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Kick The Dust -museum -project -1

The global pandemic has been hard on Museums like ours, but it’s been even harder for many of the families and young people who we would be serving.

We got in touch with Christine Marsden at Norfolk Museums Service to find out how Kick the dust, a project for 11 to 25 year olds, has been tackling these issues during lockdown.

What is “Kick The Dust” and how has the project coped with the pandemic?

Kick The Dust is a 4 year project started in 2018 focusing on encouraging young people, many of whom are vulnerable or marginalised, to become involved with Heritage and museums. So far we’ve worked with over 3000 young people.

The project uses three levels of engagement; Player, Shaper and, finally, Leader.

When the lockdown hit we were entering year three of the project and were expecting to really expand our provision. We were building on the momentum of the previous year moving young people from Player level (involving accessible, one-off activities) to Shaper and Leader roles (giving them the opportunity to take the lead on projects, for example working alongside curators to put on their own exhibitions across the county).

Then Covid-19 hit and all the museums were closed!

This was very traumatic for many of the young people we work with who were already hard to reach and facing other factors such as mental health problems and living in remote, rural areas, meaning many had little access to digital technology.

Like everyone, we very quickly adapted to use Zoom and Microsoft Teams to maintain contact and hold online sessions.  Whilst museums themselves were inaccessible our 3 project workers quickly developed and created a range of resources to use in their online sessions which allowed them  to continue working with groups of young people already involved in ‘Kick the Dust’ activity.

Our next problem was down to young people being “zoomed-out” by the end of the day as they were learning on line - we had to adapt the types of activities they were getting involved in so we started posting out art materials and resources so they would have the right materials at home and we were able to include fun activities at the start of the sessions.

Helping Young People in remote areas access Museums and learning

Another big problem at the beginning of the pandemic was that many young people living in rural areas had no access to IT.  Realising that creativity was an important part of getting through the pandemic, we developed the Art Parcels initiative in April 2020.

Working alongside a number of partners, including Children Services, we were able to send out 1000 packs containing sketchbooks, pencils and a resource pack developed by Ali Atkins, a freelance artist we work with, focusing on exploring their thoughts and feelings to support their wellbeing.

It was a big operation to deliver all the packs - we used Norfolk Library Services facilities at Norfolk County Hall to put the packs together (which took 2 days) and partners collected before hand delivering them to the young participants which also gave an opportunity to do doorstep check-ins.

Then we did it all again with a second pack in the Summer sending out both physical and digital packs. This combined with the Festival Bridge’s Let's Create initiative, we probably engaged over 10,000 families!

The feedback that we received from families and young people many of whom faced “hidden disabilities” (such as autism, anxiety and special educational needs) was that it showed that somebody cared - especially at a time when they were cut off from friends, family and their usual means of support.

In some ways the pandemic allowed us to reach more people than we would've done - it forced us to re-evaluate what we were trying to achieve!

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What plans do you have post-lockdown?

The museums open on 17th May, so we’re all getting very excited!

We are currently looking at having groups come in again or, weather permitting, meeting groups in outdoor spaces focussing on outdoor heritage.

The young people we work with at the YMCA in Great Yarmouth, for example, have been working with the tourist information office on a guided tour which can be accessed on your phone or in the tourist centre once it opens.

They’ve been out and about in Great Yarmouth, taking photos and researching places to include in the tour which has led onto discussions about possible outdoor artwork linked to the heritage they've learnt about.

In West Norfolk we had a group called the “Time Turners" who, during lockdown,  worked with the curator at Lynn museum, Dana Woolbright, the project worker Rachel Williams and design and print team at Lynn borough council to create a board game about Egyptian history.

The board game, called A Trial of Trials, was printed and distributed at Christmas to 1800 young people!

They are now doing the “Bench trail” in Kings Lynn involving benches at key heritage places where you can sit and hear about the history on the spot.

They have all been created and painted by freelance artists including some of our Kick the Dust young people who have since gone on to secure their first jobs as a result.

Can young people still get involved?

Post lockdown we're looking forward to expanding on what we've already been doing around work experience and skills development, helping young people use what they've learnt during lockdown to prepare them for entering the job market.

We will also have another 3 bursary traineeships on the Kick the Dust project from October which young people can apply for as part of their Kick the Dust journey.

One of the biggest things we’ve tried to bring about is Institutional Change across the organisation - we’ve had more museum staff who’ve put themselves forward as part of our work experience programme as a result of the lockdowns, providing sessions around what skills their jobs require, supporting many of our activities. Many staff have been asking for groups of young people to come and help them organise exhibitions post-lockdown.

If you or a young person (aged 11 to 25) you know living in Norfolk is interested in finding out more about the Kick The Dust project you can either e mail me, Christine Marsden directly, or one of our project worker in your area:

Kings Lynn, Gressenhall, Thetford: Rachel Duffield 
Great Yarmouth and Cromer: Emma Price
Norwich: Rachel Daniel

By Stuart Paterson at 12 May 2021, 00:00 AM