City of Dreams

City of Dreams

City of Dreams (CoD) was launched in September 2018, aiming to earn NewcastleGateshead a reputation as the “best place to be young” through engagement of children and young people (CYP) in cultural and creative activity. Lasting 10 years, CoD provides a strategy and action plan for evolving the way cultural organisations enable CYP’s engagement, how they foster agency and support growth of confidence and skills. 

Led by NewcatleGateshead Cultural Venues (NGCV) and working with CYP and a cross-sector alliance of Champion organisations, CoD has fast become a high-profile initiative with strategic resonance, testing high quality new approaches that broaden reach, deepen engagement, strengthen partnerships and provide evaluative insights. 

In its first year CoD has created programmes including #MakeSomethingBrilliant, Twi-Lates, X-Culture, Creative Pathways, Our City Our Story and the Big Culture Conversation, whilst earning Investing in Children awards for all NGCV members. It has found strategic resonance with local authorities, North East Culture Partnership, the university sector and the Cultural Cities Enquiry, among others. 

Building on this activity, CoD will focus on three key themes in 2019-2022: agency, inclusion and skills. CoD will continue to curate and pool resources, share learning and test concepts, to enable delivery of multiple programmes of collaborative activities. 

UPDATE December 2020

On behalf of NewcastleGateshead Cultural Venues, we would like to share the news that our Executive Producer for City of Dreams – Ben Dickenson – is left his role on 11th December 2020 and update you on our future plans.

Ben was appointed by NGCV in 2017 and is leaving at the end of 2020. He has accepted a permanent role with the Careers and Enterprise Company as their Regional Lead for the North East, ensuring all young people have an excellent introduction to the world of work and routes to sustainable careers. Given sharp rises in youth unemployment, this is an opportunity to make a real difference.

Ben has been a phenomenal founding Executive Producer for City of Dreams. After a year of design, pilot activity and consultation, City of Dreams was formally launched in 2018 supported by a cross-sector alliance of more than 50 organisations. Our strategy was ambitious: engage all under25s in NewcastleGateshead in cultural activity, support them to express themselves in new creative and civic forms, enable them to grow skills and confidence to thrive.

Guided by these aims and working in close collaboration, we have – among other things – been able to:

  • provide a creative offer to every state school in the city
  • forge links with local charities, offering food and activity programmes in school holidays
  • model a Creative Pathways scheme, accelerating careers of disadvantaged 16-21year olds
  • curate Twi-Lates (2018 & 2019), introducing 1000s of 12-17year olds to 21 cultural venues
  • produce #MakeSomethingBrilliant, engaging 42,000 children and young people in over 400 activities
  • deliver Our City Our Story, sharing experiences of 11,000 young people with civic decision makers.


32% of those we engaged came from disadvantaged backgrounds and our commitment to young people’s agency was recognised when every NGCV member organisation earned Investing in Children status last year. At the start of 2020, Ben was leading a fresh three-year strategy, developing plans to engage those most excluded from cultural offers, and producing the next Twi-Lates and Our City Our Story programmes. Then came Covid.

The pandemic has disrupted the UK culture sector deeply, but in early 2021 we will restart City of Dreams to be part of the region’s recovery. Firstly, we will undertake a “Now & Next” listening programme with young people. City of Dreams has always been rooted in the needs and ideas of local children and young people. Listening to what they want from their city in a post-Covid world is our priority.

2020 has been the toughest of years and 2021 will be a year of further change. We look forward to City of Dreams being a part of the region’s recovery and we wish Ben well and thank him for his enormous contribution to City of Dreams.


Sarah Munro (Director, Baltic) and Abigail Pogson (Managing Director, Sage Gateshead)

NGCV co-chairs


City of Dreams Logo
City of Dreams launch