Connecting community at Young V&A

December 18, 2023
A child plays with pieces of string extended across a room

Young V&A occupies a building that has been a museum and a landmark in its community for over 150 years. Our local community has been our beating heart all that time, and we love to hear about the different ways local people have connected with the museum. During the development of Young V&A, generous local partners shared ideas and helped to shape the museum into what we hope will be a sustainable and relevant resource for children, young people, and the adults who support them.

The Portal Trust Community Room – generously supported by The Portal Trust as part of the redevelopment of Young V&A – is an important resource for a wide diversity of audiences – from school children enjoying their lunches (the most important part of a school trip, according to many of our young visitors!), to families joining creative activities during the school holidays. The space has already hosted a wide range of visitors, and activities held in the space reflect the dialogue we hope to maintain with existing partners and future collaborators.

A warm welcome

Close up of a V&A staff member wearing a badge and an orange apron

When you visit The Portal Trust Community Room one of our friendly Visitor Experience Assistants will greet you. The room is a check-in point for learners participating in activities in the Clore Learning Centre, so if you are a teacher leading a pre-booked school visit, this is the place to head to! Your class can store their coats and bags in a cloakroom trolley, you will be assigned a table for lunch, and this is often a good place to get the information you need to get your visit off to a flying start. Read more information for schools visiting Young V&A here.

The Portal Trust Community Room is also where general visitors can borrow things to make their visit more comfortable, including a key for our free lockers, or child-friendly ear defenders. During most weekends and holidays families can picnic in this room, or enjoy a quieter moment together during their day out.

A creative community

Our very first public programme was a two-day summer festival for families, activating and showcasing all spaces at Young V&A. The Portal Trust Community Room hosted our first live artistic commission for Learning audiences – a collaborative installation with Leap then Look. Bill Leslie, co-director of Leap then Look understood the need to offer young visitors and their grown-ups an experience of art that was collaborative, transformative in its space, and playful. The artwork involved miles and miles of colourful string, which people of all ages could to wind around the pillars and across the room to create a growing web sculpture.

Our visitors worked together to completely transform the room, turning it into a unique play space and a site of memory-making. As some visitors wound threads across the room, others drew or wrote memories and thoughts on luggage labels attached to the string. By the end of the two days, the room was a web of wonder, where people of all ages played, relaxed, explored and reflected together.

Play is the way

Children playing with chalk in a room covered with drawings

On 2 August, Young V&A celebrated National Play Day with a programme of activity that welcomed all of our visitors to explore creativity through play. The lead artists were Shepherd Manyika and the street artist Malarko – who each brought a unique approach to collaborative and playful creativity. Malarko worked with children and families to transform the Portal Trust Community Room into a giant playscape of chalk drawings – from traditional playground games to newly invented creatures from space, the room was home to a wide diversity of creative ideas.

Teen takeover

In November 2023, the room was a base for our very first ‘Teen over’ event, celebrating teen and tween visitors, giving them more space to be engaged and creative. The first event was called All About Anime, in conjunction with our temporary exhibition, Japan: Myths to Manga, offered a chance for young people to meet a wide range of artists and designers, and try their hands at some incredible artforms, from manga drawing to sound design for film.

People watching an animated film

Looking ahead

The Portal Trust Community Room will be a lively hub at the heart of our Learning Programme. In the months ahead we look forward to hosting storytelling performances for families, sensory sessions for toddlers, events for teachers, and many children on school trips. The Portal Trust is one of London’s leading education charities and, like the V&A, believes that every young person should have an opportunity to fulfil their potential. We are incredibly grateful for their support and look forward to growing our community as Young V&A establishes itself as a resource for local audiences as well as creative communities from further afield – everyone is welcome!

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