Meet the Creative Activators

Louise Hesketh is Networks and Partnerships Programme Manager at Curious Minds. Part of her role is to support Local Cultural Education Partnerships (LCEPs) across the North of England. She recently met up with two of Blaze’s Creative Activators, Beth and Olivia, to interview them about their role in Burnley’s LCEP.

‘In the early stages of Burnley LCEP’s development, the partners agreed that they wanted young people’s voices, ideas and experiences to influence their work. One of the LCEP partners is Blaze, a youth-led arts organisation based in Burnley that regularly supports other organisations to embed youth voice in their work. In 2023, Lancashire County Council Library Service and Burnley Leisure approached Blaze for support with two distinct but similar projects which would explore how arts and culture could support young people in Burnley to feel connected and proud of their home town. Through working in partnership with these two organisations Blaze was able to recruit three young ‘Creative Activators’ Amber, Beth and Olivia who are now being paid to engage other young people in conversations about arts and culture and share the findings from their consultation with the Library Service, Burnley Leisure, and other Burnley LCEP partners.

Early in December, LCEPs Connect spoke to Beth and Olivia, Burnley Creative Activators, about their work with the Burnley LCEP.

So where did your work with Blaze and the LCEP start?

Beth – I worked with Blaze in lockdown, as part of the Harris Young Producers programme. I’m an actor and when the industry shut down over COVID, the Young Producers allowed me to still be creative. The programme showed that young people can create work themselves if given the opportunity and empowerment to do so. I have done other paid work with Blaze since then, after having such a great experience as a Young Producer. When I saw the Creative Activator role, I decided to apply.

Olivia – I have an acting and performing background, and I like being creative. I graduated last year, and have been working freelance, and interested in creative jobs. I saw the job advertisement for creative activators from Blaze on Facebook. The best thing about Blaze is that they help other young people to explore opportunities and other career paths too. Hopefully, we can make our own projects going forward.   

What are you going to be doing, as Creative Activators?

We’ll be talking to young people and be a bridge between them and organisations involved in the LCEP, such as Burnley Central Library, Burnley College, and Youth Services. We will be developing two different projects over the next year. There’s the Know Your Neighbourhood project – though it’s not always branded that way – that’s part of our role, communicating the idea of a project to young people, beyond its name. We’ll be doing mini interviews with young people, what they like about Burnley, what they think is missing creatively, and what they want.

The aim is to create an increased sense of community safe space for young people, breaking down barriers to participation. We want to create events and activities for participants to connect with other young people in the Burnley area, that feel inclusive and giving them the opportunity to make new friendships.

The Pride of Place project is a collaborative lab with the Caravan Gallery. They travel up and down the country and ask the communities they visit to contribute and bring items – these could be anything – a picture, a voice recording, an ornament. These are collected in a gallery display. We’ll be encouraging young people to participate and be proud of where they are from. Jan and Chris from Caravan Gallery have said that young people don’t usually get involved, kids and older people do, but young people don’t usually see it as relevant, maybe their stories are not worthwhile. You feel like your opinion is not valid. But you are the next generation.

Overall, our ideal outcomes for the project would be working with the library to put on events to get young people to the library, the continuation of young people attending and feeling they have ownership of a space that they can come to. We want to promote this space and give Burnley’s young people the opportunity to make it their own and decide how it will be used in the years to come. We have to get approval for all the ideas to go ahead, but we’re determined for it not to be diluted, staying true to what young people want.’