely about our feelings and ask for help must be a good thing. Ironically, social media can be a benefit here; young people who might otherwise feel isolated as they try to work out who they are can find kindred spirits and talk with others across the world who are feeling the same. Peer pressure and peer support is now global!! I am pleased to say that whilst trans young people are still marginalised they have a support network far larger than the gay community did 40 or 50 years ago.

And marginalised young people from all backgrounds are finding a voice they didn’t have 20 years ago. Black young people have found a voice and a confidence in the last two years that feels like a real breakthrough. A vast majority of society sees gay people as nothing out of the ordinary anymore – coming out is still important but far less traumatic for most gay young people than a few years ago.

Young people have always been more liberal than our elders but the general acceptance of each other’s differences is close to universal.  Ten years ago, I would have even called it individualistic. There was a period where this acceptance went no further than ‘I’m OK, you’re OK’ but didn’t turn into a wider movement. But, over the last three or four years this has changed. Black Lives Matter and Climate Change are now young people’s most pressing issues. They have found their collective voice and are rightly demanding to create a world that is fairer and greener. I haven’t seen this level of combined energy and passion since the late 1990’s. At our recent youth voice events on both these issues we had far more young people wanting to speak than we have space. They spoke with passion, understanding, wisdom and energy that swayed the audience of decision makers who came.

But not everyone is involved. There are still too many young people who don’t feel part of any movement or even a part of wider society. As austerity has hit, so some young people are simply being left behind. Well paid and high-status jobs in manufacturing have been replaced by underpaid care work and the gig economy.  Cuts to schools have meant those who struggle do not get the support they need early enough – instead often languishing on the margins.

These are the young people who we need to focus on most. Whilst many are taking advantage of the jobs created by the tech revolution, we must make sure we do not leave people behind. The more young people who believe society does not care for them or that a career holds little promise, the more we risk creating a two tiered society with the haves and have nots living in different worlds. 

Growing up will always be hard and young people will always need a helping hand and someone to talk to. But investing in the younger generation reaps such rewards – for them personally and for society as a whole. It still beggars belief that we have to talk about cuts to schools and youth services. Anyone who reaches their potential will have a better life and contribute so much more to society.  Childhood and adolescence are where we start that journey – invest in young people and our world will be a better place.

How can we help?