City of Dreams

What can you say about City of Dreams? Many things. And I did. From 2017 to 2020 I often filled the air at meetings and conferences with my words. And a few inches in newspapers. Webpages. Tweets. Flyers. Filmstock. 80 silent disco headphones at one point. So, for a welcome change, here are some other voices.

Statement from Sarah Munro (Director, Baltic) and Abigail Pogson (Managing Director, Sage Gateshead)NewcastleGateshead Cultural Venues co-chairs

On behalf of NGCV, we would like to share the news that our Executive Producer for City of Dreams – Ben Dickenson – is leaving us on 11th December and update you on our future plans.

Ben was appointed by NGCV in 2017 and is leaving at the end of 2020.

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.


NewcastleGateshead Cultural Venues (NGCV) is a partnership of 10 institutions, running 23 museums, galleries, theatres, cinemas, as well as a science centre, a couple of Roman forts, and a national centre for children’ books. They are Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Dance City, Life Science Centre, Live Theatre, Theatre Royal, Northern Stage, Sage Gateshead, Seven Stories, Tyne & Wear Archives and Museums, and Tyneside Cinema.

Then there are those 50+ partner organisations in arts, education, culture, tech, business, voluntary and statutory sectors. Among them the Angelou Centre, Connected Voice, Curious Monkey, Family Explorers, Gateshead Youth Assembly, Gateshead Cultural Ed. Partnership, Headliners, Helix Arts, The Late Shows, Newcastle Arts Team, Newcastle University, Newcastle Youth Democracy Group, New Writing North, Newcastle Cultural Ed. Partnership, The Princes Trust, Skimstone Arts, Unfolding Theatre, Youth Focus North East…I could go on…

But I won’t. I’ll just say – thanks. May culture reign on Tyneside. For all time.