Circuit Evaluation

Learning and research findings from Circuit, a programme that examined how galleries can support positive change for young people.

Young boys skateboard beside artworks

The Plaza, MOSTYN, 2016
Photo © MOSTYN, Luke Kirkbride

Circuit was an action research project led by Tate and funded by Paul Hamlyn Foundation in which ten galleries across England and Wales worked in partnership with youth organisations to create opportunities for a more diverse range of 15–25 year olds to engage with art. Over four years the programme engaged over 175,000 through events and projects.

Research and evaluation were embedded throughout Circuit. Gallery staff, young people, artists and partners were supported to reflect on their experiences using an evaluation framework, to analyse what they found and, crucially, to change their programme in response. The process aimed to build skills while enabling ownership of each gallery’s successes and challenges.

Circuit Research Papers

These eight specially commissioned research papers examine a range of key areas: young people’s cultural production, partnership building with the youth sector, the impact of cultural capital, the conditions required for organisational change and analysis of research and evaluation structures.

Archive Articles

These are the most popular of the original Circuit project blog posts, grouped into three key areas of interest for work towards change to benefit young people. Visit the Circuit website to explore further posts.


Audience members enjoying an installation at Late at Tate Britain: Disrupt, 2015. Photo © Diana Agunbiade-Kolawole

Audience members enjoying an installation at Late at Tate Britain: Disrupt, 2015
Photo © Diana Agunbiade-Kolawole

Recommendations based on Circuit findings:

  • Adapt your resources and form partnerships that respond to the current climate of limited budgets and cuts
  • Identify common motivations, priorities and values
  • Harness each other’s expertise, and share ways of working that are of benefit to young people

Download these related blog posts:

Nicola Sim, ‘Reaching the Hard to Reach’
Are terms such as ‘hard to reach’ and ‘socially excluded’ useful or damaging? What happens when we mobilise them in funding bids, partnerships and project work with young people?

Nicola Sim, ‘Innovation in Youth Work’
A PhD student investigating partnerships between visual arts organisations and the youth sector reflects on the Innovation in Youth Work conference

Emily Pringle, ‘Exploring the Cs: Cultural Capital, Critical Race Theory and Circuit’
On the concept of Critical Race Theory (CRT) in relation to Circuit and its evaluation


Hyperlink Festival, Tate Modern, 2013 © Monica Cielecka

Hyperlink Festival, Tate Modern, 2013
Photo © Monica Cielecka

Recommendations based on Circuit findings:

  • Define your motivations for diversity – in your audience and workforce
  • Understand the changes that need to happen, the timeframe and where the responsibility lies
  • Reflect on and learn from short-term projects that you connect to long-term strategies for change

Download these related blog posts:

Mark Miller, ‘Where Does Culture Happen? Diversity, Conflict and Complexity’
‘Difference’ continues to prevail as a major barrier to bridging gaps in privilege and access to resources within the cultural sector.

Mark Miller, ‘Transparency, Complexity and Change’
We often hear about the need for transparency, especially as a condition for change. But how open are we prepared to be about the decision making processes, structures and challenges in our galleries? And what do we risk if we aren’t more transparent with our audiences, workforce and partners?

Tahira Fitzwilliam-Hall, ‘The Way to Cambournia’
Reporting on Circuit’s collaboration with artist Rebecca Birch on The Way to Cambournia, a film made in Cambourne


WARP Festival at The Whitworth, 2016 Photo © Anna Budrys

WARP Festival at The Whitworth, 2016
Photo © Anna Budrys

Recommendations based on Circuit findings:

  • Establish ways for young people to work within organisations as producers of cross-art-form cultural activity that resonates with their wider social and cultural experiences
  • Provide progression routes that allow for the development of transferable personal and professional skills, for education and employment, and an increased understanding of the cultural sector

Download these related blog posts:

Roz Hall, ‘Peer Led Approaches and Ensuring Parity’
During one of my visits to the Kettle’s Yard and Wysing group, a really in-depth, open and valuable discussion took place between the young people involved in the Circuit programme, which has led me to reflect at length on what we mean by peer led.

Jan Miller, ‘On Collaboration’
As we hurtle towards the Test Risk Change conference tomorrow, I’m determined to post at least one of the final blogs/evaluation that myself and some of the young people I’ve worked with at MOSTYN & West Rhyl Young People’s Project over the past three years have talked about together.

Alice Thickett, ‘Reality Check’
In one of our steering meetings, one of the members voiced that they may not be able to attend any longer. I asked them to elaborate – suggesting the story would be good to tell as it would apply to other young people accessing our programme. I asked for a few sentences, but said that if they felt passionate about their situation it would be a good chance to have their thoughts noticed and possibly start discussion as part of Circuit. The following is what I received in my inbox the next day.

Marina Castledine, ‘Emerging Learning: “In the Room” Notes’
Each year of the Circuit programme, we run two ‘Sharing Sessions’ where all staff involved, including those from marketing, curatorial, learning, youth partners and of course young people themselves, are invited to get together and share their learning. The evaluation of the programme has taken a developmental approach, which means lessons that surface through analysis of quantative and qualitative data, alongside discussion, feed into programme and governance decisions. As we reach the end of the programme, the learning will be articulated for an external audience to support gallery education practice. For now, here are some in the room notes we made in December 2015 on an away day in Bristol.

Test, Risk, Change

Circuit examined the ways that galleries can support positive change for young people, but it also exposed the barriers that might prevent this. Based on three key themes, this report, published in 2017, outlines these challenges and suggests ideas and solutions to overcome them. Throughout Circuit, specialists carried out research to collect and analyse data, review programme processes and examine important emerging themes: Test, Risk, Change brings together learning and findings from across the programme.

Circuit Conference

Delegates at the Circuit conference, Nottingham Contemporary, 2017

Delegates at the Circuit conference, Nottingham Contemporary, 2017
Photo © Jack Makin

On 10 March 2017, delegates from arts and youth organisations across the country gathered at Nottingham Contemporary for a day of lively debate exploring how the youth and gallery sectors can work effectively together in turbulent social and political times to challenge inequalities and champion young people’s cultural participation. Discussions included ‘Cross-sector partnership: Is democratic practice possible?’, ‘What does authentic peer-led working look like?’ and ‘Red tape and glass ceilings: Who speaks for young people?’.

Film and audio from the day are available on request. For further enquiries about the Circuit programme, please visit the Circuit project page or email

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