Opening up and diversifying the arts sector has been a long-term personal mission of mine. It is also the driving force behind V&A East – so I am enormously proud that we are beginning a new addition to our long-running community engagement work across east London with our major new schools’ programme: Your Collection: V&A East in Schools.
For the very first time in V&A history, we will be taking a small collection of truly special collection objects out to the schools of east London. We want to share what is coming in V&A East – the arrival of a collection of more than 250,000 objects – and deepen dialogue and invite debate and conversation about what our collection might mean, might inspire.
This programme was developed through a teacher advisory workshop, where we spent an inspiring and productive evening discussing everything from the urban regeneration of east London to future careers, and on to representation in the creative and cultural sectors. Together we identified the cornerstones for this project: Powerful Collection Stories, Legacy and Ownership, Career Inspiration, Creative Opportunity, and Representation and Pride in east London. Over the summer we have hosted pilot sessions, taking objects into schools to spark new conversations about global creativity, materials, and why and how objects are made. We also ran workshops on what it is like to work behind the scenes at the V&A, talking about the different career paths that are available, the expertise you need to care for collections, and the pathways into those jobs.
This is a programme that is close to my heart, and one that I wish had been available when I was growing up in South London. I remember that after yet another long and laborious day of school I would visit my childminder, Aunty Nell, whose mantle-piece was overflowing with objects and memories. I would choose one and she would tell its story. Each one began with, ‘Well that is quite something …’ And, indeed, it always was.
Each object had its own story that captured a century of world wars, of migration, of sacrifice, of tears, of love and break-ups and death. All laid out in front of us. Objects are glorious. I have spent my life dedicated to promoting and protecting them, but they are always made richer when animated by people’s love and passion. I am enormously proud to be a part of this programme. And if the initial pilots are indicative of how powerful this initiative might be, then I think this could be, as Auntie Nell, might say, ‘Quite something’.
As well as celebrating global creativity, we are building V&A East with, and for, east Londoners. We are absolutely dedicated to creating opportunities for young people who want to take their first steps in the creative sector. I am grateful to all the staff across the V&A who have worked together to make this a possibility, and I can’t wait to start for the very first time we take our collection of truly world class objects to students into the schools around V&A East.
For teachers wanting to hear more about or engagement projects and V&A East I am hosting a special teachers’ event at the Good Growth Hub on the Olympic Park on Thursday 8 December 2022 from 5 – 7pm. Join us for refreshments and a private viewing of the objects with opportunity to network and hear more about our engagement projects and V&A East.
We would love to visit your school so please get in touch to book a session, a place at the teachers’ event, or hear more about our community engagement work and collaboration: firstname.lastname@example.org
Find out more about Your Collection: V&A East in Schools and register.