1000 voices – 1 mission – 10 years


City of Dreams begins!


18th September 2018. The date we launch our decade-long mission for all children and young people in NewcastleGateshead. A mission founded on the belief that our city can earn a reputation as the best place to be young.

Read the full blog post

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City of Dreams launches on 18th September 2018 – and will last for 10years

We can become known as a city where everyone under 25 is able to take part in cultural and civic life, fully and on their own terms. Where the confidence and skills of younger people are grown through creative engagement. Where their potential is unleashed to innovate, create, learn, and be active members of their communities.

A city where under 25s feel entitled to make, see and do at art galleries, museums, cinemas, theatres, science centres, music and dance venues. Where engaging creative programmes take place on their doorstep, not just one-off fun experiences but a long-term offer that supports them to find their talent, develop friendships, and strengthen their personal resilience.

A place where children and young people can express their views, share their stories, and set an agenda for the future. Where they can do so in the most powerful ways, in forms of their own choosing, knowing decision makers will listen.

A place where children and young people are valued as makers in their own right. Of art in all it forms. Of culture, technology and digital innovations. But above all, as the makers of our future city. 

This is what City of Dreams aims to create, through a range of programmes under a single strategy, that will reach all 165,000 under 25s in NewcastleGateshead. Every year. For a decade. Or, at least, our partnership of 40 or so organisations intend to make the biggest contribution we can to realising this vision. City of Dreams is our strategy for the local arts, culture, heritage and science sectors to play their part over the next decade – starting on 18th September 2018.

Sounds fantastic doesn’t it? Or are you reading this with scepticism? Perhaps marvelling at our naivety in thinking this lofty ambition is achievable? We know we face challenges. 

Our starting point is a city where 29% of children grow up in poverty, escalating to 47% in some wards.

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Our city is full of fantastic things to see, do and make – but children and young people face challenges growing up here

We also know that the number of Looked After Children – those in the care of our two local authorities – is 33% above the national average. The number of children with special educational needs is higher than other cities in the North of England, and nearly 1-in-4 children see their educational attainment decline dramatically between primary and secondary education. Nearly half of teenagers do not expect to ever hold down permanent employment, and mental ill health is rising every year with waiting times for assessment now nearly three months.

It is not always easy growing up on Tyneside. So why would we dare to dream that this city could be nationally, perhaps internationally, known as the best place to be young?

Because young people have told us it is possible. From November 2017 to February 2018 we spoke with nearly 1000 of them, in 30 different settings, and taking in a broad diversity of the local population. Through focus groups, participatory appraisal workshops, and a landmark event attended by 300 young people, we brought the voices of under25s on Tyneside to the centre of our planning.

We called this the Big Culture Conversation. Not so much a consultation, as a four month process of engagement led by a team of City of Dreams Champions, including the members of NewcastleGateshead Cultural Venues, Gateshead Youth Assembly, Newcastle Youth Council, Youth Focus North East, The Prince’s Trust, Headliners, Children North East, NewcastleGateshead CVS, and Apples & Snakes.

We discovered that, contrary to what is sometimes said about them, our children

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982 children and young people took part in our Big Culture Conversation process – they told us they want to make things

and young people do not lack aspiration. Given the chance to express their desires, many have told us they want to achieve fantastic things with their lives.

Some said they wanted – no deserved – the chance to become the next great musician, filmmaker, actor, director, producer, dancer, artist, scientist, archaeologist, historian…or YouTuber, tatoo artist, Netflix programmer. Some talked about lack opportunity, or access, to creative experiences. They sometimes happen too far away, cost too much, or seem like they belong to “other people”. You might call this a poverty of confidence. A situation that leaves some believing they don’t have the resources, experience, ideas, ability and knowledge to do what others might. Sadly, in some cases, it is also a poverty of adult advocates who champion the interesting, different, unusual and creative.

Those in more deprived areas, or from more marginalised communities, or living in outer-west Newcastle and Gateshead, told us that they faced additional barriers to engagement. But despite this disparity of opportunity, and regardless of their chosen future careers, there was a common theme across all those who engaged with the Big Culture Conversation.

They believed that arts, culture and science can play a big part in making their lives better. They told us their lives are enhanced by creative engagement, and so they wanted more access to cultural activity and a greater say in what it might look like

Those we spoke to were generous too, sharing inspirational solutions to ensure everyone gets take part in cultural and creative activity over the next ten years. More than that, they had ideas for helping everyone under25 in NewcastleGateshead make their mark on our future city.

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City of Dreams is launching dozens of new programmes to help NewcastleGateshead earn a reputation as the best place to be young

Making…there’s that word again!

The children and young people we spoke to want to make, more than anything else. That’s why we have launched the #MakeSomethingBrilliant programme this autumn. And, to ensure everyone can take part we will be rolling it out more widely in summer 2019, and beyond, making sure it is accessible to the most deprived and isolated in our city. 

They also  wanted to tell their own stories to decision makers, which is why we are kicking off the Our City Our Story programme leading to a major civic event in March 2019. 

Those we spoke were emphatic that improved confidence and skills were the main benefits of creative activity. So City of Dreams is working with the likes of the North East Culture Partnership, Esh Group, Curious Arts, The Prince’s Trust, VInspired, and Moving Parts: Newcastle Puppetry Festival, to provide opportunities for 1000s of young people to progress their talent, abilities and self-belief.

These are just some headlines of the City of Dreams strategy, and action plan, we are sharing at our launch events on 18th September. A plan we wrote with children and young people, and with the 40 organisations in our Champions network. A roadmap for culture, arts, heritage and science organisations to play their part in making NewcastleGateshead the best place to be young…

…a vision of future city that is anything but a dream.


More news on the City of Dreams strategy and action plan will follow on this website. Stay tuned for announcements, activity news, and footage of speeches and performances from our exciting launch events.
Share the City of Dreams launch video (above) with everyone and anyone who needs to hear about our 10year mission.
Follow us on Twitter for the latest updates on what we’re up to.
And if you would like to get more involved or become a City of Dreams Champion just email us at info@cityofdreams.org.uk

City of Dreams is supported by the Gillian Dickinson Trust

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