Free Radical Project to Improve Representation in Birmingham Heritage Institutions by Working with Young People Cleared for Delivery

Free Radical, part of the Beatfreeks Collective, has secured National Lottery funding of over £690,000 to run Don't Settle, a three-year project aimed at improving representation and involving young people within the heritage organisations which tell our city’s stories.

Don't Settle will develop young people’s skills and confidence, and involve them meaningfully in heritage organisations - such as museums and galleries - in Birmingham and the Black Country. They will be invited to ask questions of current collections, and make sure their own stories our told in our city’s heritage displays. 

This will make for more complex, fuller stories, and help young people reconnect with their roots as well as create structures, processes and projects to help ‘future-proof’ heritage. 

The project aims to challenge and empower young people in Birmingham and the Black Country to keep questioning and provoking - to not settle for half written histories, or for poor representation. Partners include Birmingham Museums Trust, Chance Glassworks Heritage Trust, Birmingham City University and University College London. 

Funding has been awarded through Kick the Dust, a £10m pilot grant programme run by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), which aims to transform how heritage organisations engage with young people. Don’t Settle was awarded initial support from HLF in 2017, granting Beatfreeks £24,600 development funding to progress the project plans and submit more detailed proposals. Now, these proposals have been assessed and the full grant of £696,700 has been secured. 

Recruitment will begin in August for Project Manager, with three further paid positions advertised soon after. With a new, dedicated team due in place by October, work will begin on a vast range of activities, ranging from research and investigation into heritage and its governance, through setting up youth engagement and governance structures in the institutions, to site specific activities including artist residencies and community co-design sessions and staff training and skill sharing.

Rodney Harrison, Professor of Heritage Studies at University College London, Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Heritage Priority Area Leadership Fellow and Principal Investigator on the AHRC funded Heritage Futures Research Programme said “We are excited to be collaborating with Beatfreeks and the other partner organisations on this important initiative which aims to radically rethink heritage and its potential to engage future audiences, and the ways in which it represents the interests and histories of BAME youth in particular.”

Bohdan Piasecki, General Manager of Free Radical, said:

“This is a project which will result in real, lasting change - a true challenge and an opportunity combined. My experience of the talent and commitment of Birmingham’s youth means I have no doubt whatsoever that Don’t Settle will shake up heritage in bold and beautiful ways.”

Mark Davies Chair of Chance Glass Works Heritage Trust said:

“I am delighted to learn Free Radical have been awarded Heritage Lottery funding for an exciting new project focused on engaging young people in heritage. As part of the consortium, we are really looking forward to working with Free Radical and the Birmingham Museum Trust in delivering this ground breaking and innovative project.”


For more information, visit beatfreeks.com (here’s a relevant blog post by Beatfreeks Collective CEO Anisa Haghdadi), or contact Free Radical General Manager Bohdan Piasecki by emailing bohdan@beatfreeks.com.