Jack was the third of our interns who attended the ‘Participate to Change event’ in Instanbul, alongside Emily and Esther. He has written a blog detailing his experiences, which can be found below. It’s been interesting to see which elements have proved memorable!
Being greeted at the airport by a man holding a piece of paper with my name on it has always been something on my bucket list. So this was a great start to my trip to the #ParticipateToChange seminar in Istanbul. After being bundled into a cab and quite literally racing through the streets of Istanbul, soon enough we were having the first of many meals with the other delegates.
There is something unique about talking about youth participation in a city whose average age is only 29 years old. The informal nature of the conference was something that created a safe and free environment for debate. In a city where quite literally East meets West, Istanbul provided a complex dialogue on how conservative traditions and new ideas interact in the lives of young people today.
The positivity and willingness to debate from all parties was something that made the conference thought provoking and worthwhile. In a climate in the UK where young people are portrayed in the media as apathetic and narcissistic, Turkish youth were passionate and expressive and really cared about the youth issues in their country. Breaking down the issue of youth participation through a problem solving approach we were able to take a step back as a group and look at the wider issues surrounding young people and the community. Countless pieces of flipchart paper and a ball of wool later, we had covered issues as heavy as government policy, democracy and equality. The peer to peer nature of the conference was something which made it unique and interesting. An international sharing of ideas on youth issues is not an opportunity that comes along often, so we were eager to make the most of it.
As well as skylines decorated with mosques and vibrant multiculturalism, perhaps the biggest similarity between Istanbul and Bradford is the young age of the populations. Turkey is a young country with an average age of just 29 and some reports claim the average age of Istanbul to be as young as 23. Moreover, as an increasingly young city, Bradford has been predicted to have 50% of its population under the age of 25 by 2020. The concept of young people participating in society and organisations as a way to shape their futures is something which is all the more important in such young cities. This parallel made coming together to share knowledge and create dialogues around youth issues all the more important for us.
For Bradford Museums and Galleries, engaging young people and the community is vital aspect of the organisation’s social responsibility. Seeing how art and history projects can be used to bring communities closer is one of the most rewarding things about working in arts and culture. Witnessing engaged and inspiring young people with a backdrop of cosmopolitan Istanbul brought youth participation into a new context. For the future, this got us thinking about ways to get more young people involved in museums and galleries.
One of the highlights of the trip was a cultural evening where we played a weaving game with the delegates. Demonstrating Bradford’s textile history, one group represented the warp and another the weft and delegates weaved through each other holding long pieces of fabric until a large piece of cloth was formed in front of them. This was all the more poignant as each piece of weft fabric represented different cultures of Bradford. Explaining what we do and where we were from to a new group of people made us really think about what we do and the impact it has on the public. It was also great to explain to others about the city we love and the culture within it. I think in areas where we talked about our work one of the nicest things was being able to get across the passion we felt for the work we do. Throughout the trip it was the moments of enthusiasm different people felt for the work they do and the ideas they have that brought the conference together. A natural display of interest was something which could not have been manufactured.