Rochdale Libraries came up with a fun and engaging way to increase library use among 14-25 year olds.

What was the aim of the project?

The aim of the project was to engage with younger audiences as part of Rochdale Literature and Ideas festival. The evidence from our evaluation forms showed that a very small percentage of our audiences were from the age range of 14-25. The aim was to create more engagement by using three different strategies and to fundamentally sustain growth in future years by developing a relationship with this audience and by working with our partners to help lever this strategy in place.

The Rochdale Literature and Ideas Festival is part funded by the Maskew Bequest with a theme of classic literature and philosophy resonating through the programme. Generation Z should have a similar verve ( Arts Council funding was secured to support this part of the festival programme.

What did we do?

Firstly, we programmed performances from young people’s theatre, literature & spoken word, linking with some works from the Maskew Collection, (classic literature & philosophy). Our shows included: Owen Jones (The Establishment – And how they get away with it), Testament (Ten Past The Tempest), Goat & Monkey (The Devil Speaks True – Shakespeare’s Macbeth as told by Banquo) and Hannah Butterfield (21,000 Miles of Rail). This created a colourful programme which was branded as Generation Z. A proportion of half price tickets were reserved for 14 – 25 year olds to maximise the opportunity for young people to see top selling author and political commentator Owen Jones.

Secondly, we created a ‘zine’: a magazine, produced, edited and distributed by young people with Flux and our creative writing-partner Cartwheel Arts. We worked with Rochdale youth service who helped recruit young people from across Rochdale, working with a writer to facilitate workshops and overall production. The zine was called ‘Unmasked’ and featured interviews and graphic imagery to present a cutting edge publication. The zine was distributed to ‘youth hubs’ before the festival, to several colleges within the area and arts venues. This form of experimental marketing also created features and promotion on our twitter feed and unique website

Finally, we formed a young programmers’ group, ‘Future Producers’ and interviewed young people from the borough of Rochdale, with the help and support of Contact Theatre. The ‘Future Producers’ became ‘Young Producers’ and have visited the festival shows and events across literature, theatre and the arts to help support their knowledge and expertise to programme a space in the 2017 festival next autumn and a small event in February 2017.

What was the Outcome?

This project is still ongoing, but the early signs are that this is a hugely effective way of working with young people, our initial evaluation analysis suggests engagement from this particular audience has increased from 1% last year to 15% this year.