AN ambitious plan to empower the next generation to participate in Southampton's creative economy has been launched.

The OUR TIME project is the initiative of the City of Culture 2025 bid.

The aim is to unlock talent among 18-25 year olds by providing grants and mentoring opportunities towards sustainable careers in the creative industries.

Ten young people from Southampton have been selected for the initial pilot programme.

Each will receive an initial £500 cash grant and access to professional support. They are: Katie Baker, 23, theme park sculptor, Dominic Green, 20, writer and performer, Ellie Kinsley, 22, ceramicist, Maria Lavranciuc, 21, handbag maker and knitter, Max Lystor, 19, artist, Somee Malik, 22, dancer and teacher, Georgia Penny, 25, photographer, Klemensas Remeika, 19, songwriter, Dylan Scott-Bennett, 19, graphic designer and Goncalo Valle, 21, filmmaker

Ellie said: “To be recognised like this for my work makes me feel so inspired to continue working hard and investing in myself. I plan to purchase a new studio quality potter's wheel, allowing me to improve my work and skill set tenfold.”

Somee added: “Getting this chance has been an absolute blessing, having others believe in my dreams as well as myself is the best feeling, and I will use every penny to further my ideas and start making my dreams a reality."

And Klemensas said “It felt lovely to be chosen and acknowledged for my work, as it really paves the way for me to do more of what I love.”

Max added: “I want to improve the tools I currently use - new oil paint and recording equipment would drastically boost the technical quality of my work. Additionally, I’m excited about being able to diversify the range of my work, I plan to experiment with print and sculpture."

The launch of the initiative was supported by local rapper, artist and influencer Tyrone.

OUR TIME complements a city-wide programme of opportunities for young people in the cultural sector delivered through the Southampton Cultural Education Partnership and supported by Southampton’s leading cultural organisations.

Claire Whitaker OBE, Southampton 2025 UK City of Culture Bid Director, said today: “Our young people deserve every opportunity to make the very best of their lives. It’s urgent that we recognise their special challenges at this very tough time. As we put forward our bid, the whole city is coming together around our belief that Southampton’s young people represent hope for all our futures. This is just the beginning.”

OUR TIME is supported by Arts Council England and designed to complement the work of a host of Southampton-based organisations committed to improving the opportunities for and skills of young people currently taking place across the city, such as City Eye’s Under-16 Development programme, The Agency Project, Mayflower Engage, Artswork, ZoieLogic and the work of the Southampton Cultural Education Partnership.

The initiative also supports the city’s ambition to become a UNICEF child-friendly city.

If you would like to follow the bid and the OUR TIME project you can keep in touch through the Bid’s social media Facebook, Instagram and Twitter