Different criteria will guide answers to this question:
- The size of the budget for venue hire
- Physical accessibility and accessibility in terms of transport/distance
- Familiarity. The familiarity of the venue may reduce anxiety. Continuity(and friendliness) of reception may be important for some children
- The ‘wow’ factor. There may be a case for locating the sessions in impressive and/or atmospheric buildings visiting which is an experience in itself
- If the venue meets the above requirements but also has other young people’s creative activities in it, this may aid looked after children’s willingness to progress to open provision.
Choice of venue is not only instrumentally important but can also embody and illustrate the core values underlying the programme. This aspect can take time to research and talk about with partners but can add value.
Illustrations from practice
(Taken from music projects funded by Sing Up and Youth Music)
"A number of contrasting venues were used regularly by the projects and these included schools, foster homes, arts centres. a theatre, youth centres, an outdoor residential education centre, community centres, residential units and stately homes. While some of the projects held all their sessions in the same venue, other projects held sessions in a variety of venues across the area. In some places, the choice of venue was a deliberate strategy integral to the aims and overall ethos of the project.
"One project succeeded in its aim of offering an ’integrated service’ to looked after children and the adults involved in their care by offering days out to the whole foster family. Foster families were invited to attend a music session at stately homes during the summer months. The families picnicked in the grounds before the music session and could stay to enjoy the venue afterwards. The intention was that foster families could experience interesting and beautiful public spaces and that looked after children could experience a venue outside children’s health services and schools, the public spaces with which they were most familiar:
"We are using venues like National Trust houses to bring added value – there are so many benefits.This is based on the belief that if we put children and young people into stimulating environments, they will be creative.'" (Project leader)
"The above examples should not be taken as a recommendation that singing sessions should only take place in rather grand settings – most of the venues used were not at all grand, but were seen as satisfactory, or better than satisfactory. The examples give an indication of venue options for children whose experience of what is on offer, culturally, may be limited."
(Evaluation of Sing Up NCB Programme).
‘We spent a lot of time scouting for suitable venues. We wanted to use the best setting possible both practically and aesthetically. We looked for spaces that had a breakout room and considered details such as the size, ceiling height and general acoustic properties. The facilities they offered and whether they had public access or not. We also considered how much disruption we would potentially cause. The location of a venue was very important to us to ensure that people knew where it was and were able to travel to and from it easily if required. We were delighted that the city’s new theatre was able to offer us reduced-rate booking fees for one of their superb rehearsal rooms for the weekly Foster Children Sessions."
Schools as venues
"Some of the singing leaders reported that there were problems with choosing schools as venues. In one location, schools had been used initially, but reportedly it was hard for the school not to view the sessions as a 'piece of school provision'. A singing leader said that the school management were not proactive in recruiting children because they could not accept that the project was for looked after children only. It was especially difficult to recruit looked after children who were newly arrived at the school. Other leaders believed that it was better to use a 'neutral venue', described as a level playing field for the children, rather than a school. In schools it was thought that there could be a stigma attached to attending something especially for looked after children."
(Evaluation of Sing Up NCB Programme)