We know from the 2017/18 DCMS ‘Taking Part’ survey that 72.8% of adults had visited at least one heritage site in the past year and from a range of other sources that significant numbers of primary school children and volunteers engage with heritage.
The Heritage 2020 Public Engagement working group had identified the 16-25 age group as under- represented in terms of engagement with heritage. It wants to bring about a culture change in how heritage and historic environment sector organisations approach youth engagement, and going forward, want to see a greater emphasis on involving young people in all aspects of heritage work. The group want to make what the sector does more transparent to young people from all backgrounds and demonstrate that heritage is relevant to their lives. To do this, it’s been mapping out the work that is already happening across the sector.
The July 2018 #HeritageChat was a part of this process. It provided a forum for institutions and individuals to ‘pool learning from youth engagement projects’. Greater collaboration with the creative industries, the adoption of a shared authority approach and the role of interactive technologies were all raised as talking points. Moreover, lessons to be learnt from social action programmes and natural heritage were discussed, as well as where and when conversations between heritage institutions and young people should be happening. You can read a more detailed summary of the chat here.
The group hosted a follow on #HeritageChat in October 2019, which explored why the 16-24-year-old age group are underrepresented in terms of engagement with heritage. Discussion points during the hour focused on what problems there are that impact upon a ‘heritage offer’ for 16-24-year olds, and whether low engagement could also be caused by perceptions of heritage among the age group. Participants also shared what has worked and been popular in their experience and ideas of what could increase engagement in the future. You can catch up on all the conversations that took place here.
Below are examples of some of the success stories of youth engagement shared during the chat:
The Public Engagement working group is now focusing on how to bring together organisations with a strong track-record in youth engagement with heritage sector organisations identifying conditions for success, and sharing learning from the National Lottery Heritage Fund’s ‘Kick the Dust’ programme provides an opportunity to transform how we encourage more dialogue and shared understanding between the varied interest groups in our communities.