Arts, Creativity and Employability (ACE)

A participatory action research project between
Abertay University and the Articulate Cultural Trust.

Arts, Creativity and Employability (ACE) was a participatory research project that took place in 2018/19 with Abertay University, the Articulate Cultural Trust and care experienced young creatives from Glasgow and Dundee.

The purpose of the project was to find out how care experienced young Scots managed to access, engage with, take part in and develop skills and talents in the arts, through culture and in support of their creativity. We had a £50k grant from Scottish Government and the European Social Fund and six-months to look at where things were working well and where we needed to focus some attention.

With the five young creatives, a researcher and a research assistant from Abertay and a member of staff from Articulate we: looked at what other people had written about the barriers and solutions they had encountered; pulled 150 reports and articles together and read 30 that were best aligned with what we wanted to learn; promoted an online questionnaire for young people and also one for social workers and artists; hosted some 'creative conversations' using clay-modelling and spray-painting with other young people; wrote a practice guide; mapped the projects we found out about in Scotland; looked at some case studies and hosted some focus groups. We went all over the UK to see what made really good practice (which was the best bit) and made this film.

We found out some really interesting things, like: the World Economic Forum thinks that creativity is the third most important thing we can take care of to do well in jobs; that taking part in the arts can really help with well-being, feeling connected and building confidence; and that the creative industries are booming and need different kinds of young people coming into that sector of employment for it to stay healthy and resilient too.

On the other hand, we found out that loads and loads of things get in the way of care experienced young people having the choice and chance to go to arts or cultural things, use the arts to feel better about and express themselves as well as to help share their views and opinions in creative and memorable ways.

We found out too that the adults in their lives are quite poorly informed about opportunities to take part and even get really good at music or drama or film or DJ-ing or art because those things are pretty far off the radar for a lot of young people dealing with chaos, disruption, trauma, mental health and not having much money, the ability to travel or just know people who know that kind of stuff.

We did a map of where Scottish arts projects that are dedicated to care experienced young were. We found that it was a bit patchy, so we know there is work happening but more work needs to be done if we want to make links from the potential young people have to the access points that would make it a bit easier and fairer for care experienced young people to get more involved.

The observation visits to London, Bristol, York, Newcastle, Glasgow and Dundee were fascinating. We went to brilliant places and met passionate and knowledgeable adult creatives who spend their whole lives doing theatre and drama, film-making, game and digital development, writing and publishing, etc.

We saw some amazing work and were really impressed with the companies who were committed to long-term creative relationships with young people and who were inclusive, nurturing, collaborative, trying new and different things all the time and had places and spaces dedicated to everyone's need to make their mark as well as make progress in life.

We think they did this by: focusing on interest, motivation and talent of the young people; investing in building soft skills and trusting relations; looking differently at both people and problems; thinking hard about partnerships and working together; being flexible and taking risks but mostly by taking an approach that builds out from the strengths of the young people.

Film-making with Midlothian Champions Board.
Creative development through 1-2-1 support, Glasgow.
The Big House's Bullet Tongue Reloaded, London.
Photography residency with East Renfrewshire Champions Board.
The Verbatim Formula, London.
Film-making residency, Skye.

We all learned loads of new stuff and have made lots of recommendations that we will now share with Scottish Government to see where we can work together for improvements.

We also want Articulate to use what we found to focus on four main things as they develop as a new charity dedicated to the creative needs and potentials of care experienced young people.

The four things are: 1. Places and Spaces to Create - physical, digital, touring, mobile, 2. Use Arts to Improve Mental Well-being, 3. Focus on Developing Creative Skills - for young people, for artists and for social workers, and 4. Find Ways to Connect - fixing the challenge of communicating and collaborating.

We want to continue this research as we really only scratched the surface of the great work down south, what we read about in Europe and the ideas we have heard about and had ourselves, like social prescribing, self-directed creative care, cultural hubs, etc.

The problems are challenging and complicated, but we all want to commit to helping with positive change as we know how we have benefited from exploring our creativity through the arts and want others to have the same options that we have.

The ACE Young Researchers

Arts, Creativity and Employability (ACE) was financed by the European Social Fund and Scottish Government.  The project was supported by the Social Innovation Fund to address social problems in Scotland. 

Our project aimed to design and improve services to tackle inequality by supporting disadvantaged young people to use their creativity and perhaps think about a future in the creative industries 

The Articulate Cultural Trust will continue to work in partnership with Abertay University to develop and test new ideas that help contribute to a fairer Scotland for care experienced young people.