a young woman speaks into a microphone holding papers

On the 10 November 2022, we invited up to 100 young people from across the West Midlands to SpeakUP! and find their voice at our Youth Voice and Leadership Conference. We wanted to know about their experience of taking part in arts and cultural activities and hear about their needs and future ambitions.


SpeakUP! in Conference – finding our voice…

At the event children and young people took part in creative workshops to help them explore their thinking, they also listened to talks and took part in debates about what was important to them about arts and culture and more importantly what they thought, we, [the LCEPS and organisations in the West Midlands] should be doing to support more and better youth participation in arts and cultural activities.

A young schoolgirls smiles

SpeakUP! – Assets

We were helped by seven young creatives aged 18-25yrs from the West Midlands who formed The Speak UP! Youth Panel. They designed activities and collected comments, film, photos, and feedback from the event and then worked together to collate and reflect on their findings.

As a result, they produced several SpeakUP! creative assets. Each asset draws on what children and young people who attended said about their experience of and ambitions for arts and culture in the West Midlands. You can use the SpeakUP! assets to shape and advocate for an even more inclusive and accessible cultural education offer for the children and young people in the West Midlands near you.

They include:

  • SpeakUP! Manifesto

  • We believe in the power of imagination illustrations created by young artist Maxene Brown

  • ‘I’ poem by Iona Mandal, Birmingham’s Young Poet Laureate 2022-24

  • ’We Believe in Imagination’ poem by young artist Maria Conlon


Find these all below, read, enjoy and be inspired!

SpeakUP! – A Manifesto!

Read our Manifesto written collectively by the young people involved in SpeakUP! During the event they told us what was important to young people about arts and culture and what we could do as adults to make their voices heard. Let’s make their journey through the arts be inspiring, joyful and fearless – share this and amplify their voices far and wide:

Why not…

  • Share and discuss the Manifesto with colleagues or the children and young people you work with.

  • Post it or email it to local stakeholders.

  • Share on social media.

SpeakUP! Getting Creative

In addition to the Manifesto the Youth Panel created poems, music and films in response to the day, we also commissioned an original work from young poet Iona Mandal.

We Believe in Imagination a poem and film by Maria Conlon

Young poet Maria Conlon took inspiration from the event and the experiences of her and those around her to create the poem and film We Believe in Imagination.

we believe in imagination, a poem by Maria Conlon, click here to read

Why not…

  • Share this poem and film on social media.

I a poem by Iona Mandal

Iona Mandal, Birmingham’s Young Poet Laureate 2022-24, was commissioned by Arts Connect to create a poem for the day, her aim was to ‘reflect the role we have as humans, in being creators of art in our own right, knowingly or not.’, and express what ‘I’ means to her.

This is Iona’s first commissioned poem.

We hope this will inspire you to create written and spoken word particularly about your ‘I’ and the arts.

My poem aims to reflect the role we have as humans, in being creators of art in our own right, knowingly or not. Art is not just important; it is intrinsic to our nature. If we look closely enough, it is a part of even our most involuntary behaviours. I have used the words ‘simile’ and ‘smile’ as metaphors for human ‘communication’ and ‘expression’ respectively, hoping to convey that as humans, we are the mediators between the two. That role we all play, as the intermediary conscience, is what I would like to define as art – the midpoint between emotion and tangible manifestation. That is what ‘I’ is to me.”

Iona Mandal, Birmingham’s Young Poet Laureate 2022-24

A picture of Iona Mandal with the text: I a poem by Iona Mandal, Birmingham Poet Laureate (2022-2024)

Why not…

  • Secretly gift this poem to a colleague.

We believe in the power of imagination by young artist Maxene Brown

Young artist Maxene Brown has created three joyful and vibrant postcards in response to the day.

Why not…

  • Print off the postcards by clicking below and post them to local stakeholders telling them how you think they should make the case for youth involvement in cultural activity and decision making.
Preview of post cards which can be cut out