On the 8th November, Creative Estuary’s Project Officer, Natalie Reuter attended the ‘This Must be the Place: Placemaking with Young People’ conference delivered by Cement Fields in partnership with Creative Estuary.

This event held at The Woodville in Gravesend, explored placemaking strategies for and by young people and featured insight and learning from Cement Fields’ long-term project working with young people in Ebbsfleet. Having previously worked on the Re:Generation 2031 initiative in the first phase of Creative Estuary and as we start to finalise our plans for working with young people in Phase 2, this was a well-timed and inspiring event to support and attend.

Our new Creative Estuary Director, Lorraine Cox, chaired the first panel which focused on approaches to, and benefits of, engaging young people’s voices in the planning of places and spaces. The panel; Michaela Freeman (Cement Fields), Andy Field (Andy and Beckie), Dr Rana Khazbak (King’s College) and Huan Rimington (Build Up) shared their views and experiences on creatively shifting power dynamics and centring young people in their work and how this positively affected the planning process for new cities and spaces.

This was followed by a panel, chaired by Victoria Thornton, focused on the specifics of co-designing with young people ensuring they are integrated throughout the process and really emphasised the importance of new cities and spaces being co-designed by the people who will be living and using those spaces in the next 30+ years. The panel included Russ Edwards (Latimer), Joe Gerrard (Define), Jon Schmulevitch (Matt & Fiona) and Harry Zimmerman, who joined Ebbsfleet Development Corporation as Cultural Development Assistant (funded through Creative Estuary’s Re:Generation 2031 work placement scheme) and has now moved into permanent role as Placemaking Officer.

The final session was all about embracing creativity and risk in placemaking and architecture. Chaired by Sahra Hersi, the panel included four young people from the ‘This Must be the Place’ design group as well as artists Meitoa Qu and Dzifa Benson. This was the cherry on top of an already interesting and thought-provoking day. It was a joy to hear directly from the young people who had been involved and their experiences on the programme and what they had gained from it. Their confidence and interest in placemaking was a real testament to the Cement Fields project.

Overall this was a really dynamic, engaging event with a real mixture of people from various organisations and backgrounds in the room. A provocation from one of the design group that I will continue to think about is making it clear to young people the range of skills and experience they’ll develop when taking part in a project and how we can trade this for their unique insight and perspective.

Written by Natalie Reuter – Project Officer.

Natalie has a background in creative learning and engagement and worked at the Marlowe Theatre and Shakespeare’s Globe before joining Creative Estuary to support our skills development initiative Re:Generation 2031.