Next Gen artists and engineers

Problem: The Creative Industries are expanding rapidly but schools are not increasing arts training. Solution: free Sat Morning Arts clubs with college lecturers, for 13-16 year olds.

The red dots in the map indicate where the classes are available.  (Just one in Northern Ireland, just one in Scotland.  What’s that about?)

Listening in on other people’s conversation this morning (well, it wasn’t very private as it was being broadcast on BBC Radio 5 Live) – National Art and Design Saturday Morning Club  came across as an exciting innovation. 

The idea is to offer free Saturday morning classes for 13-16 year olds, to compensate for less art on offer in school.  This helps prepare the next generation of artists, designers, engineers for the rapidly expanding creative industries.  Subjects taught are art, science and engineering, fashion and business, with writing and talking as the latest club.

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In the studio – Will and fellow presenter Eliza, interviewee Frances Sorrell (John out of camera sight)

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This morning’s interview on BBC Radio 5 Live was Will Gompertz (BBC Arts Editor) interviewing the designers of the scheme: Frances and John Sorrell (Newell and Sorrell Design Agency), on his programme (Will Gompertz’s Heat Map)  The Sorrells came from a not very wealthy background, where education didn’t favour arts subjects.  Fortunately they benefitted from art clubs at the weekend and went into successful highflying careers in design. The original weekend arts venture died out, and this is now the duo making it available for the next generation, at 52 sites in the UK (see map).

How can they afford to provide free classes?

This business model is excellent and sustainable – classes are located at universities, college and museums who already have to provide light, heat and security at weekends . “First class tuition, fantastic facilities”  commented John Sorrell.  There is funding from the Arts Council, Department from Education, some charities and public donors.  Local costs are paid by colleges provided.


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Will Gompertz: “Let’s talk about Art and Education – I know it might sound a bit boring – but it’s really, really important”  (And so it proves)

What does the class involve?

The class year includes a trip to London to see art galleries, a Master Class with a well-established artist and at the end of the year, student’s work is exhibited at Somerset House, London.

Initially the classes were offered to a minimum age of 14 (and this age appears in places on the website) but the funders of it explained that actually the age was lowered to 13, so that pupils could get more of a sense of art before making subject choices for GCSE.

One student began with them at 13 and is now working as an animator at “Peppa Pig” (a children’s TV show in UK).

To get an idea of what is on offer, here’s a video of one of the masterclasses, where a furniture maker, William Warren, comes and shares his skills.  As one of the students comments, at school in woodwork they make a clock – as you can see, much, much more is happening here:


“Make it quick, learn through making it, improve it.  That’s the incremental design process, which is so important. ”

Furniture Maker William Warren, furnituremaker at a Master Class.


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