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Young Londoners use art to voice their climate dreams

Over 1,500 young Londoners will use art to express their personal response to climate change, as the third Young London Print Prize launches today (Thursday 23 June).

The competition started during the pandemic as a response to a surging demand for arts education and ways for young people to express their response to the climate crisis. By the time the winners are announced in November, more than 3,000 young London artists between the ages of 9 and 11 will have taken part, from neighbourhoods across the capital. 

Last year marked a radical shift in the conversation around climate change in the UK as COP26 headed to Glasgow. The recent IPCC report painted a sobering picture of the future of climate change and the scale of action needed to tackle it, with young people now taking a much more active role in the debate – from school protests to influencing the agenda for the next UN conference, COP27 in Egypt.

All the work showcased by the Young London Print Prize will be created, judged and curated by young people themselves. The competition is driven by the idea that all young people can be artists in their own right. It aims to write a new future for contemporary art in the capital that reflects the real diversity of young Londoners.

In 2021, the Prize was won by Meryl Basoa, a year 6 pupil at Heronsgate Primary School in Thamsemead for a print called ‘Climate Love’. This year’s entries and winners will be displayed at Woolwich Contemporary Print Fair from 3-7 November, alongside some of the world’s finest printmakers.

Over 25 schools will take part in this year’s Prize, with free teacher training sessions and more than 40 workshops delivered across the capital from Plumstead and Walthamstow to the Isle of Dogs, where pupils are taught how to make art using a technique known as relief printing and prepare their submission to the prize.

The winners of this year’s print prize will be announced on November 3rd and showcased on the Piccadilly Lights, three days before the start of this year’s COP27 conference, challenging the delegates to recognise the role of culture, creativity and young people in tackling the climate emergency.

Matt Bell, Co-Founder of Young London Print Prize, said: “Climate change isn’t just a science problem – it’s about our culture and behaviors. It’s a product of what we value. Art shapes our world view and helps us to see things differently, as well as being a critical form of protest. That’s why this prize is so important. Each year we have seen young people express their creative response to the climate crisis and take ownership of an issue that will dramatically affect their future lives.”

John Lewis, Executive Director for Thamesmead at Peabody, said: “The effects of climate change will be felt most by today’s children and the generations to come, but still too often young people's voices go unheard. The Young London Print Prize is a really important platform for children to creatively express their views on the crisis, and – in doing so – inspire us all to do more to respond. It was fantastic to see such a talented young person from Thamesmead win the prize in 2021, and we can’t wait to see what the entrants come up with this year.” 

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