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Successful Creative Connections conference

GDLP Conference Avalon, Skipton (photo Joanne Coates)

Leading figures from the creative industries, rural development and placemaking were among more than 100 people who attended a two-day conference in Skipton, focusing on why so many young people move away from the Yorkshire Dales and the Lakes.

Great Place: Lakes and Dales (GPLD), is a three-year programme funded by Arts Council England and Heritage Lottery Fund. Its Creative Connections conference, at Avalon at the Broughton Hall Estate, delivered the results of a major research project looking in to reasons for the ‘youth drain’ in the rural corridor between Grasmere and Skipton – the area has fewer 16 to 34-year olds than the national average. It found young people left because of jobs and family but also liveability issues such as transport, affordable housing and ‘things to do’.

The conference considered how heritage, arts and culture can help address the issues thrown up with one immediate outcome being the announcement of a design competition in conjunction with the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), which will be launched in the coming weeks. It is looking to attract architect-led teams from across the world to design new, innovative flexible accommodation that will be attractive and practical for younger generations wishing to live and work in the Lakes and Dales. A rural film festival and new grant scheme were also announced.

GPLD programme manager Lindsey Hebden said: “Young people are the ‘great’ in Great Place. We need to innovate, experiment and be bold to support and nourish the youth culture to help them to flourish. The conference has been inspirational and is the start of a raft of activities aimed at securing a cultural future which will encourage young people to feel it’s a real option to stay, return or move in to the area.”

Other suggestions to work on, made at the conference, included building relationships between age groups and providing creative hubs for young people which would address the issues of lack of space for collaboration, working and leisure. Striving to ensure youth representation and giving young people a voice was another theme. Affordable housing and transport were acknowledged as big issues.

GPLD identified areas of work to concentrate on including marketing to young people, nurturing youth culture, and supporting the creative industries. Championing diverse events and their promotion, encouraging suitable housing and accommodation and embedding creativity at a strategic level are all on the priority list going forward.

The conference followed up on placemaking ideas developed from two earlier consultation meetings held in Skipton and Kendal, led by GPLD ambassador, British designer Wayne Hemingway.

Wayne said: “The conference featured some really interesting conversations with delegates and panellists. There is a clear recognition that the issues that need tackling are complex and that affordability of housing, the paucity of good public transport and a need for a more diverse cultural offer are key issues that are going to require creative thought from communities, the public and the private sector. GPLD can help to facilitate and inspire creative thought. We’re excited to take the work forward through placemaking projects, inspiring discussions and influencing policymakers at local and national level.”

Other speakers and panellists included adventurer Alastair Humphreys, Kendal Calling co-founder Andy Smith, landscape architect and designer Pete Swift, creative consultant Kate Beard, director of Creative Tourist Andrew Palmer and London Borough of Culture 2019 creative director Sam Hunt.

There was also a showcase of young talent featuring performers and artists from the Lakes and Dales such as visual artist Lauren Smith, musician Callum Spencer and poet Hannah Hodgson.

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