How young people see the future
We asked young people across the South East to imagine what cultural learning in 20 years’ time might be like, thinking about the changes that are happening now and in the future.
We worked with design students from Central St Martins and Ravensbourne colleges for our early stage pilot workshops, then tried them out with groups from a secondary school in March, the Colchester Academy in Colchester, and the Gulbenkian Art31 group with LCEP members in Canterbury. We’ve organised their responses, and our findings, in line with Flow’s Thrivable Culture model.
For more information on how to run your own Future Views workshop, please visit Routes to the Future
What are the big things happening now that will impact on a local creative future?
How will changes today impact on children and young people in the future?
In the far future, what creative activities will people enjoy? How do these relate to work, learning and play? What skills and attitudes will be needed for this future?
Write a message to someone influential, urging them to take action to support future access to arts and culture
Responses showed us that young people’s most pressing barriers to culture and creativity were ‘Internal’ – relating to their own values and feelings, and the attitudes of those around them.
Many said they felt unsupported and misunderstood by parents and other adults. This was echoed in their views on the education system, as well as more distant ‘world-scale’ changes. In reference to people in power, a participant said: “One person’s opinion could make you feel as though your voice isn’t as strong.”
“People aren’t confident creatively”
“Laziness in young people”
“Parents’ negative perception”
“Teachers [not open to creative futures]”
“People’s lack of belief in you”
“Non-supportive family, friends, teachers”
The biggest external barriers identified by the young people were larger-scale global issues, even though they were encouraged to focus on cultural access in their own locality. This could be seen as encouraging, as it shows that young people are aware of the importance of politics, even if they lack a sense of detail or empowerment to act on their own responses.
“Lack of availability and accessibility in areas”
“Lack of time or free days due to school pressures”
“Age restrictions” (e.g. young people feel excluded)
“Loss of exposure and reduced opportunities [in the arts]”
“Economically divided society” (i.e. rich vs. poor)
“Less money and less free time”
“Lack of transport”
“Rising fuel costs”
“Money” (personal wealth)
“Rising costs in the creative industry”
“I don’t think there is as much money created by creative jobs.”
“Cuts to public funding”
“Third world issues such as poverty”
“Rural issues and location and not knowing the right people”
“In some rural areas, a lack of ethnic diversity”
“Higher levels of childbirth”
“Rise in crime”
“Higher levels of terrorism”
“Immigrants in Calais”
“War and ISIS”
“Independence will shut away other cultures so we may not experience as many different cultures.”
“Polar ice caps melting”
“Floods” (but low awareness of floods as a local risk)
“A rise in population”
“Brexit” (mentioned by all groups, sometimes positively e.g. “Freedom from EU”)
“Donald Trump” and “US elections”
“Cuts to the NHS”
“Global politics and conflict (USA, Russia)”
“Global competition for academic levels”
“Academic subjects are being pushed in school”
“Exam ratio weighted toward written over practical so it’s harder to pass”
“Michael Gove removing art-related subjects from schools.”
“Digital technology (need more access)”
“Robots taking over our jobs”
“Better mobile phones available”
Responses to these questions showed us young people’s pressing concerns for the future. Big issues like war, climate change, employment, youth crime and population increase were at the forefront of their discussions.
They spoke about Economic and Political threats as being closely linked, in terms of future impacts on personal income and funding for cultural projects. Personal Health was also seen as a key concern, particularly mental health and exam stresses for young people.
Concern about lack of arts provision in schools:
“Fewer arts professionals in the future”
“Unequal – creative hobbies will cost more money”
Fewer people will study arts at university because of rising tuition fees
A less culturally-rich education will have an impact on quality:
“No actors to play in films”
“People less able to solve problems”
Impacts of conflict and a bigger population on culture:
“Tourism will go submarine”
“People will be left to educate themselves and access culture through technology”
Art and creativity are connected with all aspects of life, not just a separate subject.
In the future, art will be “more common”, with “pop-up creativity”
Young people may be consulted more in the future, or should be.
Concerns about reduced funding for schools and culture
Affects on public life, including crime rates, and more demand for social care
Earning less money
Rising fuel costs
“As university fees rise, fewer people will be studying”
The UK losing talent as it will be “cheaper for artists to work abroad”
Education reforms affecting the skills pipeline
If schools only focus on ‘core’ subjects, “education results will go down”
Potential growth in unemployment if people don’t have the right skills
Young people are not very aware of the value of the creative industries to the economy
Decline in cultural industries will mean fewer work opportunities
“Less creative investment and funding for projects [so] fewer jobs in the arts”
Less work because “jobs being taken by robots”
Access to culture
Fewer cultural venues
Reduced transport to rural areas
Rising costs and falling value of the pound caused by Brexit making cultural and leisure activities less accessible.
Potential for links between schools and creative digital experts and businesses
Support for young people in setting up their own businesses (entrepreneurship)
Creativity seen as valuable in all areas of work, e.g. “creativity in maths”
“A society free of money”
New types of jobs could be an empowering trend towards freelance or alternative career paths
If new houses and schools are built in their areas, also potential for new/increase in jobs
“EU referendum will increase divides in communities”
“Reduce numbers of families from the EU, leading to less diversity”
Many young people echo popular views that refugees will continue to be a ‘threat’, with tensions ongoing as they settle in the UK.
Overcrowding, from both immigration and higher levels of childbirth.
Parents and other adults “already have their careers/futures sorted so they just say ‘that’s life’”
Increased costs of social care mixed with an increase in population – demands on young people
Creativity and culture offer the greatest opportunities:
“Arts are a possible tool for making bad situations better”
Can be used for “connecting people [in a] global community [and] developing empathy and compassion”
“The arts react [to] and mimic how society is at the time” so are helpful for social cohesion, e.g. where “refugees develop artworks to tell their stories”
Creative approaches could find “solutions for housing, architecture for diverse families and social structures [could result in] mixed communities with different backgrounds and ages”
Opportunity for ‘online schools’
“Teachers thinking creatively to engage students in all subjects, and be more flexible”
All groups were environmentally aware, showing concerns about:
“Polar ice caps melting”
Industrialisation impacting on human health, e.g. “More people working in industry will increase pollution”
“Forest fires [and] flooding ruining homes and lives”
“Creativity used to solve problems” – with green technology, recyclable/upcyclable art and new energy sources.
“Less [need for] physical travel” – thanks to new technology
A need to invest in the arts:
Because without them, “less creative people to make imaginative gardens so less plants”
Art could be “more eco-friendly”, either through materials or by raising awareness of environmental issues through art
In this part of the workshop, we used three questions to draw out imagined future scenarios, based on the changes the young people suggested in their views of ‘Now’.
In general, the young people envisaged future worlds shaped and enabled by technology, with creators as its ‘heroes’.
“We’ll be more creative in the home space”
“3D books and screens you can control with your hand gestures”
“Interactive/robotic moving sculptures using AI”
“Augmented Reality films where the action happens in the physical city”
“The ability to make movies and games with realistic effects in your spare time”
“Virtual worlds so we can experience them in life-size”
“Evolutionised” transport, sport, movies and music through technology
“Different genres of music, e.g. robots clashing together, hard, loud music”
Young people will continue to rebel through music no matter how much it changes
“Artificial painting [and] being able to be inside a game”
“New cooking forms [as our tools change]”
Sport might embrace new ways to participate, with an “E-Sports Olympics”
Preserving old venues
Reimagining dance styles and listening to old music
Respecting old books more, “viewing them as retro vintage”
Using technology to travel back in time or “escape back in time using VR”
“People may spend longer time outside or at cultural events in order to avoid technology.”
“Different cultures of dance being taught”
Young people in the future might “see old tradition in a new light”
“People won’t think the same as now”, as they might be controlled more by those in power or the media
“Fine motor skills” for operating technology such as lightning or music equipment
Curatorial skills to choose from wealth of content – “choosing the music”
To ensure these future skills, we need to start by “building attitudes at primary school level”
“A move away from knowledge-based schools to open-ended problem solving”
School in the future might be seen as a creative activity
“Young people leading their own learning, being enterprising and ‘rebellious’ in gaining appropriate skills”
“The people who fight against the squeezing out of creativity will be the people to rebuild it”
Creative charities would exist, to support arts where schools can’t.
Forming a ‘Creative Army’ to help non-creative workplaces
“Instant connectivity and cloud-based thinking”
“People will always be looking to make new things and will come together to make them”
Tools might include a “thought visualiser”
Practical skills for a tougher future, using Science, IT and Food Technology to solve food crisis etc.
Artificial intelligence – “speech recognition”, and even “interpreting language patterns of other animals”
People will need to be proactive to fill their own time in positive ways.
“Shifts in attitudes to money – it’s not what makes people happy”
“A three-day [working] week will be normal.”
“Problem solving and the ability to think outside the box”
Back to now
Overall, the responses suggested that many young people (unless already strongly involved) have very little awareness of the creative and cultural industries in terms of its practices, impact, breadth and possibilities. Some have basic awareness of dynamics of power in terms of how local Government and agencies work to lobby change.
We also asked them to make a personal pledge about the action they would take for their own future. Their personal pledges (not included here) showed strong commitment to making their future a success and an awareness of the importance of creativity in an unpredictable future.
“To the Government, we would like you to stop pressuring students in core subjects and encourage creativity in all aspects of life.”
“We’d like to send a message to people like Darren Henley in Government who have the power to change how the arts are placed, to change how business leaders or investors think who have the money to put the plans in motion. At the moment there is very much a focus on academic subjects and a very linear working life rather than the artistic side.”
“We would write to someone who isn’t currently in a position of power but he or she can relate to young people and see things from our perspective…someone on the same level as us, as politicians and MPs are from very different worlds from the young people. Young people especially don’t like being ‘spoken down to’ as if they don’t know anything. They are from different generations. We’d talk to someone more relatable, that may not have the types of power that we know right now…Perhaps a group of different people from different backgrounds…”
“Our message is to the Government and the National Philanthropists Association to include and develop different forms and cultures of the arts in education and the wider community. To cause a ripple effect across society around the different art forms out there and how to improve them. This could bring about a sense of bonding between everyone across the world.”
“To the Minister for Culture and Arts Council England Officers. We would like you to focus on creativity more as not only will it improve the quality of life, but make it fun. Don’t let England follow the plot of Footloose, make life worth living and where anything is possible.”
“To [father of participant who runs a construction company], I would you like to build us a new creative arts centre to help keep creativity flowing in Fenland, by 15/11/2037.”
“To someone like the Prime Minister, we would like you to help inspire new generations with the creativity we have all learned, maybe by solving the problem of war or teaching new styles, by 2045.”
“To [no name], focus on both the arts and academic subjects. Analyse what a student is good at and what they enjoy, and then nurture it.”
“Prime Minister, we would like you to put more money and interest into schools as they build the new generations that will change the world as we see it now. By 2020.”
“Donald Trump: Let us go back to the past using VR to see the conditions and how it was to live the way they do in the year 2018.”
“Dear scientists, stop making robots, just develop technology enough, we don’t need robots.”