for Arts
& Culture
Combined Arts | London and Manchester

Contact/Battersea Arts CentreThe Agency

Battersea Arts Centre (BAC) is an arts venue in south-west London that aims to inspire people to take creative risks to shape the future.

Contact is a theatre and arts venue in Manchester that places young people aged 13 to 30 at the heart of its decision making.

The Agency is a creative entrepreneurship programme launched in 2013 in partnership between BAC, Contact and People’s Palace Projects (PPP), which uses creativity to enable young people from some of the most deprived areas in the UK to develop projects that inspire positive change in their community.

Contact/Battersea Arts Centre

Target Beneficiaries

The target beneficiaries are young people aged 15 to 25 from some of the most deprived areas in the locations where the partner organisations are based. The ‘Agents’ are recruited via a mix of street-level approach and referrals.

The programme has three key areas of impact: young people, organisations and communities.

The overall aim for the programme is that “young people from underserved communities should have the self-confidence, networks, skills and creative mindset needed to be protagonists in their lives and the world around them.”


The programme began as a partnership between BAC, Contact and PPP. In 2018, the programme expanded to include three new locations across the UK: Cardiff, Wales (through the National Theatre Wales); Belfast, Northern Ireland (through FabLab Belfast in the Ashton Community Centre); and Walthamstow, north London (through Blackhorse Workshop).

The programme consists of two cycles. Cycle 1, ‘The Cycle of Stimulus’, is a 12-week cycle that uses a theatre-based, creative methodology to help the Agents develop their ideas. The sessions focus on cognitive skill-building and non-cognitive, social and emotional skills. These ‘soft skills’ have been linked to improved longer-term employment and educational success.

The aim of the first cycle is to enable Agents to take an idea based on a need they have identified in their community, to articulate this idea, defend it, find support for it and then pitch it to an expert panel. The panel select three projects to receive £2,000 of seed funding and move on to Cycle 2.

Cycle 2, ‘The Incubator’, is a 16-week cycle that teaches practical skills in project management, planning and business skills alongside bespoke support. In this cycle, the Agents turn their ideas into projects which they pilot in their communities.

Once Cycle 2 is completed, the Agents are able to continue to access support if they want to continue running their project. This can include assistance with fundraising, business development, network building and community partnerships.




The Agency has helped organisations to influence funding and policy decisions, opening up new relationships with people of influence.

Organisations better understand the issues and needs of their communities and are able to offer new pathways into the arts. To date, the Agency has offered employment to 127 young people in their local areas. Joshua, a Year 3 Agent in Manchester, is now on Contact’s Board of Trustees and was hired as a Producer for Cycle 2 of The Agency.

The Agency enables organisations to find new models of co-creation and deeper engagement with local communities. They now work with, rather than just for, their communities.

The programme has transformed local community relationships and cross-sector partnerships. Through being better networked, these organisations can work together more effectively to achieve shared social change goals.


Over 20,000 people have engaged with Agency projects and the programme has had a huge impact on local community organisations and their beneficiaries.


Of the 45 projects funded since 2013, 34 are still running in some form with ongoing legacy support from delivery organisations.

The programme continues to expand its partnership model with new territories from 2020 in Brent (through Kiln Theatre); Southampton (through Energise Me) and National Theatre Scotland. A range of documents and policies have been developed to underpin this successful partnership model, led by BAC and Contact.

CASE STUDY: Henrietta

Henrietta, Year 4 London Agent who set up a theatre company for care leavers called ‘Redefine’ when she was 21 has subsequently gone on to work as an assistant facilitator for The Agency and Outreach Coordinator at BAC. She now works for Ernst & Young as Careers Consultant for Young People in Care. She is also on the Board of Trustees for Agenda, a charity supporting women and girls at risk of abuse, poverty and homelessness.


The Agency made me think creatively about my whole life...It’s made me who I am today...For the first time in my life I felt proud of myself. For the first time in my life, I felt autonomy, responsibility and a sense of agency. I’ve always had external agencies…talking for me, but this time I could talk for myself.

Henrietta, London Agent 

It makes you a better person and makes you feel like you can make things possible for people.



Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (2013-15), National Lottery Community Fund’s Reaching Communities (2015-18), National Community Trust’s Growing Great Ideas (2017 expansion to Cardiff & Belfast), Mayor’s London Borough of Culture programme (2018 Waltham Forest & 2020 Brent)