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Coastopia - showcasing the Utopian visions of young people in Scarborough.

Posted on 24 April 2019

SPSW researchers Aniela Wenham and Hannah Jobling co-produce creative research project with Sidewalk Youth and artist Lucy Barker to create ‘Utopian’ art installation.

Dr Aniela Wenham and Dr Hannah Jobling, researchers in the department, have been working on a co-produced research project with young people from Sidewalk Youth in Scarborough to document their vision for the future.

Scarborough has been identified as the most deprived area in North Yorkshire, with some parts of Scarborough in the most deprived 1% in England (Data North Yorkshire, n.d). Within this context, many young people in Scarborough face difficult transitions to adulthood, and are vulnerable to a range of poor outcomes (House of Lords Select Committee, 2019).

The young people who access Sidewalk Youth are typically among the most disadvantaged in Scarborough, and a key aim of the project was to give them a platform to share their ideas on what could make Scarborough a better place to live for young people like them.  

Artist Lucy Barker worked alongside Aniela, Hannah and the young people to distil their ideas into an immersive light installation, titled ‘Coastopia’, which gave a powerful insight into their imagined future for Scarborough, including reflections on belonging, care and equality.   

The installation was recently displayed at the Coastival Festival in Scarborough and at a celebration event held at Sidewalk Youth, hosted by the young people and attended by local policy-makers and practitioners. The feedback from both events was really positive, and have led to a number of follow-up activities, including a display of the installation at Scarborough town hall during the local election period, and an upcoming meeting between young people from Sidewalk Youth and Councillors to discuss how young people can become more involved in local decision-making.

Steve Blower, Project Coordinator at Sidewalk Youth said “The installation that developed out of the project was a brilliant success from Sidewalk's point of view. Young people saw their dreams and vision for the future take shape and speak out to the wider community. The installation has since been booked in at Scarborough's town hall where young people's vision for the future will be on display during local elections.

This emergence of youth voice in the local political context has been a really positive additional outcome and one we expect to build on in the coming weeks and months. A big thank you from Sidewalk and the young people of Scarborough for helping us open up new opportunities for youth participation and engagement.” 




Lucy Barker is an interdisciplinary artist with over 20 years experience. Her projects aim to engage a wide range of people in creative processes – as spectators, participants, and co-producers. With a belief that art can, and should, communicate in new and interesting way to people from all backgrounds, offering fresh perspectives that inspire audiences and participants to make positive personal and social change. Find out more about Lucy’s work.