The proportion of people from working-class backgrounds taking part in the arts has declined over the last decade. For a long time, participation in the arts has been dominated by the wealthiest people in any community.
In a bid to address this, New Writing North started its Young Writers programme seven years ago, based in north-east England. The aim was to engage more young people from diverse backgrounds in writing and creativity – and through this to have a longer-term positive impact on their life chances, self-esteem and wellbeing.
Young Writers works through three streams: an open-access programme which holds free weekly writing groups and runs summer schools; targeted programmes which aim to take the scheme to more people from deprived backgrounds; and development work, which works longer-term by mentoring 15 to 25-year-olds who have engaged with the charity.
The project has also developed systems for identifying the different types of young people who may benefit most from access to the creative arts, and tailors the work to them according to their identity and needs.
New Writing North says that around 12,000 people have now taken part in Young Writers, two-thirds of whom got involved through the targeted work to help families from poorer backgrounds. It also works with around 40 freelance writers and artists, who lead the sessions. Commercial support from major publishers helps cover the costs, along with trust grants and fundraising.
Charity Awards judge Cathy Phelan-Watkins said the charity had “incredible reach” and that its name belied the huge range of activity it undertakes to increase socialisation skills and lessen disenfranchisement among young people in the locality. “I thought it was very impressive.”
CC Reg no. 1062729