Effervescent is an award-winning creative engagement lab based in Plymouth, established in 2004.



 Team Eff June 2016: Ray White, Ellie-Mae Woolman, Sonny Bird, Eloise Malone, Sally Bell.

Image credit: Lawrence Hyne 2016.

We research how high quality art and cultural activity can catalyse lasting positive social change in people, places and services.  We find out how much of a change can be created; and what factors, methods or new knowledge can make these changes bigger, better, faster or stronger.


We’re a unique organisation in the UK.  We work with groups of children and young people with lived experience in trauma or disadvantage such as sexual exploitation, psychosis, domestic violence, and addiction.  We train these groups to recognise their own expertise and their authentic knowledge, and then we train them as artists, designers, cultural commentators and curators so that they can use their new skills to say what needs to be said in a way that key audiences can best hear it and respond to it.  Effervescent owns and operates Radiant Gallery – the only professional contemporary art gallery in the UK curated solely by groups of children and young people.



Young Curators launch their show I’m Beautiful Now with an artists’ talk at the launch event, November 2014.

Image credit: Dom Moore.


At Effervescent, we place emphasis on creating new thinking strategies, behaviours, and neural pathways in our participants, so that the change is “hardwired” in, and remains long after the project has ended. The particular value of this way of working, is the lasting impact on wellbeing, education, aspiration and resilience for the children and young people involved.


Effervescent works through unique methodologies that combine creative and artistic, design thinking, psychological, mentalism, and community development techniques.  We actively research new practice in these fields and we are becoming acknowledged as international leaders in this collaborative creative impact-led practice, sometimes referred to as “socially-engaged art”.


Our methodology will often lead to film, social marketing campaigns, art gallery exhibitions, theatre performance, or visual/sound art works.


The Fish-Hearted Bride, devised and produced by young carers, at National Marine Aquarium Plymouth, 2013.

Image credit: Dom Moore.


Our aim is to create cultural events and products which stop people in their tracks, make them reconsider their own position, make them reconsider social policy, and provoke them to act differently.


In doing this work, we help organisations to understand and respond to audience/service user/market voice, and to design services and strategies with maximum engagement and reach – promoting more effective services, increased value for money, and harnessing public support for investment in services.


Structure and governance

Effervescent was initially formed in 2004 on a sole trader model, and was incorporated as a company limited by guarantee in 2012.  In 2015 we were registered as a charity. Throughout, our Creative Director has led the company and worked as a lead artist on almost every project, giving consistency to the brand and ensuring learning and proprietary technology is consistently applied to new programmes and projects.


The company is supported by a board of five trustees, and the core staff team of four are all practising (or apprentice) artists/producers with a deep interest and commitment to working with children and young people, and qualifications in youth work, education, counselling, play therapy, brief therapy, risk management, and community development.


Scope and partnerships

Effervescent operates on a consultancy model; commissioners and partners from health, community, education and social care sectors approach us with “wicked problems” and ask us to collaborate with participant groups to design fresh and innovative solutions.


effervescent playing with fire audience

Playing with Fire, Plymouth 2008.


Recent partners have included Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust; Plymouth Museum; Barnardos; Plymouth City Council; Fonds Psychische Gezondheit (Nederlands); Plymouth University; Exeter University; Harbour Drug & Alcohol Recovery Service; College Road Primary School Plymouth; Peninsula Arts; Age Concern; City College Plymouth; Mean Feet Dance and the National Marine Aquarium.


Our strategic partners are Barnardo’s and Plymouth University: these are reflexive relationships in which we work together as equals to develop new practice, new models, and to develop the next generation of practitioners.


Modes of practice

We’re a transdisciplinary arts laboratory – constantly evolving and refining new methodologies which help children and young people find ways to say the things that previously there was no way to say.


 How Long Would You Wait - hooded

Still from How Long Would You Wait? Campaign for Cornwall Partnership Trust 2010.

Image credit: Hana Backland. 


Our core artistic team span a range of creative practices including fine art, public art, curating, theatre directing, installation, filmmaking, event design, subaquatic performance, and aerial acrobatics.  We work with a team of associate practitioners on a contract-to-contract basis, bringing them in for their devising and artform expertise. Around half of them have been with our associates for the last ten years.


When we work with participants we will often have a very general idea of what we are heading for in terms of an artistic product, and the content is informed by an intense devising and development process with the group, which will often last between ten and twenty full days.


Most of our work happens over intense periods of concentrated energy.  This is mainly because it allows for a radical change in thinking patterns and behaviours in the participants, kick starting recovery processes and quickly establishing new behavioural norms.



Radiant Gallery and ReffUGE

Radiant is a studio, bistro, creative office space and contemporary art gallery based in the West End of Plymouth.  We took on the building in 2014 on a peppercorn rent, and with only £5000 and a lot of help from local children and young people, and some adults, transformed an abandoned Halifax Bank into a thriving creative community.


 effervescent big fuss 2008 IMG_0563

Making a Big Fuss, 2008. 

Image credit: Eloise Malone


In taking on the space we had two intentions:


  1. To stabilize and push our creative devising practise with children and young people, using a safe and secure studio space to allow us safely to undertake work with increasingly vulnerable and delicate children and young people.
  2. To test a completely new idea in a dedicated gallery: socially-engaged curating.


What we have achieved at Radiant through our ReffUGE socially-engaged curating programme is important to us, and our work going forward includes a strand of continuing to explore, develop, and refine this work with a real and genuine interest in disseminating methodologies so that other artists, cultural organisations, and in particular galleries and museums can take advantage of the learning.


If you’re interested in training or learning with us, get in touch.


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