New programme ‘Culture Exchange 2023’ launches to invest in young people and creative organisations from across UK

22 March 2023
By Amy Zamarripa Solis
  • 9 youth and social enterprise organisations from East London, Birmingham, Preston, and Sheffield to host pilot. 
  • 27 young people will participate in creative education programme.
  • A documentary film will capture the journey and story of all involved to be screened in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

LONDON, 21st March 2023 – Inspired by the UK’s Levelling Up agenda, an innovative new UK-wide Culture Exchange Programme has launched. The programme connects young people, arts, cultural and innovation organisations and communities across East London, Birmingham, Preston, and Sheffield a, using creative and inclusive placemaking as a learning tool.

‘Culture Exchange 2023’ is a new nine-month pilot which started this March and culminates in November 2023. The programme will train up 27 young people aged 18-25 through online and in person activities, with the aim of creating a new dialogue for learning, training and employment. Training will cover subjects such as arts, music, culture and history, fashion, journalism, dialect, and language, digital and placemaking. Young people and partners will create a documentary film about their journey, to be screened in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park at the end of the project.

The pilot is delivered by a consortium of six East London social businesses with lived experience and supported through previous Foundation grants – Sirlute, Skaped, XCONVERSATION, Truce ’n’ Train, Calling4Gr8tness and lead partner Social Ark – working collaboratively with three UK youth engagement partners: Aalfy, Sheffield; Birmingham Says No, Birmingham; and Strive to Thrive, Preston.

The project is commissioned by Stratford-based charity Foundation for Future London through its creative placemaking-based Westfield East Bank Creative Futures Fund, which launched in 2021 with founding partner Westfield Stratford City. The Westfield East Bank Creative Futures Fund is a £10 million five-year creative programme and has already transformed the lives of over 50k people through £4.8 million in investment.

The commission aims to address that the need for ‘levelling up’ exists in East London, as it does elsewhere in the UK – and tackles it by helping to create job opportunities, skills development, and infrastructure investment for young people. The commission also aims to show how by coming together, local communities and young people can learn and build together, sharing mutual respect and understanding for other cities and community’s cultures, history, political backdrop, and knowledge.

‘Culture Exchange 2023’ will provide a space for collaborative learning and working to strengthen creative sector networks for young people and organisations involved. The pilot is being developed and delivered in a collaborative fashion, where partner organisations participate in weekly Zoom sessions, host learning days in different areas and come to London to be hosted by Social Ark. Through the funding, each partner will receive an individual grant to participate and to support their own small group of three to four young people to attend. In addition, the young people will also receive payments of £500 each for paid work experience and a digital tablet.

The project will also see the creation of a documentary film that explores access to the arts and innovation, creative social action, and community leadership within underserved working-class areas, whilst directly supporting young people to make their own opportunities and develop their own ideas.

Maria Adebowale-Schwarte, CEO, Foundation for Future London says:

“Now in its fourth year, the Foundation for Future London’s Westfield East Bank Creative Futures Fund continues to champion inclusion, access and diversity by commissioning the Culture Exchange 2023, which embraces the lived experience of grassroots organisations in East London, all grantees, and supports ‘local to global’ cultural education and employment training for young people across the UK. We were inspired by the young people we met at the launch for the Culture Exchange at the Good Growth Hub, and we look forward to following their journey, along that of the nine partner organisations. Truly exciting times for collaborative learning with creative placemaking at its heart!”

Alyson Hodkinson, Head of CSR UK and General Manager at Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield says:

“The Culture Exchange programme will not only see even more talented young people from East London benefit from the Westfield East Bank Creative Futures Fund, it will also address the critical need for ‘levelling up’ in East London through essential skills development and inclusivity. It’s going to be an exciting and rewarding nine-month experience for the 27 young participants who will see their potential unlocked through creative collaborations.”

Lisa Stepanovic, CEO of Social Ark, lead organisation for East London consortium says: 

“We want to explore the arts, music, culture and history, fashion, journalism, dialect, and language, digital and placemaking, and how we create inclusive places and spaces that respect and recognise the history and cultures that came before the present. We want to do this through exploring grass root social entrepreneurship and the lens of the overlooked working class that has had to make way for the new communities.”

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