The Tower Hamlets Six

We’re so excited to introduce you to the Tower Hamlets Six, a network of six brilliant local primary schools we’ll be working closely with for the next year, offering a variety of Coney projects made for, and with, young people.

The Young Coneys: How we got here

Over the past 4 years, Coney has been figuring out how we work with young people, and what our offer is to the young people of Coney’s local borough of Tower Hamlets. We’ve made projects that have taken place in the streets, online during the pandemic, and outside car industry gala dinners. All of these have focused on listening to the passions of our young people, what they want to change in the world, and giving them the tools to speak to those they want to reach. This practice we now call Playful Activism.

In 2021, as the pandemic impacted our method of delivery, we piloted a new offer to ensure our work was more accessible and reached more young people in the borough than ever before. We proactively shifted our model of engagement in Tower Hamlets to an in-school delivery method and offered out our Young Coneys Training Programme that introduced young people to Coney’s innovative practice.

In the Autumn of 2021, we met 100 young people in their classrooms, created gifts for the school to spark change, and developed a walking audio adventure, Codename Pancake, that took families from two schools on a journey through their local area, seen through the eyes of a 10-year-old. Now in 2022, we’re delivering our model again with six schools in Tower Hamlets and shifting the model based on our learning. With these schools, we want to develop a new way of working in our local area, with the creation of the Tower Hamlets Six.

A parent and student playing Codename Pancake

What will the Tower Hamlets Six involve?

We’ve seen that schools remain increasingly overstretched – dealing with pressures from the chronic underfunding of arts subjects, catching up from missed time during lockdowns, and more. Tower Hamlets has the highest percentage of young people living below the poverty line in the UK; this is compounded by a crisis in youth mental health that now sees 1 in 6 young people aged 5-16 identifying as having a mental health problem in 2021. This is up from 1 in 9 in 2017. Additionally, 83% of young people with mental health needs agreed that the coronavirus pandemic had made their mental health worse (youngminds.org.uk).

We’re responding to this by bringing new, innovative work into schools, including the Young Coneys Training Programme, a creative social action programme made up of 16 in-depth workshops that promote community cohesion and playful activism. This network will allow us to reach thousands of young people across Tower Hamlets who often aren’t accessing the arts. We’ve also teamed up with local arts venue Oxford House, who are supporting in the delivery of workshops and final community project that the schools create together.

We’re also growing and developing The Undercover CareTaker Agency, a classroom-based adventure co-created with 7-13 year-olds from Tower Hamlets. UCA focusses on equipping young people the tools to increase their resilience and care for their own mental health and wellbeing.

All of the work will be nurtured through ongoing, meaningful conversations with teachers and students alike. Young people have previously described their Coney experience as ‘best moment of the year’, as well as saying they felt respected, valued, and listened to in ways they usually don’t. How lovely is that?

Watch this space for Tower Hamlets Six updates and more Young Coneys news!

Young people at Osmani Primary getting stuck into The Undercover CareTaker Agency

The Tower Hamlets Six is generously supported by Backstage Trust.

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