Youth Voice & Engagement

Description of the Pod

We aim through the LCEP and the Youth Voice Pod to support the work being delivered by  Laura Rakontirina, the Youth Voice Manager at Leeds 2023. Ensuring this work has a legacy through the LCEP in subsequent years. The Youth Voice summit held at Leeds Playhouse on the 15th July was the start of this process. Co-produced with young people the event was the first of many that brought young people together to share their views on arts and culture and their priorities for the year of culture in Leeds.

Young people are our future. We need to listen and work together to ensure that young people have access to high quality artistic cultural experiences, enabling them to create on their own terms making UK culture diverse and vibrant, now and in the future.

Meet our Pod Leader 

“I am delighted to have been asked to lead the Youth Voice Pod as part of the Leeds Cultural Education Partnership (LCEP). I have worked in cultural education in Leeds for over 15 years, and I am an enthusiastic advocate for the powerful role art and culture plays in the lives of children and young people. My ethos has always been “access for all,”; Championing the importance of art and culture in everyone’s lives and the significant advantages that are gained through cultural education and engagement.

Over the last few years, I have witnessed the gap between those who have access and those who don’t widen and feel more strongly than ever that a breadth of culture should be experienced by all, particularly the young people of Leeds.

I am fortunate in my current role as Director of the Geraldine Connor Foundation (GCF) to be able to experience cultural participation and its impact firsthand through working directly with young people on projects. GCF has no artform bias or home base, we work across a range of artforms and cultural practices in both community, education, heritage, and arts settings. These are led by the interests of the young people and Creative Associates we work with.”

There are many educators and cultural organisations who do great work with young people across the city, we need to work together to ensure young people are heard and listened to about the art and culture they want to take part in Leeds. If you wish to be involved in the Youth Voice Pod, please contact
Selina McGonagle
Director Geraldine Connor Foundation

Youth Voice Training: Session 1

The event was organised by Leeds Cultural Education Partnership (LeedsCEP) led by the Youth Voice Pod, which is headed by the Director of the Geraldine Connor Foundation, Selina McGonagle, and was held in the Leeds Beckett University School of Arts Building. LeedsCEP is a strategic network of arts, cultural, educational and community organisations, businesses and city council representatives for Leeds. The afternoon kicked off with a short introduction to LeedsCEP which was delivered by the Creative Learning Engagement Manager, Hannaa Hamdache. The main body of training was led by Youth Voice expert Lawrence Becko from LBA Lawrence Becko Associates.

The key elements that were covered in the first Youth Training session were ‘Why we do Youth Voice’, ‘Youth Voice in Practice’, ‘Essential theory and principles’, ‘Examples of youth voice activities’ as well as ‘What do you need for youth voice?’ Within this the important factors that need to be considered when incorporating Youth Voice into your professional practice were discussed, for example, the people involved, time, space/location, budget and relevant policies. The aim of this training workshop was to help professionals within their field understand the general theory and principles surrounding Youth Voice and the different ways they could incorporate it into their own practice in a way that suits their different ways of working. As well as this, we zoomed in on the importance and benefits of Youth Voice within the workplace and tackled the big question: “Why take a Youth Voice approach?”

Additionally, Lawrence introduced the group to a number of activities that helped them understand the different approaches they could take to introducing Youth Voice into their decision-making. One example of this was a dissection of Roger Hart’s ‘Ladder of Youth Participation’ (1992). Common queries that seemed to surface were how to keep young people engaged and stimulated with decision making that may not appear as ‘fun’ as other tasks, the question of when it’s right to pay them as well as gaging the balance between too much responsibility and not enough – all of which were met with solutions and different tools that they could all take back with them ready to put into practice.

LeedsCEP is pleased to share that there are two more sessions planned with LBA during 2023, with details to be released soon. These will look at how teachers and freelancers can inject Youth Voice into their practice. If you would like to keep up to date with LeedsCEP, sign up to our newsletter.

Write-up by Maya Nagra

Resources & Events


FREE Youth Voice Training for Freelancers, 23th November 2023

As part of the Creative Skills Festival, join us for an afternoon to enhance your practice on co-production with children and young people. Lunch and networking opportunities will be provided as part of the event.