The joint Arts Council England and De Montfort University initiative will follow 100 children born in Leicester for the first 25 years of their lives.

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A world-first academic study into the impact of sustained arts activities on young people between the ages of 0 and 25 has begun in Leicester.

Representatives from De Montfort University (DMU) and Arts Council England (ACE) today launched Talent25, a programme to assess the ongoing impact of activities such as learning music, visiting museums, going to children’s festivals and watching theatre. 

The project, first announced two years ago, begins amid ongoing concern about the decline in arts provision at all levels of school education.  

First phase

The first year of the project will assess which cultural activities get the most engagement from early years children and their families, in order to build a “true picture” of the sort of engagement likely to have an impact on “future, sustained cultural engagement”.

100 babies and their families will be recruited from across Leicester every year for the next four years. Researchers will work with families to design activities, using the outcomes to develop a wider programme that could be brought to cities across the UK.

Game-changer

DMU Vice-Chancellor Dominic Shellard described the programme as a “game-changer”.

“I firmly believe that the creative urge is in all of us from birth; but this has to be cultivated and we as adults, parents, carers, educators and policymakers each have a duty to play our role to ensure that young people have equality of opportunity to be involved in artistic and cultural activities such as art, music and dance,” he commented.

Shellard continued: “[The project] will tell us much about opportunity and access, about the value we place on the arts and the difference which living a creative life can make. Crucially, it will in time give us the information, data and insight needed to allow all of our children and young people to enjoy the benefits of a full cultural life.”

ACE Chief Executive Darren Henley set out his ambition for the project to make a national impact, as it supports the cultural sector to develop its work with children in the first years of their lives.

“We hope that Talent25 will help us to better understand what might make a difference to young people’s talent development and cultural engagement.”

Henley had previously said the idea was to offer young people a “chance to develop their creativity in different ways”, with the understanding that some may become cultural leaders, and others would just “enjoy a more fulfilling life”.

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