Talking Points

Talking Points was a place-based participatory youth arts project led by artists Jack Cornell and Nicola Hutchison. The project was made possible through a commission from Essex Cultural Diversity Project, supported by Arts Council England.

We used the commission to work with young people aged 10-19 in Harlow, in a collaborative project in which young people were encouraged to take the lead. Participants were given a voice and platform to explore issues in a way which was meaningful and relevant to them, and had the opportunity to learn new arts skills and develop confidence throughout. Groups involved include Livewire Community Youth Theatre, Young Curators, and Integration Support Services, with support from The Gibberd Gallery, Harlow Playhouse and The Harvey Centre.


We led a series of workshops in which  a group of young makers designed and created sculptures inspired by human rights. The makers were recruited via Integration Support Services and Young Curators, and the workshops were also supported by Artist facilitators Renalyn Ward and Amanda Westbury from these organisations respectively. The sculptures were used by young people from Livewire, who drew on the forms and ideas to devise drama and choreography, led by Livewire Director Sam Ashford in collaboration with us. There was overlap during this development, meaning the two groups of young people had the opportunity to influence each other’s work. The main building and devising work took place during February half term, hosted by The Gibberd Gallery. The project effectively acted as a ‘takeover’ of the main exhibition space, giving young people ownership of a cultural venue in the civic centre. Most of them had never visited the gallery before.


The work culminated in a series of public pop-up performances in The Harvey Centre, Harlow’s largest indoor shopping mall. Two of the makers supported the performers in an event management role, collecting feedback and using clickers to count the public showing an interest. The sculptures were then displayed at Harlow Playhouse, in gallery space in the main lobby throughout March and April.


65 young people took part across 161 instances of participation, reaching an estimated public audience of 4500, based on 500 during the performances and 4000 to the exhibition of the sculptures (Director’s estimate of footfall through Harlow Playhouse lobby.)


‘It was insightful. It was very interesting to think about all those people that aren’t treated correctly. It was fun because you got to use [other young people’s] art to help you create scenes… after a few performances I felt more confident– Talking Points participant, aged 12

‘They performed in public, in the town centre, in front of passing crowds. Previously, several members of this group would be reluctant to stand up in front of the rest of the group to perform. This was a massive step and the sense of achievement and pride in their work was substantial. From this project we now have a group of young people who are:

  • More aware of Human Rights.
  • Understand the significance of Art as a method of causing discussion.
  • More confident and able to vocalise their thoughts.
  • Able to work with sculptures and objects to create original theatre.
  • Proud of their achievements.
  • Now an integral part of Livewire’s core group.’  – Sam Ashford, Livewire Director

‘Enjoyed seeing performance in a shopping centre and seeing young people in a positive light’ -audience feedback

‘Thought provoking. Pleased to see this space with art’ – audience feedback from gallery space comments box

Many thanks to all the young people and organisations involved in the project.