Hackney Young Voices turn local billboards into artworks

Hackney children and young people will see their artwork turn billboards across the borough into works of art from 15-29 August. 

The billboards were created by 30 local young people aged 8-16 through a series of workshops forming part of the borough’s annual Discover Young Hackney programme. 

The series of play sessions allowed children the freedom to explore their creativity, with artist facilitators on hand to support, encourage and challenge, and input from creative professionals including renowned filmmaker Wes Anderson, musicians Caribou, author Anna Kemp and sound artist Wajid Yaseen. Hackney young people aged 13-16 are invited to free drop-in workshops during August to find their own creative voices.

Funded by Arts Council England and Hackney Council, the project is a call by local play and learning organisation Play/SPACE for children of all ages to have more freedom to explore their creativity. Asking ‘what happens when you give school children space to explore their creative skills in a playful project?’ Hackney Young Voices answers emphatically, with unleashed imagination and new-found confidence, transforming advertising billboards at Dalston’s Gillett Square, Stoke Newington station, and Clapton Pond, into works of art.

I would like to congratulate everyone involved in the project for all their great work in creating a fantastic platform for young residents to express themselves creatively through artwork. In Hackney we understand the importance of providing opportunities for young residents to explore their interests and realise their talent. Through the art, young people have a chance to discover and develop skills, while highlighting what matters most to them.

Cllr Chris Kennedy, Cabinet member for health, adult social care, voluntary sector and culture

Giving children agency and a chance to explore and express themselves allows them to grow and develop. This is something we understand in the early years but it seems to disappear by the end of primary school and for teenagers, yet this is also a key period in which they need the freedom to explore their options and define themselves. Creative industries are thriving in the UK and young people should have more opportunities to explore these careers in meaningful ways.

Katherine Mengardon, the creative force behind Play/Space and the Hackney Young Voices project

I’ve always loved drawing, and it is important to me, but not many people knew about it. I started the project for PlaySpace, and suddenly lots of people were looking at my designs. Now my work is part of a big billboard, and my hero Wes Anderson told me he likes my work! I feel proud & happy about sharing my creations, and can pursue my dreams working as a graphic novelist and animator.

Woody, 13, who participated in the workshops

The project continues through the summer with free, drop-in creative workshops at Shakespeare Walk Adventure Playground Association until 25 August for 13-16 year olds. Visit https://hackney.yourplay.space/events/swapa-summer-residencies/ to find out more.

Notes to editors

Hackney Young Voices aims to develop young people’s creative confidence through creative projects, and developing personal portfolios. It showcases the often-unseen talent of young people, transforming advertising billboards into works of art to bring the message of creativity to a wider audience. The project also calls for schools to encourage more creativity, using Hackney Young Voices resources and online portfolio to store and display the work their students have been creating. A film is being made with Queen Mary University documenting the project and its aims and outcomes, demonstrating the transformative power of bringing more creativity and playfulness in all phases of education to a wider audience, to spark discussion.

Hackney Young Voices is a project by Play/Space – founded by creative education expert Katherine Mengardon – funded by Arts Council England and Hackney Council, and supported by Queen Mary University London, A New Direction (Arts Council England bridge organisation) and Jack Arts.  https://hackney.yourplay.space/

Contributing artists: Wes Anderson (filmmaker), Caribou (musician), Anna Kemp (author), Wajid Yaseen (sound artist), Jessica Martin (artist), Emily Devane (author), Mike Collins (storyboard artist), Mike Perkins (graphic artist), Sion Ap Tomos (illustrator)


Play/Space - PlaySpace is a Hackney-based consultancy focused on creating the most playful and creative learning experiences for children and young people. Our aim is to nurture children’s natural abilities and give them the space to develop the skills they need now and in the future: creativity, collaboration, confidence, problem-solving, resilience, innovation, openness. We believe that by placing children and young people at the heart of their own learning experiences, they feel validated and empowered and can take a more active role and are more likely to be engaged, care about and take ownership of their education. https://yourplay.space/

Arts Council England is the national development agency for creativity and culture. We have set out our strategic vision in Let’s Create that by 2030 we want England to be a country in which the creativity of each of us is valued and given the chance to flourish and where everyone of us has access to a remarkable range of high-quality cultural experiences. We invest public money from Government and The National Lottery to help support the sector and to deliver this vision. www.artscouncil.org.uk

Hackney Culture - The Hackney Council Cultural Development Team focuses on working with artists and partners in community settings, exploring the role that art, culture and the public realm can play in strengthening local communities. They are supporting Hackney Young Voices through funding, partnerships with local artists and organisations and community outreach. https://hackney.gov.uk/culture

Discover Young Hackney is Hackney Council’s annual young persons’ arts and culture festival, now in its 15th year. The initiative aims to develop creativity in young people and break down the barriers that can stand in the way of a career in the arts and cultural sectors. https://www.younghackney.org/discover-young-hackney/