25 Mar 2021

“Things that help me relax, sense and experiment …”

Post by Nat Palin

A small, diligent group of young co-designers have been meeting over recent weeks to design a new creative resource pack for young people aged 13-19 to use at home. We’ve come together over zoom with a few simple creative materials and our own imaginations to reflect on feedback, to design activities and draw our own visuals and layouts.

Putting these packs together relies on a whole host of people. This time round, this has ranged from the incredible folk at Orchard Forest School, FunkHead, Arts Lab, Doorstep and Play Torbay – all helping to pack up the goodies; the young co-design group who’ve designed the activities, created images & illustrations and briefed our designer; Play Torbay’s amazing coordination of referrals and working alongside Youth Genesis and Sound Communities to make sure they reach young people, at their homes, their schools and in the places they hang out.

The purpose is to provide creative and sensory support for young people who have been so impacted by the pandemic, whose social, emotional and educational support systems have been so disrupted. We’ve asked young people what they’ve wanted and needed – materials to experiment with, sensory objects to help them relax and deal with anxiety, things that are ‘real’, offline and off the screen.


But, as things have evolved, the co-design group has seeded new questions and possibilities for the future. How can young people in Torbay galvanise their creative energies, share their work and their ideas freely, develop new friendships and connections, build momentum for whatever they want to do next?

How can receiving resources and creating at home then grow into new interests, passions, curiosity – that can be properly nurtured and supported?

As our communities gradually open up, hopefully it won’t be long before children and young people can come together in ‘real life’ – to play, make music, devise, experiment and connect. As this happens, there’s a real opportunity for the new partnerships that have formed in response to this unprecedented situation to reflect and learn – to be invested in collaborating in new ways, to listen, to be imaginative – and to prioritise co-design approaches that provide young people with the real space, time and opportunity to be part of evolving their own creative programmes, applying their own rich skills and imaginations.

Over the coming weeks, Arts Lab, Moor to Sea Music Collective, Participate Arts, Doorstep, the co-designers (and, we hope, many others) will all be sharing work digitally to inspire other young people to get involved and shape activities for the future. @youngcreativestorbay is a nascent Instagram space for all of us to contribute towards – hopefully seeding some new conversations and ideas.

This is the journey we’ve been on …

Creating and sending packs to children and young people’s homes has been taking place in different forms all over the country – a way to try to connect and support when our schools, creative, cultural and play centres have been closed.

In Torbay, these efforts have involved a complex partnership of organisations supporting children and young people from 0-19, with support from Imagine This…, the National Lottery Community Fund, Arts Council England, Crafts Council, #iwill, RIO, Torbay Council and many others. Different partners who work with different age-groups have been helping to make this happen: partnerships led by Action for Children (providing resources for ages 0-18 months and 18 months – 5 years); Play Torbay (ages 5-12) and Doorstep Arts (ages 13+).

Born out of necessity, the new people (of different ages) and organisations (from different sectors) that have come together has really begun to shift conversations in ways that feel impactful for the long term. Grassroots organisations across Imagine This… have been responding inventively to what young people say they need, building new bridges that better connect the youth and creative sectors, helping to pull together a more cohesive map that young people can shape and navigate.