Birmingham pupils to learn from council leaders

Children from twenty schools to take part in art project.

Wednesday marks the culmination of Trailblazers, a project that has seen twenty groups of six Year 10 students plan and execute a series of walking adventures across the city. It has been announced that that they will be joined by Councillors Waseem Zaffar MBE, Sharon Thompson and Penny Holbrook, Cabinet Member for Skills, Learning and Culture, and a presentation to the Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Councillor Raymond Geoffrey Hassall, will be made in the afternoon.

Commissioned by Birmingham City Council to gather the opinions of its young citizens, the ‘future council meeting’ will introduce its young participants to the seat of local government. For the past four months, theatre company Stan’s Cafe have been helping the students to execute a series of walks around the city; these walks and the photographs taken during them have informed interviews with the young people about their relationship with the city and their visions of its future. The project has resulted in the publication of a report, An Alternative Map of Birmingham, a new stylized map of the city which will be launched at the ‘future council meeting’ on Wednesday, a copy of which will be presented to the Lord Mayor of Birmingham

At the meeting of 2030, the students will participate in a series of practical activities that will challenge them to imagine reorganising the city, resetting its priorities, finding routes to political activism and writing persuasive speeches. To help them with these challenges the teenagers will be joined by local VIPs, including many who work for Birmingham City Council.

James Yarker, Artistic Director of Stan’s Cafe said, “It has been a privilege to walk and talk with all these young citizens of Birmingham. Their passion for the city has been heart warming but they have also expressed strong concerns around many issues including their environment, equality and safety. Our next step is to see how they can be engaged in helping to solve these problems.”

Stan’s Cafe is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2016. Alongside a string of hit productions this internationally acclaimed theatre company has been committed to progressive work with schools for more than a decade. In 2014 they made Any Fool Can Start A War with Billesley Primary School, a play exploring the Cuban missile crisis with sixty Year 6 students, and in April 2015 they worked with Saltley Academy on the politically charged notion of ‘teaching British values’; the result was St George’s Steps.

Councillor Brigid Jones, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, said: “I was impressed with the intelligent and sensitive way Stan’s Cafe engaged students from different schools and backgrounds with debates around British values and was keen to work with them on a project based on young people’s voices. I can’t wait to see their reimagined map of our city.”

Councillor Shafique Shah, Cabinet Member for Inclusion & Community Safety, added: “Birmingham has the youngest population in Europe and we need to ensure the city is shaped by them, encouraging their involvement and understanding of local democracy and decision-making. I look forward to seeing the final Trailblazers report.”