By Lauren Campbell, Stories of the World Young Ambassador
The first Stories of the World national steering group meeting of 2012 took place over the weekend of 14 and 15 January at the MIC hotel and conference centre in London. I joined other young people from projects in London, Manchester, Norwich, Barnsley, Brighton, Durham and Shropshire to discuss our projects, work on creating a manifesto based on young people’s experiences in museums and to discuss what our involvement in Stories of the World means to us.
Following an uneventful train journey from Edinburgh to London I met my fellow young volunteers for the first time. We spent the first half of the afternoon bringing the rest of the group up to speed with what had been happening with each other’s projects. We learned that sadly the project in Barnsley had come to an end; unfortunately their project leader left and following this the project came to a halt. While the young volunteers from Barnsley are understandably upset about the end of their project they are proud of what they accomplished with their project and are still happy to be involved on a national level.
Other projects throughout the country are moving on quickly and most groups have had great success with youth involvement. The Brighton project has held youth led arts projects and the Geffrye Museum in London has involved various youth groups to work on events such as film nights and family days. The Geffrye also has a scheme in place where its young volunteers can gain V50 or V100 volunteering credits through working on the project. The Manchester group have been working with young ‘freelancers’ such as writers, musicians and artist to form the content of their project and in Nottingham they have been basing their focus around what young people want to see in museums. The London Transport Museum has been holding events and workshops for young people and in Durham there has been youth led tour guiding and a summer school.
The Iron Bridge Museum in Shropshire are fairly new to the project, but along with myself, took inspiration from the way that the other projects have been led by young people and made young people the central focus of both their exhibit and events.
The second half of our first day was devoted to refining the Young People’s Manifesto which had been developed at previous steering group meetings. The Kids in Museums Manifesto has been updated to look at young people’s experiences in museums and, while we all agreed that the Kids in Museums Manifesto was fantastic for its purpose, we felt that it didn’t really relate well to young people. As a group we agreed that this update was not sufficient, mainly due to the fact that all of the points were very family focused and that young people were not consulted during the writing of the manifesto. Our group felt that, as an important group in society, young people deserved their own manifesto to represent the experience they want and deserve when visiting a museum. We believe that it is our job to be the voice of young people in museums and our goal goes further than just the experience young people have when visiting museums: we want to imbed young people into the running of the museums and to sew the seeds for the next generation. We spent the rest of the afternoon fine-tuning our document, until we all signed off on a one page manifesto that we feel pin-points exactly what we want for young people in museums.
As our first day drew to a close I was satisfied that we had accomplished something important, and following a delicious dinner, a good night’s sleep and a huge breakfast, I was ready and excited for the next day of the steering group meeting.
The majority of the following day was devoted to developing case studies, and each of the young volunteers created a presentation explaining what the Stories of the World project meant to them. Each volunteer was asked to look at questions relating to their experiences before and during the project and also what they hoped for after the project had come to an end. Each volunteer offered different insights but some common themes included wanting to be part of the Stories of the World project because it offered the chance to be part of something big and to leave a lasting legacy. Our young volunteers also wanted to gain experience in the museum and arts world and to maintain involvement after the project had finished. Most importantly we felt that we were providing a voice for young people in an area where they were under-represented and we hoped to make a lasting difference.
During the small amount of time left to us we discussed the exciting prospect of taking the Stories of the World project to an event at Parliament in July, a place we felt would be perfect to showcase our manifesto. Following this we said our goodbyes, walked to Kings Cross and I boarded my train home, feeling very lucky to have had the chance to work with such a fantastic group of people.