David Lammy: 'Every young person has the right to develop their creativity'

From a speech by the minister for Culture, on the launch of the national young people's arts awards, given at the Royal Opera House, in London
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The Independent Online

If we want young people to be successful then, of course, they need access to inspirational work by the best artists and creative people, to be challenged and stimulated, but they also need space and freedom to shape their individual identity, to find their own means of creative expression.

Last week, I visited two very different schools, in very different parts of the country - one in south Bristol, the other in south London. In Bristol, I met the management team of Room 13, which consisted of eight children, who run an arts studio within the school, which is open to all pupils.

Pupils are free to leave lessons and drop into the studio to work on their own arts projects, on the condition that they keep up with their class work. The teachers have granted children the autonomy to run the studio as they want. They have made the children responsible, and those children have taken these responsibilities very seriously.

In London, I met three designers, aged between 10 and 11, who had led their peers in the creation of a new game based on basketball. It is difficult for me to convey the excitement and enthusiasm I witnessed among those 50 or so children, who were so obviously proud of what they had collectively achieved. There was a tangible legacy in the form of a new basketball structure in the playground, designed by the children with the support of an artist.

Every young person has the right to develop their creativity and we - in Government, in cultural institutions, in schools - have an obligation to support that development. We still have a long way to go.

Pablo Picasso said: "Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he [or she] grows up." Maintaining our creativity as adults is a challenge, but we must work even harder to ensure we don't stifle our young people's creativity.