INSPIRE FestivalINSPIRE began as a cultural festival among groups of schools. Each year more schools and young people have been able to showcase their talent and hard work, as the festival grows.

The initial idea was to celebrate, understand and give opportunities for young people to show their extraordinary creative talent.

The idea came from the Cultural Education Partnership (CEP), a partnership between Arts Council England, the borough’s cultural services, arts organisation, schools and Children’s Services.


The first INSPIRE festival was held in 2015 as part of Barking and Dagenham’s 50th anniversary celebrations. Five schools and 250 young artists, dancers, actors and musicians worked together through dance, music, theatre and visual art around the theme of “social change”. Green Shoes Arts curated the showcase event held in Dagenham Park school.


The INSPIRE festival grew to include 23 schools in four hubs. Over six months, around 2000 young people produced dance, music, poetry, visual art and theatre inspired by a Shakespeare theme. Performances included Shakespeare in the Civic Centre and a highlights event at the Broadway theatre.


Participation expanded further in 2017 to include 24 schools in four hubs. A series of powerful performances and reflections on the theme of diversity were captured in a video created by Green Shoes Arts.


The theme for INSPIRE 2018 is a Year of Young People’s Culture… Our Barking and Dagenham. The year of young people’s culture is branded as INSPIRE 2018 to reflect that the festival now consists of a much broader range of events across the borough taking place throughout the year. This is a recognition of the enthusiastic involvement of young people, teachers, schools and arts organisations and the work they have put in to make the festival happen.