Our Future City

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Brighton and Hove

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Main actors

City Government, NGO / Philanthropy, Community / Citizen Group

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Project area

Whole City/Administrative Region

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Ongoing since 2015/01

Growing creativity and improving wellbeing for children and young people through culture.

Brighton & Hove has developed an ambitious collaborative model for coordinating cultural activities to enable young people to play their part in a fast-changing world. Our Future City is not only growing creative and digital skills, it also enhances wellbeing and provides new routes into work. It demonstrates how to sustain action and positively impact the life chances and wellbeing of young people. The focus of Our Future City is on developing cultural activities and engagement for children and young people - putting them at the heart of that and working as a collective to support them.

Sustainable Development Goals

Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable


This project was shortlisted for the 'EUROCITIES Awards' in 2019 in the following category: Participation.

Brighton and Hove, United Kingdom

Size and population development
273,400 (2011)

Main functions
City in South East England; England's most populous seaside resort

Main industries / business
Tourism and entertainment; creative, digital and electronic industries

Political structure
Unitary authority council and Mayor (54 elected Councillors)

Brighton & Hove sees creativity as a ‘super power’ capable of helping people solve problems, adapt to change, work well with others and become more resilient. Convinced that these skills and abilities are critical for its future health, the city wanted to make sure every child and young person is given the chance to develop them. It recognised, however, that despite having a vibrant arts and culture scene, the city lacked a sustainable strategy for providing equal access to cultural education and opportunities for living a creative life. The city resolved to design a cohesive, long term programme that would overcome the barriers and inequalities that were preventing the power of culture and creativity from being fully harnessed. This meant overturning traditional ideas of the place of culture, creativity and education by adopting a cross-sector, cross-agenda approach. It also meant focusing on young people living in poverty whose talents and potential would otherwise be wasted. These decisions determined the programme’s cornerstones: it would be driven by need and designed and shaped by young people.

Our Future City has five clear objectives:

  • Grow Creativity

supporting children and young people to develop high order creativity, thinking and behavioural skills.

  • Improve wellbeing

realising the potential of culture to help build resilience and improve wellbeing.

  • Sustain collective action and impact

establishing a new civic alliance across professional fields and sectors.

  • Enable routes into employment

growing a world-class creative learning environment with clear learning and employment pathways.

  • Develop digital skillfulness

encourage competencies, behaviours and practices to enhance their lives.

In Brighton & Hove, children, young people and professionals from health, social services, local businesses, the creative industries, education and culture, have come together to find ways to transform the city. Brighton & Hove is developing a way of working that will address inequality and lack of opportunity in a systematic way. It will happen within cultural education, but most importantly also beyond it. Our Future City is a 10-year strategy, developed through an intensive 10-month process of consultation and pilot programmes, and now at the start of a three-year programme of delivery.

To move away from isolated arts projects to a new era in which creativity and young people are at the heart of economic and social reform, the city first set up an oversight board and a consultation process. The board brings together the city administration and cultural, educational, health and business organisations - and represents the wider partner network on which the collective approach relies. The 10-month consultation asked 1,000 children, young people and adults what the city could do to improve the lives and life chances of young people.

With needs clarified by this process, the second phase of ‘Our Future City’ could begin. The task of this three-year delivery programme is to respond to identified needs through the co-creation of activities for developing creative thinking skills, behaviours, and employability and ways to wellbeing through arts, culture, digital and heritage experiences. Network partners get involved on a voluntary basis, achieving their own aims while simultaneously contributing to the programme’s goals.

The programme is coordinated by an independent team supported by the city council, the original oversight board and working groups. When activities are proposed, small council teams are put together to make them happen.

Activities are delivered through the state school system as well as more informal learning settings. They are themed, and linked to the programme’s goals, through the use of three hashtags: #BeCreative, #BeWell and #BeDigital. A fourth hashtag - #BeCollective - relates to events and training that encourage and support collective action, knowledge sharing and skills development among activity enablers. In the last year, 668 professionals have been involved in creative thinking activity and development programmes and 140 in activities to improve cross-sector working.

Our Future City is co-ordinated by a group of cultural and education organisations.

The lead partners are Brighton & Hove City Council, Brighton & Hove Music & Arts, Brighton Dome & Festival, Brighton & Hove Music Trust, Royal Pavilion & Museums, and University of Brighton.

The programme is supported with financial investment from Arts Council England via Artswork, the South East Bridge, and through the investment of time from a wide range of people and organisations in the city and a Fundraisers Group which has secured over €1 million.

‘Our Future City’ has demonstrated a clear and positive impact on everyday city life and been cited by the UK’s national arts funding body as an ‘important example’ of a cultural education partnership. Its impact owes much to its novel, needs-based approach and also, says the team, to the support of three senior council officials. This means the programme can tap into their strategic insight and plug into their various agendas while remaining fleet of foot in its work with grassroots organisations. The future of ‘Our Future City’ looks bright, for three reasons. It has established a strong new civil alliance across professional fields and the public, private and third sectors. A 10-year strategy has been built into the programme which is underpinned by continuous, rigorous evaluation, monitoring and adaptation. And this task is enhanced by innovative new tools, developed with an academic partner, for evidencing the impact of cultural work.

Activities under the #BeCreative banner range from summer art workshops at the city’s museums to a music marathon showcasing youngsters’ talents and a year-long mentoring programme for emerging theatre companies. In the city’s schools, 250 young people have helped develop #BeCreative thinking models which are now being rolled out to reach 6500 pupils. Nineteen schools have achieved the Artsmark creative quality standard and 200 children have gained the Arts Award for creative exploration and leadership.

To date, #BeWell activities have reached 400 children and 100 professionals have received #BeWell training. Work with schools to explore wellbeing needs has led to some unique and powerful projects. When one primary school worked with a dancer to explore feelings of belonging and overcoming anxiety, for example, it observed a marked increase in support between the children. Secondary school support targets pupils with emotional issues and creative solutions range from song-writing to making 3D printed keepsakes.

Over 4000 young people have taken part in #BeDigital activities. These include a youth-led conference, part of Brighton Digital Festival, focused on digital wellbeing and the jobs of the future. Here a creative marketing workshop enabled youngsters to run a campaign for the Festival and an exhibition showcased the winning entries in a competition to bring museum collections to life through animated GIFs.

The future of Brighton & Hove is inextricably linked to the creativity of its children and young people. They will drive change, create value with their creativity and find solutions to future challenges. Yet too many are at risk of being left behind. 19.6 per cent live in poverty and unless something changes, they and their families, will continue to do so. Their talents and potential will be wasted.

Brighton & Hove believes that at the heart of this problem lies outdated thinking and working around economic and social reform. The powerful stakeholders who can make an impact on young people’s lives through our work in health, social services, as employers, in the creative industries, in education and the cultural sector – have been working in silos. As a result, outcomes are at best not joined-up, and at worst piecemeal, short-term and self-serving.

Our Future City want to do things differently, by working together towards ambitious goals that demand collaboration. The first signs from the pilot phase show that something interesting is emerging that has the potential to deliver the transformation needed. Our Future City will find solutions over time to a range of complex challenges. The team is learning as they are doing and intend to share their knowledge locally, regionally and nationally.

Brighton & Hove shapes our future city, Creative programmes for young people, EUROCITIES, November 2018:

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