While groups of extremely loud and over-excited teenage foreign students bounce off each other with their huge rucksacks outside the Royal Pavilion every day, it seems the people of Brighton and Hove can tend to take their cultural heritage for granted.
As we rush about our lives, it’s easy to use the Pavilion Gardens as a shortcut to that lovely vintage shop or ignore the Pavilion on the way to the beach. You may pass the Booth every day on the bus, promise you’re going to visit and then never do. I was the same, living near Preston Manor for years but never visiting.
Much of the work behind the scenes at the Royal Pavilion and Museums is aimed at encouraging local people to come along and enjoy our museums and very own palace. After all, if you’re a Council Tax payer – they belong to you.
There are hosts of workshops, activities and special events designed to attract people like you and I to join in. At the moment, a group of Whitehawk residents are getting involved in an archaeological project, there’s a creative writing course for marginalised writers dealing with mental health issues, disability, health or social issues who meet at the museum to write, and a lot of people have been involved in the setting up of the WW1 War Stories exhibition.
During the summer, I caught up with a group of young people who were spending some of their holidays visiting each museum and creating art as a response to what they had seen. They tried photography at the Booth, visited Hove Museum, the Wizard’s Attic and then tried out toy-hacking – recreating new toys from old ones. In later sessions they experimented with animation and urban art inspired by WW1 posters at Preston Manor. Quite a few of them had never been to some of the museums such as the Booth, despite living in the city.
Run by Sarah Pain and Lindsey Smith the group was open to any young person but with a particular aim at attracting those not in education, training or employment.
Sarah explains that some of the young people are working towards their Arts Awards, which enables young people to develop as artists and art leaders and work towards a national qualification. The awards look good on a CV as they take a lot of hard work and commitment.
“We get a broad range of people who come along, a good mix of young people. We advertise through the youth service and it is aimed at young people from 14 to 19 or up to 25 with additional needs.”
On the day I met them the group met at the Royal Pavilion and were given a guided tour. They then went to the art room at the museum to create some weird and wonderful collages inspired by the over-the-top beauty of the palace.
There are five young people working at a table festooned with glitter, flowers, feathers, paint and glue getting down to work on their ‘kitsch’ creations. They chat happily as they work and the atmosphere is lively and fun.
Jason, from Hangleton says; ”I come along to have some fun. The thing I’ve most enjoyed so far is the toy-hacking which we did at the Booth.“
Sabrina, from Whitehawk said;”I’ve been to all the open days so far. We went to the Booth to look at the taxidermy and insects which was nice though I got a bit freaked out. I love art, it’s one of my favourite subjects and something I enjoy doing at home. I’m working towards my Gold Arts award which I hope to finish in 18 months.
“I’ve learnt lots of different things and I think more young people should come along.”
During the final workshop the young people got involved in Remix the Museum with animator David Packer as part of the Digital Festival and produced some fantastic animations.
Caroline Sutton, Blogger in Residence