Helping people understand their place in the world

Su Hepburn, Issue 117/07, 01.07.2017
Achieving long-term outcomes
The role culture can play in creating opportunities and changing lives is at the forefront of many organisations’ thinking, and over the years, there has been a wealth of projects targeting young people. But it’s also acknowledged that the programmes delivered
don’t always have the desired long-term outcomes.

In Brighton & Hove, we have responded by bringing people from health, social services, businesses, education, culture and creative industries together with children and young people, to address inequality and lack of opportunity. The resulting transformative programme, Our Future City, includes Royal Pavilion & Museums (RPM), Brighton Dome & Festival, Brighton & Hove Music & Arts and the University of Brighton.
Our work on migration was prompted by the manifesto RPM developed as an outcome of the Arts Marketing Association’s Futureproof Museums programme. This expresses what we feel museums and their collections can do to change lives, and includes a pledge to work with communities to connect citizens – specifically children and young people – with museums and support their wellbeing.

Brighton & Hove’s collections embody multiple stories, and often provide evidence of human migration’s roots in the past, so we wanted to use them to support people’s understanding of the world and their place in it.

Under Our Future City’s Be Well programme, we asked 13 nursery and primary schools to identify their pupils’ biggest wellbeing need. Most pinpointed “children feeling a lack of identity and a sense of belonging”, so we took this as our lead.

Fifteen pupils with English as an additional language undertook a project that began by exploring Brighton Museum artefacts linked to the city’s history of migration. They then piloted our Nigerian Detective session, taking part in a Lagos 10th birthday party for Edith who, they later discovered, is now an adult living in Brighton. Edith shared her memories of her birthday party, her migration story and her experiences of her Brightonian children’s birthday parties today.
The theme allowed everyone in the class to share their memories and cultural similarities and differences. On returning to school, the children worked with visual artist Jo Coles to create treasure boxes reflecting their journeys and culture, which were exhibited at an event with parents/carers – enabling families to feel more embedded in the school community. The children also led parents/carers around Brighton Museum to show what they had learned about migration.

By the end of the project, the children were more confident, and proud to discuss their heritage. RPM is further researching our city’s history of migration and the stories in our collections that we can share. We are also developing an archaeology gallery, which will tell the story of ancient migration to Sussex and help contextualise contemporary migrations, and sharing our experiences by hosting this year’s Schools of Sanctuary teacher conference.

Su Hepburn is the senior learning officer at the Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove