Transforming Lives: young people, art and the city

Award Holder

Professor Paul Heritage

Higher Education Institute

Drama, Queen Mary, University of London

Project Summary

Transforming Lives: young people, art and the city. An interactive, audio-visual immersive installation that investigates and celebrates how young people transform their worlds through the arts. The Follow-On research asks two questions:

If we were to create a live audio-visual and interactive exhibition drawing on multidisciplinary debates to illustrate and investigate how young people transform their worlds through the arts, what would it look, feel and sound like?

How can we stimulate and enrich knowledge exchange about the relationship between art and civil society within the context of the emerging Olympic cultural dialogue between London and Rio de Janeiro?

The aim of the research is to enable young people to archive and to represent the ways in which they transform their lives and their cities through the art they make. Transforming Lives seeks to link the values of young people's transformational artistic practices with the ideals of the Olympic movement and thereby connect Beyond Text to Olympic themes of cultural dialogue, sustainability, unlimited possibilities for disabled people and the 'Olympic Truce'. The research brings together young people making art with ideas about how art transforms lives, and finds innovative ways to express what can be made from that encounter. Art work by young people is too often lost and unrecognised for its achievements in bringing about real change in people's lives.

This original interactive installation is produced and curated by young people who have documented their own work and the work of other young people. It will re-present the experiences and histories of young people in Britain and Brazil, creating a platform for debate and celebration. The interactive technologies developed during the research enable new material to be collected from the general public who visit the installation in each location so that Transforming Lives is shaped and curated in different ways as it travels. The installation will be seen in Gateshead, Salisbury and London in 2011 before travelling back to Rio de Janeiro where it was first developed in January 2012. At each location there will be a seminar for senior representatives from agencies that work with young people in the city, each time with a focus related to one of the key themes from the Cultural Olympics.

There will be a final seminar in London for cultural policy makers, representatives from foundations which focus on arts and social justice, and senior directors of arts organisations that work with young people.


This Follow-On project is a collaboration between People's Palace Projects [a practice-based arts research centre at Queen Mary, University of London], Lawnmowers Theatre Company [a national organisation for people with Learning Difficulties based in Gateshead], and Salisbury International Arts Festival.

Spectaculu [a graphic/scenic design school for young people from peripheral communities in Rio de Janeiro] is a collaborator on the original Transforming Lives project and will host and support the return of the project to Rio in 2012 [financial support not required as part of this Follow-On application]. Their support and commitment, demonstrated in their Letter of Support, is essential to the impact of the project and the success of the cultural exchange, but they will not be committing resources to the UK work outlined in this Follow-On application.


Arts & Humanities Research Council: Each year the AHRC provides approximately £100 million from the Government to support research and postgraduate study in the arts and humanities, from archaeology and English literature to design and dance. In any one year, the AHRC makes approximately 700 research awards and around 1,000 postgraduate awards. Awards are made after a rigorous peer review process, to ensure that only applications of the highest quality are funded. Arts and humanities researchers constitute nearly a quarter of all research-active staff in the higher education sector. The quality and range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits but also contributes to the economic success of the UK. See Arts & Humanities Research Council website.