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UK Art Takeover

STEAM Co.’s Community Lock-In

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Sam Bennett
Nick Corston Co founder STEAM Co speaking 3
Photo: Mark Hakansson

With “a master’s degree in electronic engineering and a big gob”, Nick Corston cofounded STEAM Co. four years ago, to encourage young people in the area of art. Inspired by Sir Ken Robinson’s ‘Do Schools Kill Creativity?’ TED Talk, Guy Claxton’s What's the Point of School? and the Rob da Bank-curated Camp Bestival, it’s something for which he gave up a 30-year career elsewhere in the creative industry. Known for touring UK schools with creativity sessions, its name sees an ‘A’ for art placed within the commonly used STEM. “Science, technology, engineering and maths [are] critically important,” the dad says, “but without the arts you don’t have that creativity that drives the innovation science, technology, engineering and maths desperately need. Art isn’t just about painting,” he resumes, “it could be photography, fashion, cooking or coding robots. Whatever we are passionate about, whatever we do that connects us to other people.”

Photo: Gabby Ritchie

We speak to Nick the day STEAM Co.’s #RocketKidsClub launches, the shows of which are broadcasting live every Friday as part of the organisation’s #CommunityLockIn. “#RocketKidsClub is essentially a safe online place for kids and their creative carers to be inspired, create and share.” A creative carer, he says, could be a child’s mum, dad or guardian. It might also be a mentor from a creative industry, who a few times a week checks in with a kid (possibly from a disadvantaged background) to see how they’ve got on with their origami. STEAM Co. are looking for 100 people to sign up by way of testing the #RocketKidsClub online system – “to prove it works and make sure it’s safe before we roll it our massively.” #CommunityLockIn also broadcasts #UKArtTakeOver in May, “a virtual tour of Britain, with an art festival at the end. Twenty days in cities and towns across the country – and a parliament launch event.” The Oxford event takes place 16 May.

He tells us he’s never had much of a plan – “I’ve just been touting round schools doing workshops, I’ve got a little trailer with everything you need to run a creativity festival” – but has been looking ahead to the National Festival of Creativity 2022, ran by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. Having spoken with the department’s then-minister Jeremy Wright last January, Nick created #ArtConnects19 that year. This year he’s gone with #Collaborate20 which (inspired by a video Nile Rodgers made for STEAM Co. about collaboration) is “to get businesses to work with their school communities”. The hope for 2021 – #InspireANation21 – is to get four STEAM Co. trucks out on the road, with the following #Festival22 introducing a network of these vehicles across the UK. “That’s the closest I’ve ever had to a plan,” he says, pointing out coronavirus has thrown something of a spanner in the works. “But in fact, it’s made me focus and enabled me to do everything with no cost. I don’t need to leave the house, I’ve got no petrol bills. I’m doing more from home than I could ever have dreamed of before.”

Find out more about #UKArtTakeOver at steamco.org.uk/ukarttakeover

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