The Story of Making of Us

About the project

  • Project dates: September 2020 – March 2022
  • Region: Greater Manchester
  • Website:
  • Partner organisations: True Colours CIC, The Together Trust, Wigan Targeted Youth Support Services
  • Funder: Greater Manchester Combined Authority

Project summary

Initiated in 2020 by The Turnpike CIC, the Making of Us programme brought together expertise in the arts, social care and education to share learning across sectors and develop new ways of working with artists to engage young people across Greater Manchester. It aimed to up-skill and diversify an artistic workforce to deliver projects that fully engaged the communities they work with.

Credit: The Turnpike CIC

Project description

Making of Us was a two-year project (2020-2022) funded by Greater Manchester Combined Authority’s Culture Fund. It was devised by The Turnpike CIC and delivered by a dedicated project team in partnership with Wigan Targeted Youth Support Services, True Colours CIC and The Together Trust.

The project came directly out of the Turnpike CIC’s core mission to “remove barriers to participation and, to raise aspirations and resilience in local communities through the provision of high-quality collaborative art exhibitions, workshops and events”.

With a strong track record of supporting individuals into creative and cultural careers, The Turnpike CIC’s experience of delivering volunteer programmes, placements in partnership with schools, colleges and universities, and paid project apprenticeships was key to the development of the programme. Making of Us enabled The Turnpike CIC to extend the reach of this aim and push boundaries in collaborative socially engaged arts practice with isolated and disadvantaged young people and communities.

Making of Us was designed to address the lack of professional development opportunities for freelance artists who were already delivering socially engaged work in Greater Manchester and to trial a professional development pathway for artists that would make a significant and lasting impact on the lives of young people in the area. Uniquely this programme included the opportunity for artists to put their developing skills into practice through a series of community projects in Wigan, North Manchester, Tameside and Stockport.

Making of Us Programme

The programme brought together three key deliverables 1. Supporting professional development, 2. Delivery of ‘live’ collaborative projects and 3. Development of reflective practice.

Key Aim: To provide artists living and working in Greater Manchester with a supportive and caring working environment in which to develop their socially engaged practice. Creating as safe and inclusive a space as possible by inviting artists to define their own terms and needs for access and inclusion within the recruitment and delivery of the programme.

Participants: Making of Us opportunities were targeted at addressing inequality and increasing diversity in the cultural sector. Artist recruitment clearly stated this eligibility criteria with 16 artists participating in total. The programme engaged 55 young people aged between 13 and 25 years who experience disadvantage, focusing on special educational needs and young people who are care experienced. Making of Us also recruited three Creative Assistants who worked on the programme for 6 months each, one of whom was invited to stay on for the duration of the programme as Project Assistant.

Partners: The programme was deliveredin partnership with Wigan Targeted Youth Support Services, True Colours CIC and The Together Trust (Bridge College, Ashcroft School, Cheadle & Ashcroft School, Droylsden) who carefully selected groups of young people to collaborate with the artists.

Delivery: The programme was delivered in two phases; with six artists in the first phase from December 2020 to June 2021, and ten in the second phase from September 2021 to March 2022. During each phase, the artist cohort was invited to participate in a series of development workshops and mentoring sessions facilitated by sector professionals through a combination of online and face-to-face delivery. Following implementation of Covid-19 restrictions in March 2020, the CPD programme was reworked to include an exploration of socially engaged practice in light of emerging digital and socially distanced approaches. During this time, the artists were placed into pairs and allocated a community partner with whom to collaborate. This gave them the opportunity to put the learnings from the CPD programme into practice by working closely with another artist to co-design and co-create a creative project with a group of young people from one of the project’s five partner settings over a period of approximately 8 – 10 weeks. All 8 projects were documented by a filmmaker who created a series of micro-films to tell the story of the programme.

Reflective Evaluation

An external evaluator was recruited as part of the Making of Us Project Team to embed continuous reflective practice from the outset. This enabled the programme to be extremely agile and respond to feedback almost immediately. This methodology helped to increase self-awareness, develop creative thinking skills and encourage active engagement in work processes, as well as creating a greater sense of understanding of how different approaches to working practices can affect those involved. The following methods were used and proved to be a great way to create ongoing reflections, whilst providing an effective record of the programme:

For Artists:

  • Feedback sheets, phone or online chats
  • Peer reflection
  • Reflective journals
  • Tailored resources – practical guides, templates and tried & tested tips in gaining feedback from young people

For Young People:

  • Pre-project introductory sessions
  • Short creative fun based feedback sessions after every workshop
  • End of project focus groups

For Partner Organisations:

  • Short but regular feedback/planning chats with artists (email/face to face/phone)
  • Focus group sessions with young people and/or feedback chats with evaluator


In response to the successful delivery of Making of Us, Wigan Council secured new funding from Greater Manchester Combined Authority’s Culture Fund in early 2022 to produce a new six month artist development programme – ‘A New Exchange’. Running from September 2022 to March 2023, this new programme builds on the foundation, success and legacy of The Turnpike CIC’s Making of Us (2020 – 2022) with a continued focus on artist development, co-creation, collaboration and community engagement. It is underpinned by a number of key principles that shaped the success of Making of Us, notably reflective practice, care, diversity and inclusion.

The programme will again be delivered through successful long-term partnerships with Wigan Targeted Youth Support Services, True Colours CIC and The Together Trust.

Our continued aim will be to bring together expertise in arts, social care and education, to share learning across sectors and develop new ways of working with artists to engage young people and to up-skill and diversify the artistic workforce to deliver projects that fully engage the communities they work with.

Credit: The Turnpike CIC

Outcomes and learnings

As reflective practice was embedded from the start, it was clear that feedback and learning were active considerations for all project participants. From the Artists, tasked to use the feedback and learning from their CPD sessions in the development of their collaborative projects, through to the Project Team who used feedback from artists and partners to develop the delivery methods of the programme to meet needs and support inclusion and accessibility.

Practical Learning that Led to Success

All partners fed back on the importance of collaborative working and the safe space this enabled; from wrap-around care for all the artists, ‘buddying’ support for creative assistant placements, and varied levels of mentoring activities.

Professional Development Programme:

  • Workshops work best when they are practical and hands on, feature a range of delivery styles and have regular comfort breaks as well as a dedicated breakout space. Logistics and planning need to be confirmed and dates sent out at recruitment stage
  • Sessions need to include a check in and check out to establish how people are feeling
  • Access to a mentor was a vital component for artists

Collaborative Projects:

  • Need to develop regular communication with partner organisations, and confirm all staff working on the projects are fully versed in the project’s aims and roles within it
  • Include time at the start of the project for artist pairs to get to know each other and to work on ideas enabling greater collaboration
  • Partner organisations had different levels of understanding of participatory arts and the overall project, meaning each artist pair had a different experience. Providing support via a dedicated project team helped artists be flexible and agile in response

Creative Assistants:

  • These roles provided early career artists with a range of relevant ‘on the job’ skills development and experience, as well as gaining work contacts and networks – achieving another key project aim to support the development of creative opportunities
Credit: The Turnpike CIC


Supporting Professional Development – to build skills and knowledge in social / community arts practice and to work with young people with specific additional needs.

Outcomes included:

  • Skills Development
  • Developing self-confidence
  • Networking
  • Testing out new ideas
  • Sharing ideas & arts practice
  • Career development

Delivery of collaborative projects – as the CPD programme concluded, artists began work on their collaborative projects by setting up inductions / project plans with their partner organisations. The projects centred on giving their often marginalised young people a voice, and respecting their views, needs and interests.

Outcomes included:

  • Young people feel listened to and empowered
  • Young people actively take part and have fun
  • Increased self-confidence
  • Interest in undertaking further art-based projects
  • Developed their creative learning skills

Development of Reflective Practice – so reflective practice was embedded within all elements of the programme an independent evaluator was recruited, enabling the project to remain agile and for the project team to record and act on any feedback as the programme was unfolding.

Outcomes included:

  • Aims and Objectives made and agreed jointly
  • Feedback led to changes as the project developed
  • Reflective practice was embedded into artists’ future practice
Credit: The Turnpike CIC