A National Portrait Tour: London, Plymouth, Manchester

22 February, 2022

“It’s a portrait of contemporary life in Britain as seen through the faces, expressions and experiences of 13-16 year-olds.” – Mark Reid, Head of UK Learning Programmes, BFI

Each year Club members nationwide create self-portraits, exploring what it means to visually convey the self, using an array of mediums from papier-mâché and painting to poetry and photography. We are always blown away by the responses to a prompt of self-representation as Club members often take the brief one-step further, addressing complex themes such as gender, class, race and representation.

Ordinarily, the self-portraits are displayed in leading cultural venues such as City Hall, Central Saint Martins and King’s College London. This year, we took the exhibition on the road, with the intention of showing the work of Club members to as many members of the public as possible. Along the way, we visited some of the country’s most prominent cultural institutions, where industry specialists picked out their favourite portraits.

“One of the things we forget about is that it’s a language… every self-portrait is fascinating because every self-portrait tells us something about the person who made it.” – Will Gompertz, Artistic Director, Barbican.

No one portrait or interpretation is similar to the next and the full collection can be seen in an online gallery. It is a fantastic representation of a generation of 13–16-year-olds. The portraits represent young people across the National Saturday Club network. These are the faces of Art&Design, Fashion&Business, Film&Media, Science&Engineering, Writing&Talking, and, soon with the launch of a new subject strand – the faces of Society&Change. You can view our portrait road-trip below and explore the online portrait gallery here.

On our first venture, we wowed the capital with the young people’s creativity:

Click the thumbnail to be taken to the video.

On After London, we wanted to take the portraits even further. In Plymouth we met a very interested (and very fluffy) dog and showcased the self-portraits to as many members of the public as possible before the sun set over the Plymouth Sound:

Click the thumbnail to be taken to the video.

The next stop on the self-portrait adventure was Manchester:

Click the thumbnail to be taken to the video.

Club member self-portraits also visited the English National Opera, British Film Institute, Natural History Museum, Barbican and The Courtauld Institute of Art. Click on the institute names to hear from industry professionals as they choose their favourite portraits.

Below you’ll find opportunities for young people offered by each of the visited institutions:

The Barbican offers a Young Barbican scheme, which gives 14–25-year-olds discounted access to unmissable art and entertainment as well as exclusive events and creative opportunities.

The BFI Future Film Festival is the UK’s largest festival for young, emerging filmmakers.

BFI Film Academy also offers a wide range of opportunities across the UK for 16–25-year-olds to learn more about film and filmmaking. You can find out more about their filmmaking activities for children and young people here.

The Courtauld Institute of Art is open to under 18’s free of charge. They also run a Young People’s Programme, which offers an exciting series of free workshops, courses and events for young people aged 16–18.

The English National Opera offer free tickets to 5–20-year-olds and discounted tickets for 21—34-year-olds

Via the Natural History Museum website you can find out more about Citizen Science projects, these are crowdsourced science projects where you can unlock the potential of NHM collections and gather vital data for their scientists, helping them to better understand the natural world.

With thanks to the Barbican, BFI, The Courtauld, English National Opera, and the Natural History Museum.

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