Bold vision to reimagine Rotherham launched at youth-focused event

THE “bold vision” of a re-imagined Rotherham was unveiled by its young people creators at an event to set out plans for the borough to become the UK’s first ever Children’s Capital of Culture.

More than 100 guests gathered at Gulliver’s Valley for Children’s Capital of Culture: Making It Happen, to see the roadmap to 2025 revealed, as well as a manifesto for its legacy.

Announcements at last Thursday’s event included the commissioning of two new Young Artists in Residence, while four young people will work alongside Rotherham Music to deliver partnership projects, including a programme of events during February half-term.

Cultural events will also return to Rotherham in 2023, including a skate and arts festival in April and the WOW Women of the World Festival in June.

BBC Young Reporter of the Year Ciara Brady (17) was part of the original group of young people who came up with the concept of a children’s capital at a Grimm & Co workshop in 2017.

The Wickersley sixth form student, of Ravenfield, said: “The premise was to reimagine Rotherham so we created a manifesto on what an ideal Rotherham would look like for young people and at the end of the project we presented it to councillors.

“We as young people planned out the entire movement — that was what was so special about it.

“It’s not just about culture — it’s about building the skills and the infrastructure we need.

“If you want Rotherham to flourish, you have to provide the infrastructure for it to do so.

“Rotherham has the potential and it’s about showing that, developing Rotherham’s economy and its image and completely transforming it.”

Rotherham Council is lead partner in CCoC, with local organisations on the programme’s board including Grimm & Co, Gulliver’s and Flux Rotherham.

Deborah Bullivant, founding chief executive of Grimm & Co said: “We gave these passionate young people a remit — how to make Rotherham a place they really wanted to be in — and they set about setting up the ground rules. They organised us, they gave us the calls to action.

“They were the ones telling us that the town centre shouldn’t focus on retail, but make it a hub for festivals and activities — this was way back in 2018.

“It’s not about leaving it to the grown-ups.”   

Leanne Buchan, the council’s head of creative programming and engagement, agreed, adding: “They are leading the charge on this — our job is to facilitate their voice, their vision and their hopes for 2025 and beyond.

“They are fearless, they are confident and Rotherham needs their energy and their creativity.”

Last year’s events included Gulliver’s first ever interactive Arts Fest, an exhibition at Clifton Park Museum and a poetry and spoken word event at Rotherham Civic Theatre.

Leanne said: “We’ve spoken to 100,000 children and young people and their families about what differences they want to see.

“Opportunities are the real things they are concerned about — can they live and work here, can they have a meaningful career?”

The council offered 57 traineeships for 16-25 year olds, with 70 per cent going on to either further education or full-time employment, and intends to create 80 more traineeships.

Music graduate Eleanor Beever said her RMBC traineeship had given her “an outlet into the creative and culture sector in Rotherham which was really exciting”.

The 24-year-old from Broom now works at Flux Rotherham.

The event also featured music, breakdancing and performances from Rationale Arts and local artists including rapper Kid Blu3.

Sheffield artist Jo Peel — a CCoC ambassador and mentor who recently completed a new mural at Rotherham Civic — said: “It is important to give the young people of Rotherham a chance to rise up and change the narrative of the town.

“I am excited to see how the initiative develops.”