What is so different about Aston and Newtown? 

In the 2011 census the population of Aston was 32,286 and is made up of approximately 50% females and 50% males. The average age of people in Aston is 29, while the median age is lower at 25.

The demographic make-up is:

  • White British: 12%, White Irish: 1%, White Other: 3%
  • Mixed/Multiple ethnic group: 4%
  • Asian Indian 14%, Asian Pakistani 20%, Asian Bangladeshi 15%, Asian Chinese 2%
  • Black African 9%, Black Caribbean 10%
  • Other ethnic group 2%

The area is incredibly diverse but marked by high levels of unemployment (28.7% of the working age population claim workless benefits).

With unemployment high and skills levels low, opportunities to grow leadership in the cultural and creative industries has been minimal.   People of Aston and Newtown with talent and creativity have little opportunity to express this when access and barriers to entry within the sector have seemed insurmountable and contacts, support and encouragement has been hard to find. ASTONish tackles this head on with an integrated and cohesive programme to develop a diverse group of cultural and creative leaders and entrepreneurs.  We aim to equip people to be able to create high quality art within their community.  This in turn will create both high quality cultural experiences for audiences but equally a cultural ecology within Aston and Newtown.  Finally, this project aims to link young people who experience the work with opportunities and aspiration.


So what will be different about this programme?

Focus: Each participant will focus on specific development needs that have been identified in the appraisal process and that projects are developed to act as a focus for development activity.

Training: The programme will be tailored within a framework of cultural leadership and reflect progression, aspiration and ambition and include   opportunities to hear from a variety of inspiring speakers who have “Been there and done that”.

Research and Networking: The programme encourages the participants to develop relationships and participate in networks regionally, nationally and internationally. We will empower the participants to work out how to do this in a way that works for them and fits time and budget constraints.

Mentoring: Each participant will have the opportunity to work with a mentor who can both inspire their work, provide practical advice and support.  Some mentoring will be individual, some in a group setting.

Inspiration: A programme of occasional “inspiring speakers” – which is also open to the public -  to speak to the participants and provide a fresh input for reflection and insight. 

Showcasing and Producing Opportunities: Working with partners in the city we will give participants a tailored opportunity to work on placement with relevant arts organisations – this may include chances to shadow arts professionals from relevant disciplines, present or promote activity in Aston/ Newtown OR in Birmingham city centre and beyond – while being supported by industry experts.


Why is Birmingham Hippodrome delivering this programme and what does it have to do with Aston and Newtown?

Birmingham Hippodrome is working in partnership with Lara Ratnaraja, Shekayla Maragh and Rebbecca Hemmings to deliver an inspiring and aspirational programme of training, mentoring and placements to uncover and develop talent in Aston and Newtown.  The theatre delivers a growing body of work off its main stage and has delivered a number of previous programmes designed to cultivate creative and cultural businesses.  The theatre is situated in Birmingham and aims to be a place where Everyone is Welcome.  We will only do this by working with people from all areas of the city, especially those where people know us the least.  The Hippodrome is a large, successful charity – with turnover of nearly £30million.  It can give participants access to an amazing array of shadowing and placement opportunities, and share the power of its network with you.  It can also ensure that admin costs are minimal, which means most of the grant from Birmingham City Council goes towards training, support and placement costs.