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. 

sign up 


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


When I first walked into the Kingswood Foundation 15 years ago, we had 4 staff and worked with no young people. It was a dormant organisation, but the Board knew they wanted to revitalise the Charity and fulfil its purpose to help young people reach their potential.

It was no more specific than that, so I had to make it up as I went along. 

That doesn’t mean it was easy! As the only person in the team actually able to work with young people I had to become a ‘Jack of all Trades’.  I would scrabble around for a few hundred pounds of funding here and there, contact schools and youth groups to offer our services to support vulnerable young people.   Then I would help clear leaves, paint windows and fix sinks to keep the building up and running.  Then, in the evenings, after putting my kids to bed, I would fundraise for the future.  It was a pretty precarious existence but one I enjoyed nonetheless.

Slowly, thanks to some great volunteers, partner organisations and a bit of luck I was able to start employing one or two staff to help me.  We built our reputation as an organisation that really was able to help young people overcome barriers and reach their potential. 

Our first really big project was Youth 4 Youth - helped along by the most creative, energetic and committed groups of young people we produced monthly shows and performances.  Festival stages, famous headliners and a whole load of work meant Youth 4 Youth became a household name amongst young people in Bristol for a while.  2,000 or more young people would come, and we reduced youth crime in the area by 23%!  It is still the best youth led group I have ever been privileged to be a part of.  We even won the Queens award for voluntary service in 2014.

The hard work paid off and we were offered the chance to take on the Station youth centre – a huge £5m development job and opened this world class youth centre nearly 10 years ago.  As a result, I now know much more about heating systems, pipe widths, contingency plans and design than I ever thought I would (or really care that much about).  But I am pleased to say this centre is still thriving and young people continue to flock to it. 

Add in the hugely successful partnerships in Bristol and South Glos that have kept youth services in the region going and Creative Youth Network grew beyond all recognition over the last 10 years.  We now work with nearly 10,000 young people each year, turn over £4.5m and own buildings and assets worth nearly £13m.   I am proud to say that we are changing thousands of young lives each year and I have the most dedicated and inspiring staff team you could ever wish for. 

So, as I look back, I am proud of what we have achieved.  Most importantly we have stuck to our mission to support young people and never been distracted.  And I am proud to have led a partnership of organisations that works together for young people, and which are not in competition with one another.   As a result, Bristol and South Glos still have some of the best youth services in the country. 

But, Creative youth network is a very old organisation and whilst my 15 years has been successful I’ve always been very aware of our long history. Over 150 years ago Mary Carpenter, a clearly energetic and visionary Victorian woman, set up the Kingswood foundation to offer education and support for orphans who’d been caught stealing or sleeping rough just to survive. Thankfully we live in a world away from the Victorian era but there are many new challenges, of course, including social media and dispersed communities.  But I think Mary Carpenter would recognise many of the problems/issues that the young people face today – poverty and inequality, mental health, unemployment, bullying, and abuse are challenges today, just as they were 100 years ago.  Whilst our services may have changed to reflect the times the heart of our work has remained the same – helping young people reach their potential.

The choices Mary Carpenter made in the late 1800s to build a building in Kingswood to raise money and build a reputation has been the bedrock on which this organisation is built.    I was able to make the decisions that I have made over the last 15 years because we had a building we were able to take on new ones, The Station, The Courts, Hanham youth centre and others.

So the 15 years that I have had the privilege to be in charge are but a drop in the ocean of the life of this organisation. In 100 years', time there will be issues that we cannot even begin to imagine – in the same way Mary Carpenter could not have imagined social media - but, I think, there will be many that we would recognise. Growing up is hard and young people can be on the end of appalling suffering and disadvantage. Young people will always need a helping hand, someone to talk to, the chance to try new things and broaden their horizons. They will always learn from meeting new people and when the chips are really down and there is no one else to turn to, there must be someone there to walk that journey with them.

This will be true tomorrow and in 100 years' time. So,  I can only hope the decisions that I’ve made over 15 years will provide the bedrock for those running the organisation long into the future to carry on supporting young people in need. I’m passing on the baton to Mark who I know will do a great job, continue our tradition of innovation not holding back to make sure young people get the support they deserve.

Thank you to everyone who has made this journey possible.  Our staff, our trustees, partners, funders, local and national Government, politicians and supporters.  It has been an amazing 15 years and I wish you all well.


How can we help?