Empowering youth voice through protest art

It is important for young people to have an equal voice in matters that shape their world. Too often, young people don’t have a say in the pressing issues that impact their lives.

This participatory research project combined expertise from academia from Dr Sophie King-Hill and art from Void One andGraffiti board was led by two groups of young people. The young people involved were from  the University of Birmingham School and Blackwater Academy. The year-long project consisted of planning sessions with young people at the University of Birmingham, graffiti workshops at Bournbrook Skate Park which culminating in two giant sized murals, on boards, painted on the University of Birmingham campus.

Participatory approaches such as this can offer young people an equal footing in research. By working with them, rather than imposing research on them, the balance of power is shifted from that of hierarchy to a collaborative endeavour, resulting in co-design.  Research into issues affecting younger generations is often carried out by members of older generations. This can lead to young people feeling disconnected and disenfranchised, making research and work for young people seem elitist, inaccessible, and something that is imposed upon them instead of something they can own.  Young people are eager to discuss the issues that affect them , their voices are vital in designing and carrying out research. They are the experts on themselves. Approaches must be equal and inclusive—not tokenistic. But quite often they are silenced and nobody listens.


Students doing graffiti on board
Graffiti board and old joe
Graffiti board and students


Mural and Old Joe


Mural and building


Research objectives


  • To focus upon the importance of listening to youth voice and how to raise awareness of this through a participatory graffiti, protest art project.  


  • Engage with young people from marginalised groups to plan a large mural that represents youth voice.
  • Produce two large scale murals based upon what the young people have planned.
  • Display the boards on campus and then in the schools to raise awareness of the importance of listening to young people

Outputs and impact

  • Two planning sessions at the University of Birmingham with young people
  • Four graffiti workshops at Bournbrook skate park with young people
  • Two giant murals on boards co-designed and produced with young people

Research team

  • Sophie King-Hill (PI) University of Birmingham
  • Void One (Artist)