The first stages of Sparr took place during 2007/08, training disadvantaged young people in research, film, editing, interviewing, web/graphic design skills, the creation of a web-based learning resource for schools and community groups and a large scale multi-media performance event in an empty shipyard shed. Sparr mapped the cultural resources of Govan – the history, heritage, place, people and building ships in the 20th century. Young people took the lead as researchers, graphic designers, film-makers and interviewers. They engaged with older people in the community – former ship-yard workers and the Gaelic-speaking families who emigrated from the Western Isles to find work in the yards.

The 16 – 24 year olds related well to the older generation (particularly those involved in the Govan reminiscence project, the Govan Gaelic Choir and the Walking Group). The whole community of Govan became involved – some 50+ volunteer researchers, graphic artists, film makers, production teams and learning resource creators. There were 200 each evening at the final event in the Harland and Woolf shed.

Partners and stakeholders included more than 20 local third sector organisations, the local authority, the community planning partnership, the local enterprise company and various public and private sector organisations locally. The main funder was the Heritage Lottery fund whose Young Roots programme supports intergenerational work. We aimed to encourage engagement across the ages – older people relating positively to younger people.

Success stories

The aims of Sparr were many, with a main focus on intergenerational working. One key factor in the project’s success was that it was not exclusively one generation relating to the other in isolation. There was buy-in from the whole community and a high level of engagement from all partners.

What was learned was that, by working together in a creative way towards the same ends, the older inhabitants of Govan started to see the younger, disenfranchised 16-24 year olds in a different light. Instead of seeing them as threatening and living in fear, they only saw their talents, ability and enthusiasm. The older generation were open, sharing and respectful of the young people’s position as researchers on a heritage project.

Similarly we learned that working in this way helps to transform attitudes amongst young people towards older people. Young people learned a new respect for the older generation in terms of the hardships they had endured. Their wisdom, skills and experience and the dangers they had encountered were appreciated. Each group learned from the other on an equal basis. Spàrr made a difference to people in Govan – to the older adults and to the young volunteers in the training, workshops and productions. For many, it has been a life-changing experience.

What some have said:

“My son has learned more about Govan’s history in the last 4 weeks than in the whole of his school career. We’ve been through a really tough time this last couple of years… me and my boy… This has been a life saver for us”.

“This has been the best time of my life”. (Volunteer with special needs)

“I was going to commit suicide before I came here – this project has saved my life”.

“My life has turned around. I am now off the medication”.

“This project was a million dollars’ worth”.

A Government Social Return on Investment Audit (which is available) demonstrated that for every £1 invested in the Sparr programme, the programme delivered £13.58 social added value in return. That’s almost £14 for every £1.