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How do you draw a rainbow the wrong way?

How we can better support all young people to recognise their creative identities

Creative Scotland recently published our research report, exploring how creative activities are linked to broader outcomes for children and young people.

How do you draw a rainbow the wrong way?’, the title of the report, was a quote from a young participant who had been told by a teacher that she wasn’t drawing a rainbow correctly, and how this had made her feel that she didn’t have any creative ability. But a few years later, taking part in a music and film project funded through Creative Scotland, she realised that the whole point of creative development is to be supported to experiment; to find a way to express yourself and claim a creative voice.

Other key findings from the report include:

  • Self-directed creative goals must be at the center – the projects won’t work if young people feel like they are getting ‘youth work by the back door’
  • The work needs to be delivered by highly-skilled and authentic creative practitioners, who are fantastic artists, as well as able to relate to young people, often facing additional complex challenges
  • Learning to work collaboratively is essential for most types of creative endeavours - working together, trusting each other and relying on each other is the only way that the best outputs and outcomes can be achieved
  • Being supported to explore their creative self-identities provides young people with a range of additional benefits, particularly if they have been experiencing services and provision based on other dominant self-identities, such as being poor, being looked after, or being educationally excluded
  • Creative development provides a way of exploring and challenging these other identities and structural conditions

Beyond this, the report discusses how we need to start using theory more explicitly in arts evaluation. This is to ensure that projects aren’t perceived as operating in a participatory-arts vacuum, and that the intellectual and social value of creative development is not subsumed by instrumentalism - such as, how this is all linked to improved grades, better employment figures, improved health outcomes, or other economic-focused variables.

This is an important point for us and the sector. If we want a UK-wide creative sector that really represents the diversity of the population (as suggested by the recent Culture White Paper and Bazalgette Review), we need to recognise the many ways in which doors are closed to those young people experiencing some of the most acute personal and social problems. We need to develop an approach which gives all young people the right to come up with creative visions and solutions to confront the structural issues which lead to such instrumental aims in the first place.

- Douglas Lonie, Senior Consultant