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Placemaking with Young Adults: Impressions on the Festival of Futures

by Ella Alemayehu-Lambert

Date Published: 17 May 2024

We often create change by beginning with what is directly in front of us – we tap into what we can see, smell, hear and feel around us to impact our familiar world. The Placemaking with Young Adults event, which I attended as part of Imagination Lancaster’s Festival of Futures, showcased how local policy can be influenced by democratic and imaginative processes, that engage a diverse range of people. It was wonderful to learn about the programme and see how young people have been contributing ideas for reimagining the Lancaster District, which centre creativity and sustainability.

One of the project’s aims is to create ‘collaborative ecosystems’ in order to affect change locally. I was struck by this wording, as I often find it cropping up in some of the conversations about arts and culture I find myself in. Ecosystems or ecologies are responsive to continual change and they are also connected is close and complex ways. Given the cuts and tight resources in heritage, local governance, the arts and higher education, the need for us to act as part of an ecosystem that shares resources and ideas feel particularly strong. It was inspiring to see how many different organisations and groups have been collaborating to bring this project about, especially in times when it can feel easier to remain siloed. The project consisted of a research team spanning Lancaster University and Lancaster City Council, and  range of diverse young people, to connect different projects and ideas.

The placemaking framework, which was produced through collaborative processes between the research team and a range of young adults seems a really valuable and comprehensive tool to understand both what placemaking encompasses and how it can be achieved. I plan to keep returning to this myself and hope that others will too.

Particular impressions: building connections, working together to see or experience place in a way you may not otherwise have done

 I-Connect Project: really struck with the walk to Eden project – responsibility not often taken for travel and safety of particular groups outside of event of venue itself

Key takeaways

There is greater value to engaging with local issues of place in that it gives us a taste of our own social and political agency, and the communities that we are inevitably part of in our day to day lives.

The Placemaking with Young Adults project showed that when young people are empowered to be front and centre in the reimagining the local places we share, the results can be really powerful.

About the Author: Ella Alemayehu-Lambert is a Creative Producer at Lancaster Arts, a contemporary arts organisation based at Lancaster University. Lancaster Arts makes work that explores how ideas, people and places connect. Find out how they have been working with a Cultural Consortium, Lancaster City Council and many more to create  placemaking activities as part of MILL RACE: FLOW OF CHANGE (arcgis.com). The publication A‘live’ Place: Experiencing the Mill Race Through Arts and culture will also be available from Spring 2024 in Lancaster museums – written by Ella Alemayehu-Lambert and John Chell.