Association of Independent Museums Conference

Creatively Supporting Young People with Additional Needs

Culture Coventry Museum Fizzers 2

Association of Independent Museums Conference

The team were delighted to present at the conference through the “Museums Fizzers” event, giving us 3 minutes to compete for the best “what makes your museum fizz” speech. The winner would be awarded a bottle of champagne!

Our pitch was that Museums are uniquely placed to engage people at a young age through storytelling, to help them develop team working, creativity and soft skills for work to improve their long term prospects of living an independent life.  Creative Bridges uses cultural and creative engagement to aid transition to independent adult life for young people with a learning disability to enable them to have an active role in society.  Together we dance, animate, film, act, craft, produce, sing! But above all, we connect and in doing so, learn.

Here’s our “champagne-winning” speech:

“Last night, after a hard day’s networking at this conference, most of you will have spoken to a friend, posted a picture on social media or watched TV and related to one of the characters.  Maybe you even made a short film yourself.  You might even have done this during the conference.

You reached out, you shared.

You do all of these things to make connections.  Connections bind communities together, we are tribal, we need to belong.

Museums are often the connection schools have with the outside world – an offsite trip to see a collection being a pupil’s first experience of a professional environment.  Museums offer a “creative bridge” to connect school and the world of work.

Approximately 1.5 million people in the UK have a learning disability.

Herbert Media, supported by funding from Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, developed a year-long programme called Creative Bridges to help young people with learning difficulties begin to find the connections they need to play their role in society.

That role needs to be an active one, a meaningful one, so we became an accredited vocational centre, a mini-college in a museum.  We help young people to achieve qualifications, to pursue a career, support their family business, volunteer or to go onto further training or simply to gain confidence.

Most of you will remember learning to ride a bike.  That moment when you forgot you were learning, a feeling of freedom; a moment of true engagement. Our Creative Bridges programme is built on enjoyment, if you can learn without knowing, you are achieving but through the sheer joy of it.

We dance, craft, sing, film, record, interview and research.

Stories help us to understand who we are.  They establish our cultural identity and they help us imagine who we’d like to become.  Our collections and temporary exhibitions provide the opening line of each new story.  Our learners are our film crew, our actors, our scriptwriters and songwriters.  They feel a part of something, we feel like a part of something.

The surprise and wonder of seeing our learners create their story is what motivates us to be the best communicators we can be.

We provide essential structure for learning, but are equally happy to throw that structure out of the window, when we have strayed off the path, we have learnt the most.

Learning outside the classroom is, for us, a social, group activity putting less pressure on the individual than they might experience in school.  We teach our young learners how to tell their collective stories using the multimedia they love.  They have a sense of ownership because the stories stem from their own ideas, sparked by a connection to our exhibitions and objects.

Making connections is what makes our museum fizz.”

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