Building skills to commission major new public artwork for Ramsgate

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Ramsgate young arts and heritage leaders royal harbour

Since 2018, our sixty Young Arts and Heritage Leaders, aged 7 to 9, have been working with Turner Contemporary navigators, Jo Ursell and Lucy Pettet, together artist Babalola Yusuf and heritage researcher, Libby Scarlett, both of whom were interviewed and chosen by the children at the start of the project.

With weekly sessions as part of the Pioneering Ramsgate project, the Young Arts and Heritage Leaders have discovered the heritage associated with Ramsgate’s Royal Harbour and explored what their hometown of Ramsgate means to them and to its residents.

Driving the project

Additional support has come from Turner Prize winning collective, Assemble, who have led focus sessions and helped the Young Leaders develop new skills and confidence before they are tasked with commissioning a major new public artwork to be installed near Ramsgate harbour. The Young Arts and Heritage Leaders are driving the project through to its conclusion in 2020, including interviewing shortlisted artists and making the final selection.

Project Manager, Josephine Martin, said: “The children are the leaders – they are making the decisions and our workshops are enabling them to be better informed and understand the creative process more. It is about helping them explore a range of possibilities”.

Entrusting young people and investing in teachers

Recent workshops included learning basic skills in construction, pottery and design, with teachers from Ramsgate Arts Primary School and St Laurence Junior Academy overcoming initial fears about letting the children loose with hammers and saws and entrusting them to work collaboratively and create a ‘living space’ in the safe and managed environment of Turner Contemporary using timber, trellis and poles.

Navigator, Lucy Pettet, explained: “We are enabling the children to discover what materials can be used and what they can create with them. This understanding will help them formulate their ideas further.”

Turner Contemporary wooden structure constructed by young arts and heritage leaders
The structure in situ at the Turner Contemporary

“The biggest tension at the start of this project was going into the schools with what was perceived as an ‘anarchic’ approach”, adds navigator, Jo Ursell. “They’re not coming at this from an arts angle and don’t necessarily have this way of thinking. Quite understandably, there are concerns about the risks of creating a bad situation.”

For Jo and her fellow navigators, this project has been as much about investing in and supporting the teachers as it has about developing the Young Leaders.

“To their credit, the teachers have come through those initial concerns”, says Jo.


Ramsgate Arts Primary Head of School, Nick Budge, praised the project and the impact it is already having; “it is important for us as an arts primary school to be involved in this ground-breaking concept”, he said. “Our children are really enthralled at the possibilities and each week they explore new creative ideas”.

Looking to the task ahead of commissioning the new artwork and the broader impact the project is having on the children’s development, he added: “Their skills are increasing noticeable and their learning focus is being considerably broadened. To lead a major art project in their own town is something very special”.

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