HS2 partners with Heart of Birmingham Vocational College and local creative organisations to engage young learners in design

HS2 Ltd, the company building the UK’s new high speed rail line, has partnered with Birmingham-based Craftspace and Dual Works to run a series of creative workshops at the Heart of Birmingham College Vocational College (HBVC) based in Washwood Heath.

The ‘Washwood Heath Creates’ programme, which has just finished its pilot stage, gave College learners an opportunity to develop imaginative ideas for the planned public space around the Washwood Heath Depot, HS2’s national maintenance facility which will be built near the College.

During workshops and field trips the learners visited the HS2 construction site and used their research to generate ideas that connect Washwood Heath Depot with the local community. The series of workshops culminated in a sharing event and open day for carers, staff and the local community, just before the College finished for the summer holiday.

The project is part of HS2’s arts and culture programme which explores ways to incorporate creative practice into the development of the railway and works closely with creative practitioners and arts organisations to build relationships with communities, reflecting and enhancing their skills and aspirations.

Washwood Heath Depot will be HS2’s maintenance facility and main control centre for the whole HS2 network. Acting as the operational heart of HS2, it is set to create over 550 jobs in the local area. This is where HS2 trains will be maintained, serviced and stored when not in use, and includes the Maintenance Building, Network Integrated Control Centre (NICC) and Cleaners and Drivers Building.

Sarah Mann, Senior Arts, Culture and Design Manager at HS2 Ltd, said:

“HS2 is committed to working with communities in the areas around our construction sites, and this project was a great opportunity to engage local students in a creative way. The project piloted a new way of working, putting creativity and community at the heart of HS2s forthcoming development of the depot.

“It’s been fantastic working with the College, as well as Craftspace and Dual Works, to involve the young learners in thinking creatively about their public space. We are working with our construction partners Balfour Beatty VINCI to explore ways to bring some of the learner’s ideas for their garden space to life.”

HBVC is an independent specialist college for learners aged between 16 and 25 with special educational needs and/or autism.

Donna Taylor, PhD, Community and Development Coordinator at HBVC, said:

“It was great for our students to be involved in this project, which gave them the opportunity to visit the HS2 Depot construction site opposite the College. Our learners really enjoyed putting on the hi-vis jackets and hard hats to learn a more about what HS2 is doing. They were also very engaged with learning about the design process and contributing their own creative ideas to what the outdoor space around the Depot could look like.”

Deirdre Figueiredo MBE, Director of Craftspace said:

“We developed a programme for the young people to investigate the transformation of, and relationship to an outdoor space in ways that are meaningful for them as learners and to engender a sense of belonging, ownership, inspiration and excitement.”

Zoe Robertson, Co-founder of Dual Works, said:

“The programme involved taking the learners on a journey through the design process and introducing the different stages of the process to build their confidence, creativity, decision making and problem solving. They used their research and developed their thinking to imagine what could be in the green space, linking back to the Depot.”