Two academic art projects developed in collaboration with south London communities invited young people from King’s home boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark to share their hopes and fears for the future through a series of arts-facilitated workshops and activities. The project is now seeking researchers to respond to their ideas at their live showcase.
Utopia Now! launched in 2019, bringing together a multidisciplinary group of researchers, creative practitioners and community experts to explore the hopes and fears of young people in south London. Their aim was to give local young people the opportunity to express what would make the world a better place for them and to shape future research agendas so that projects are designed in collaboration and respond to their needs.
Projects included a short story competition run with support from Lambeth and Southwark libraries and a series of plays about the future, written in collaboration with Theatre Peckham. Utopia Now was progressing well and set to publish. However, events in March 2020 overtook the project with just a hint of irony when the fights over face masks jokingly predicted by their activities at Theatre Peckham earlier that year turned real, and young people had to experience the turbulence of lockdowns and illness that came with the COVID-19 pandemic.
It inspired the creation of a parallel project, Dystopia Now!, which explored how the COVID-19 pandemic was affecting these young people’s lives. Collaborators shared their experiences once again, including through a Minecraft project to develop a interactive 'dream lockdown' space that brought them together virtually.
With the creative elements of the project now completed, the team behind Utopia Now! is releasing two beautiful zines featuring a collection of text and images. There will be a launch for the zines on Thursday 28 July, from 5pm-7pm at Theatre Peckham (221 Havil St, London SE5 7SB). The young people who took part in the project will be present to showcase their work, and King’s researchers are invited to come and respond to their ideas, taking them into consideration for the social and ethical research projects of the future.
Dystopia Now! was funded by The Maudsley Charity, while Utopia Now! was funded through the King’s Together Seed Fund. The project also includes an academic publication, From Utopia Now to Dystopia Now: Co-producing knowledge about young people’s hopes and fears for the future (2021).