Young people turn designers and journalists as part of the Cultural Olympiad and Stories of the World: London

By Rachel Hayward | 14 December 2010
Photo showing a teenage girl with dark curly hair tied back and she is looking at the camera whilst holding a museum object in her gloved hands
© Em Fitzgerald / Geffrye Museum
16 year old Sophie Grant-Vaswani is one of, to date, over 1,500 young people round the country getting valuable skills experience as well as having a key say in our Cultural Olympiad – the arts’ contribution to celebrating the 2012 Olympic Games.

Sophie’s part of the Youth Advisory team at the Geffrye Museum in London - the Museum is a member of the London Museums’ Hub leading a total of 23 museums across London in the Stories of the World: London project - and Sophie can see the value of being involved in something as high profile as the Cultural Olympiad.

“I love being part of such a big project and getting opportunities most 16 year olds don’t get,” enthuses Sophie. “I’ve put it on my CV and people see it and say ‘Wow!'"

The skills she’s learning whilst at the Geffrye Museum are a school Work Experience Co-ordinator’s dream:

 “I’ve developed leaflets with graphic designers, had presentation training and helped organise museum open days, while also writing articles about my thoughts on museums for publications like Children and Young People Now.”

Now studying for her A Levels and with a Saturday job at Stagecoach, Sophie picked up details about the Cultural Olympiad whilst visiting the Museum last Christmas:

“There are twenty of us in the Youth Advisory Panel of different ages and from all different backgrounds, so making decisions can sometimes be challenging. Unlike school, though, we’re all treated like adults. The expectations are much higher but every time the expectations have been raised we’ve met them.”

And it’s not just the CV that’s seen gains; Sophie’s time on Stories of the World has changed her as a person too:

“Fitting it all in has been difficult but it’s taught me a lot. I also feel I know more about what I like doing and don’t like doing, for instance I’ve learnt that I’m more creative than I thought I was and don’t want to do a job where I’m just sitting at a desk all day.”  

Museums and galleries are playing a key role in the Cultural Olympiad, through their UK-wide Stories of the World project, the biggest youth engagement project ever undertaken by UK museums. They’re already involving young people in gaining work skills such as display, design, interpretation, marketing and promotion to produce exhibitions and events at over 40 venues for 2012, that are designed to appeal to new audiences. Exhibition themes will cover fashion, music, travel and immigration and work skills learnt will include: display, design, interpretation, marketing and promotion.

Across London, young people are exploring museum collections in exciting ways from staging a ‘Roman’ fashion show in Greenwich and recording new audio guides at the Florence Nightingale Museum, to taking part in poetry slams at Keats House, making films inspired by the Geffrye Museum’s domestic interiors collection. 2012 finale exhibitions will be created by the young people at the Museum of London, Geffrye Museum, Horniman Museum and London Transport Museum.

The Cultural Olympiad will culminate in the London 2012 Festival - the UK’s biggest ever festival of dance, music, theatre, the visual arts, film and digital innovation, bringing leading artists from all over the world.
More on the venues and organisations we've mentioned:
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