A group of young people aged 16 to 17 living and going to school in Morecambe, a seaside town in Lancashire, took part in a project called ‘ReDesign by the Sea’, which involved a series of creative workshops where they had the opportunity to be ‘Festival Co-Designers’. They worked alongside inspirational Morecambe-based creative practice, Deco Publique and PhD students from Transformation North West. The aim of the project was to help Deco Publique reach and engage with young people in the local community, inviting them to give their views and design new ideas to help shape future arts and cultural events. This includes the annual Vintage by the Sea festival, which is estimated to boost the local economy by almost £1 million. This will help Deco Publique reach a wider audience and contribute to the sustainability of the Festival.
The project also aimed to delivered benefits to the young people taking part, as well as their teachers. The young people had the opportunity to learn about creative careers, as well as develop creative, business and collaboration skills, voice their opinion, design new ideas and play an active role in innovative placemaking practice in Morecambe. Seaside towns such as Morecambe face social and economic challenges and young people often have low aspirations, as well as face barriers to employment and education. The creative industries can play an important role in enhancing cultural assets and engaging and connecting various groups in the community. The project comes at a turning point for Morecambe, with plans underway to develop as a cultural destination and become home to Eden Project North.
In this co-design project, different groups including young people, designers, researchers, festival curators and business teachers worked together through a design process aiming to develop conceptual programmes of activities for the Festival. Initially, meetings were held with the various groups participating in order to build relationships, gain trust and understand what they would like to gain from the process. In response to this, two hour sessions were organised during ‘enrichment periods’ during the school day and a structure and supporting tools were designed to engage, excite and draw out the group’s responses.
Session one was held at the school, a familiar environment for the young people, in which we built the foundation for the design work. This included a detailed presentation from Elena Gifford at Deco Publique on their work, career paths and why Morecambe is an ideal location. This was supported by a series of activities structured with tools to help start conversations and record the young people’s responses. We asked what they thought about Morecambe, what they did in Morecambe, what they felt was missing and as well as their views on the Vintage by the Sea Festival.
One example of how we did this was by using a tool inspired by travel website, Trip Advisor that asked the young people to review and rate their favourite experiences in Morecambe.
Session two was held in one of the design studio spaces in the LICA building in Lancaster University. This session was structured with a series of designed tools to take the group through the steps of first analysing and responding to the existing Festival programme and concluded with pitches for their own brand new Festival programme ideas, with expert feedback from Elena from Deco Publique.
Even though many of the pupils were hesitant and said they were not creative at the beginning of the session, everyone came up with at least four brand news ideas, in which they had considered details including the needs of young people, location, resources needs and costs.
Everyone involved reacted very positively to the experience. Initial feedback reveals that, Elena from Deco Publique thought the ideas produced were “fantastic” and could be implemented, praising the design of the sessions for enabling the group to be creative. The teacher present at both sessions, thought the group had gained a lot from the project that they could apply in the studies and future careers. He also commented that he found the high standard of the resources inspiring for his own work.
Feedback from the pupils was very positive, many said they found the experience “fun”, “useful”, “different”, “easy to understand” and an “opportunity to learn something new”. It helped many think about their local community differently, understand and appreciate the creative work taking place in Morecambe, develop an interest in creative careers and feel proud to be involved in work that has the potential to impact a local company and community. One of the pupils even had the confidence at the end to ask for a work placement at Deco Publique.
Further evaluation and discussions will take place on the project, with the possibility of a project exhibition at the Festival on the 31st August and 1st of September this year.
This project was led by Laura Wareing, one of the PhD students on the Transformation North West programme at Lancaster University. It is the second of a series of projects on her PhD focusing on the co-design of aspirational futures of young people living in the North West. Please contact Laura for more information l.e.wareing ‘at’ lancaster.ac.uk
Special thanks to Deco Publique, Morecambe Bay Academy and Gemma Potter, Veronica Pialorsi and Jemma Street from Transformation North West for their support on the project.
Deco Publique (2018) Deco Publique – Written Evidence. Morecambe. Available at: http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/regenerating-seaside-towns-and-communities-committee/regenerating-seaside-towns/written/91403.html
The Select Committee on Regenerating Seaside Towns and Communities (2019) House of Lords Select Committee on Regenerating Seaside Towns and Communities – The future of seaside towns. London. Available at: http://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/standards-and-interests/register-of-lords-
TNW 2017 Cohort (2018) Driving the Industrial Strategy for North West Growth – The Role of the Creative Industries. Lancaster. Available at: https://transformationnorthwest.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/2018_TNW_Driving_Industrial_Strategy_for_North_West_Growth.pdf