In the summer of 2013 on a very hot mid July day I went with my daughter Esme for a visit to The Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. It was the end of the summer term and end of the academic year and despite the temptation to spend the first Saturday of Summer lazing about we went off in search of cultural edification. A quick Google search reminds me that we would have seen among many other treasures an exhibition of Swiss water-colour miniatures as well as an exhibition in conjunction with the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology on the origins and history of 6,000 years of the afro comb.
I remember our walk into town that day being particularly irksome due to the extraordinarily hot weather around 39 Celsius. As we were walking along King’s Parade and onto Trumpington Street I noticed a family also going in the same direction. There was a Mum pushing a buggy with a baby in front, two young children in descending order to her right and another older child on her left who looked about the same age as my own daughter who at the time was nine and in Year 5. I saw that the parent was having quite some trouble pushing the buggy through the busy street, avoiding the jumbles of bikes, managing the slab stone flagged pavement in the sweltering heat and understandably she appeared quite flustered. We were not too far away from them so I listened in to the conversation as they approached the impressive classical facade of Fitzwilliam Museum. The conversation went something like this
Mum: There is no way we can get the buggy up those steps!
Child : There’s a flat entrance round the side for disabled access and buggies.
Mum: Well how much is it going to cost for us all to go in there?
Child: It does not cost a penny, Mum. It’s free.
Mum: Are you sure, are you sure Ben that we can go in there?
Ben: (Stepping back from Mum and the buggy in exasperation and pointing!) Mum, my teacher told me The Fitzwilliam Museum belongs to me!
That exchange over two years ago was a seminal moment. What if we could get every child in Cambridge to believe that the rich cultural resources and assets that the City and its world-famous Universities had to offer belonged to each and every one of Cambridge’s children? What if young people had such a powerful sense of belonging and identity that they could confidently declare Cambridge belongs to me? “It’s My Cambridge.”
Jumping forward to 2016, and thanks to the skill-full “knitting” and connecting of Michael Corley and Steph Hogger of Festival Bridge My Cambridge is the name of a nascent Cultural Educational Partnership, one of the 50 that was announced by Darren Henley, Ed Vaizey and Nick Gibb in October last year as part of Arts Council England’s Cultural Challenge.
In due course, we hope to have a one-stop shop website for young people so that they know the full extent of the cultural and creative offer in Cambridge. A number of partners have worked with My Cambridge on various projects for young people, schools and communities including Cambridge Curiosity and Imagination, Cambridgeshire Music Partnership, Cambridge Literary Festival, History Works, Cambridge Junction and Access Arts
Through various initiatives and projects these organisations are promoting the take up of Arts Award as well as sign-posting to the wonderful opportunities within the creative subjects and industries such as art, poetry and graphic design, music, song-writing, performing, creative writing and illustration, television, coding and making, acting, directing and filmmaking.
My Cambridge in partnership with The Kite Teaching School Alliance have appointed 5 Cultural and Arts Leaders for Schools and Academies to support schools with achieving the Arts Mark.
Cambridge is the second fastest growing City in the Country. Over the last few years many world renown industries have joined our Cambridge community. New housing developments are popping up all the time, and the City works pro-actively and positively to make newcomers welcome. As the City grows, providing greater opportunities for commerce, tech and bio-tech industries, it’s right that corporations recognise how they can contribute positively to the vision of MyCambridge in the way that Raspberry Pi does. We are hoping that a new connection with Form The Future will be just the synergy we are looking for to help us connect with other stakeholders beyond those from arts and cultural sectors.
As more and more partners join: arts organizations, individuals, businesses, industry, education and commerce we will soon be able to convey a compelling connected narrative that Cambridge is a unique and dynamic City full of ideas, imagination and innovation.
This will be the Sea Change we are looking for where every young person has a strong sense of belonging and identity through arts, creativity and culture and believes, as Ben did “Cambridge belongs to me!”
We are not quite there yet, so if you think you can help us, please get in touch. . .
It takes a good City to raise great Citizens!
Cambridge: City of ideas, imagination & innovation
Rachel Snape @RaeSnape is the Headteacher of The Spinney Primary School and a National Leader of Education. The Spinney is the coordinating school of The Kite Teaching School Alliance, Cambridge. Rachel is passionate about the transformative power of arts, culture and creativity in young people’s lives. Rachel is a proud Trustee designate of STEAM Co