Step by step: arts policy and young people 1944–2014 – a brief response

Marcus Davey OBE, Chief Executive and Artistic Director of Roundhouse, calls for greater involvement of young people in developing arts policy.


I would like to thank Deborah Bull, the authors of Step by step and Culture at King’s for this most important study. I think it is fair to say that many organisations are guilty of reinventing the wheel due to a lack of contextual and historical knowledge or understanding. This report gives us an excellent glimpse in to how we have arrived at current arts policy making for young people.

What is plain to me is that over the decades there have been great and eminent politicians, arts policymakers and at times artists who have didactically made decisions about what would be good for young people. It is becoming less rare but it is so often the case that the voices of young people are not considered or heard when developing arts policy. In the past there has been too much policymaking about what will be done for young people and not enough about what can be done with and by young people. This historical view outlines policymaking taking place in government and at the Arts Council. Another important supporter and developer of work for young people are local authorities. In my experience it is more often than not the case that local authority funding is directed at engaging young people in to the arts. This has been true for some decades and often not linked to Arts Council or government initiatives. This too could be an interesting area for review, especially at a time when local authority funding is being so significantly reduced.

At the Roundhouse we have two young Trustees, a Youth Advisory Board and by the end of our next business plan period 10% of our workforce will be made up from young paid trainees. This guarantees that in all our policymaking, programme development and project review that the voice of young people is heard. I firmly believe that to create policy for anybody you must involve them in the process.

I wholeheartedly support the recommendations in Step by step and I hope that, in all future policymaking about young people, young people shall be involved. It goes without saying that it is crucial for decision making to be set in context and this is a great reminder for us all to look at what we do and how it builds on the past, rather than running in parallel to it.

Image by Steffan Hill


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5 thoughts on “Step by step: arts policy and young people 1944–2014 – a brief response

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  2. Pingback: The trail we’ve left.. step by step | James Doeser

  3. Pingback: Step by step: arts policy and young people 1944–2014 – so, what next? | Culture at King's

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  5. The research report published today offers a platform for further discussion and action. The report will only be of proven value if the insights are taken, along with additional contributions, and woven into decision making and action (by policy makers, institutions, funders, young people, parents and carers). We surely must focus on the outcomes: we desire great places to live and work, for all, the young and the old. The young become the next oldies and the oldies think they know best: where is the tipping point between being too young to know what’s good for you and being too old to change?

    Have young people as a balanced part of the ongoing process.
    Have parents and carers as a balanced part of the ongoing process.
    Track outcomes so determining the tools and techniques that work best.

    Learn from other research, beyond the arts, such as the sciences, this will offer great insight.

    Collaborate with bodies beyond the obvious, wider agendas are met by social stability, social mobility and being part of a great place to live and work.

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