No Promises (1993)


Heads Together had first worked with Shipley College during an art gallery residency. Now we were offered the opportunity to design a project specifically for the Transition To Work Course: using creativity to develop self esteem amongst young people who had left school with no qualifications and with no future pathways identified.


Through the Self Image project we worked with 30 young people from Bradford over a full year. The work culminated in a week-long visit to Galway on the west coast of Ireland. 12 students from Bradford worked with 12 young Irish people. We had arranged the possibility of a performance at the local theatre, but we didn't want to commit before we saw how the young people worked together.  No Promises... we left the decision to the young people themselves...

Shipley College teacher Keith Reeves jumps into the sea at Galway. Photograph Lizzie Coombes


This was our first experience of ongoing partnership work and a crucial one. Over the next decade we explored how the whole concept of partnership worked; with organisations of different sizes, backgrounds and working cultures. It built on the ideas we had developed in the Company's Early Years about working in collaboration, and was certainly fruitful.


Apart from ongoing support from Yorkshire Arts, Bradford Council, the Prince's Trust, the Salts Trust and various other funders, this was also the first time we managed to get transnational funding through the European Social Fund’s HORIZON programme; a steep learning curve certainly–but, at the same time, opening up new opportunities like the partnership with Irish organisations working with young people.

Booklet cover from Irish visit: Design Graham Tansley and David Collins

What We Learned

  • Be prepared to take some risks (see pic!)
  • We worked with Shipley College staff over a period of 10 years. An extensive partnership was a rewarding and productive way to work
  • Never fully define a project (particularly the outcomes) before you have worked with all the participants

Where Next?

The Self Image project ran for some ten years (have a look at the archive website) and informed all of the Company’s work about how creative work can affect self-image; a core belief in all of our work to this day.

The project was also used as a model for the development of Creative Arts Partnership in Education; which itself led to the national Creative Partnerships programme.

When I first joined Transition To Work, I was in a really bad way...used to lock myself in my wardrobe and refuse to come out! By the end of the year I was performing on the streets of Galway. And here I am now, holding down a steady job and speaking in front of 200 people.

David Tewkesbury

A decade of Self Image work: special event at Photography Museum 2002