Background to the Blog
In 2021 Historic England commissioned Arts Connect and the Institute for Community Research and Development to investigate and report on the value and impact of young people’s engagements with heritage. We had observed that there were clear signs of increasing interest in heritage amongst young people across both informal and extracurricular settings such as social media and in the street.
Whilst some research has shown that programmes designed to engage young people do support a range of personal, social, health, and learning benefits, existing evidence was thin in regard to the impact that a focus on heritage – especially outside of school – has in these areas.
Our research was given additional urgency by the UK Government’s Levelling Up agenda and the renewed focus on place, particularly those that are described as being ‘left behind’. In this context, understanding the role and value of heritage in generating positive social, economic, and health outcomes is vital in order to inform future activities, to influence public policy, and to better make the case for public investments into the heritage sector. In summer 2023 we published the findings of our research via the report: Young People’s Engagements with Heritage Tackling Inequality & Other Opportunities for Public Policy. We hope this research will be useful to those working as policymakers and practitioners in heritage and youth work.
Between May and November 2022 as part of our research, seven projects that formed the basis of seven case studies were examined. Each project chosen utilised heritage to address social exclusion, foster social cohesion, enhance health and wellbeing and improve the lives of young people. One of these projects was Stand Out and participant Kenzie Chadburn has written a blog describing their experiences.
I’m Kenzie, a member of the LGBTQ+ community-based heritage project Stand Out! Situated in the town of Burnley, Lancashire, we’re a team composed of five young people, aged 14-20. The idea for Stand Out was first pitched in 2021, when Blaze Arts (the supporting youth-led arts organisation behind our project) visited Burnley Library and asked the staff what they’d like to see within the community. Initially, Stand Out was proposed as being a group that would meet weekly, using the library as a safe space for queer young people to share time with their peers; which is important, given how little provision there is for those identifying on the LGBTQ+ spectrum in Burnley, particularly for individuals under 18.
2021 was also the year of the 50th Anniversary of the first public meeting held by the Campaign for Homosexual Equality and to commemorate this a blue plaque had been put up outside Burnley Library – where the meeting was originally held. Considering Blaze Arts’ mission to empower young people through the provision of diverse experiences and opportunities, the decision was made to draw inspiration from this plaque, prompting the evolution of Stand Out into an LGBTQ+ community-based heritage project dedicated to recruiting young people to aid in the rediscovery of Burnley’s queer history!
We saw this as an opportunity to change people’s attitudes towards Burnley, as most remain unaware of its queer history. Consequently, the LGBTQ+ community is largely overlooked in Burnley, an issue we wanted to rectify. We’re here, we’ve always been here, and our presence within Burnley deserves recognition and respect. Of course, to obtain these, you first need to stand out.
Beginning in April 2022, the group’s initial goal was to commemorate the now 51st anniversary of the meeting, which we’d accomplish by creating a pop-up exhibition that would debut on the 30th July 2022. 4-month time frame aside, our biggest challenge was determining how exactly we’d achieve our aim of raising people’s awareness of Burnley’s LGBTQ+ history. Thankfully, with the resources provided to us by Burnley Library – and with opportunities such as visiting the local archives, going on a heritage tour around the town and getting to work alongside people from older generations – it didn’t take long for us to find ourselves with a plethora of information regarding the meeting, as well as several other significant queer-related topics. Now it was merely a matter of finding the appropriate formats and mediums for conveying what we had learned.
After much deliberation, we eventually settled on using a variety of mediums; releasing the first edition of the Stand Out zine, gathering oral histories with members of the community, creating banners and commissioning art recreating old photographs. Overall, the exhibition was a major success, with an excellent turnout and guests such as the Mayor of Burnley and our local MP, Antony Higginbotham, coming along to show their support. The exhibition was such a success that we began to consider the future of Stand Out. We all wanted the project to continue evolving and with people so willing to support us, it only seemed right that we pushed the limits and focused on giving back to our community.
To start with, this meant debuting a second exhibition at the start of 2023. This exhibition was dedicated to putting the focus on local LGBTQ+ people, which we achieved by gathering several more oral histories with local members of the LGBTQ+ community and with Mike Jackson (Cofounder of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners ). We also shifted the focus to ourselves by writing the second edition of the Stand Out zine, detailing the project’s origins, current accomplishments and future aspirations. It was through this zine and being able to secure a public shopfront in Burnley town centre to host the exhibition, that we began to prove to people we were serious about the work we were doing.
It should be recognised that Stand Out is as much about the work we do, as it is about us, the young producers. Along with the significant confidence boost and the skills we’ve developed creating our exhibitions, being a part of Stand Out has also provided us with a plethora of opportunities, such as receiving training from hired professionals, visiting other cities, the opportunity to write for Burnley FC and getting to appear on the Engage Podcast.
For me personally, Stand Out has led to the opportunity to conduct work experience with the Institute for Community Research and Development (ICRD) based at the University of Wolverhampton. This experience has enabled me to write for the ICRD blog on two occasions, to create resources for one of their community heritage research projects and to me being a guest speaker on a webinar attended by over 200 people, titled ‘Why Engaging Young People in Heritage is Key to Levelling Up’.
By the end of January 2023, Stand Out had already accomplished a lot and had received plenty of support. There were numerous opportunities for us to exploit, leading to the realisation that one of our loosely discussed ideas could be made real. So, after raising £36,000 by the end of March, through donations and bids placed into Lancashire County Council and Arts Council England, Stand Out made the decision to host an official Burnley Pride!
Four months later and through the collaborative efforts of the team, Burnley Pride kicked off with a parade through Burnley, before moving to the Burnley Mechanics Theatre where there were stalls, food, drinks, and acts from members of the community, with the entire event being hosted by RuPaul’s Drag Race Contender Elektra Fence!
Currently, we’re in talks about the future of Stand Out, our main goals being to host Burnley Pride 2024, to become our own independent and financially self-sufficient group and to one day open an official LGBTQ+ safe space within the town.
To stay in touch with our progress, keep an eye on Blaze Arts’ social medias:
More Information About Our Research
We welcome you to explore the resources we have collated including:
As well as accessible films and presentations bringing to the fore the voices of young people and our researchers:
- The recording of our hour-long webinar, discussing the report and interviewing participants
- The PowerPoint presented at our report launch webinar
- Our 5-minute film illustrating our Young People’s Showcase event in October 2022
- Our presentation at Hope Evolves in November 2022
- Another blog by Kenzie Chadburn, member of Stand Out youth project, exploring the importance of heritage
Historic England is a public body that helps people care for, enjoy and celebrate England’s spectacular historic environment.
The Institute for Community Research and Development works to improve the lives and life chances of people through research-driven policy development, promoting social mobility and delivering community based transformational projects, working collaboratively with local communities and partners.