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The Museum of Youth Culture present Grown Up in Britain

A group of young men and women of different ethnicities posing at what appears to be a rave, with bright red and yellow light pouring down and people dancing behind them.

Image credit: Tristan O'Neill / Museum of Youth Culture

Grown Up in Britain: 100 Years of Teenage Kicks opens at the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum this July.

Curated by the London-based Museum of Youth Culture, this major new exhibition is a celebration of teenage life from the roaring 1920s to the youth of today. Going beyond the headlines, the exhibition chronicles the lived experiences and impact of young people, their scenes, sounds and styles, through photographs, objects and personal stories - depicting teenage life in the UK over the last century.

Inside the exhibition, visitors will be transported back to their teenage years through sections portraying home life and teenage bedrooms, first jobs and nights out, hang-out spots and ‘must-have’ items. 

Iconic photographs line the walls and set the scene – some by well-known artists such as Ken Russell, Normski, Anita Corbin, Gavin Watson and Lucy McCarthy, as well as nostalgic images submitted from family albums across the country.

Objects on display include a Royal Enfield Constellation motorcycle as pictured on the cover of the Daily Mirror Shock Issue in 1961, a 1920s flapper dress, Chopper bicycle, ZX Spectrum console, band t-shirts, fanzines and much more.

The exhibition culminates with a scanning booth where people can submit their own photographs and ephemera to be included in the exhibition.

A photo of a Black Lives Matter protest. At the front of the group, a young woman in a bikini top and hooped earrings is raising her fist in the air. Beside her, a young man in a green spotted gaiter has a green and white flag draped around his neck. Behind them, a group of mostly masked people are gathered, holding up signs with the names of people murdered. Just in view to the right of the frame is part of a megaphone.

Grown Up in Britain is the Museum of Youth Culture’s first major exhibition outside London, giving West Midlanders a taste of what to expect when they open their new permanent home in Digbeth, Birmingham in 2025. Ahead of the exhibition opening, several ‘show & tell’ events took place locally to ensure the memories, objects and photographs of Coventrians were captured and reflected in the final exhibition.

This free exhibition is the first to open at the Herbert following a blockbuster programme during Coventry's year as UK City of Culture, which included highlights such as the Turner Prize 20212 Tone: Lives & Legacies and Daniel Lismore: Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Already Taken.

Ruark Jon-Stevens, Marketing and Communications Manager at the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, said, “Coventry is one of the youngest cities in the UK and we are excited to see how visitors react to this celebratory show documenting teenage life. Every person’s experience will have been so different, but we hope the exhibition connects with each visitor and transports them to a happy moment in their teenage years – even if they are still living through them now.

“We encourage as many people as possible to continue to submit their photographs and memories to the Museum of Youth Culture so they can be preserved and enjoyed in the future. Submissions can be made online at

A group of young people in dark clothes and jewellery pulling funny faces and making hand gestures towards the camera. To the left of the frame, a young woman with white foundation, heavy eyeliner, bright blue braids and lip and tongue piercings is holding a copy of The Satanic Bible. Other members of the group are wearing, variously, black lipstick, a fishnet glove and a patterned metal finger covering.

Lisa der Weduwe, Archive Projects Manager at Museum of Youth Culture added, “During lockdown we invited the public to delve through shoeboxes, lofts and picture albums to radically diversify our collections and bring everyone’s story of growing up into the fray. By innovating a digital submissions portal we received an incredible 6000 photographs, objects and stories forming the Grown Up in Britain collection, and this exhibition is both a celebration and a thank you to all who have sent in their stories. 

"We discovered that throughout the eras in every town in the UK, youth was expressed in subtly different ways... so a punk in Plymouth looks different to one in Perth. This show will reflect how Coventry interprets its youth culture. We are all excited to see the outcome and with added ephemera from heroes and celebrities from the city, this is sure to be an unmissable exhibition. The opportunity to work with a leading organisation such as the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum reinforces the importance of documenting our social history through its youth culture”. 

Grown Up in Britain: 100 Years of Teenage Kicks is made possible with generous support from The National Lottery Heritage Fund as part of the Museum of Youth Culture's lead project 'Amplified Voices: Turning up the Volume on Regional Youth Culture'. Thanks to National Lottery players, Museum of Youth Culture have been able to collect and showcase the incredible, diverse story of youth culture across the breadth of Britain.

A biker group in leathers, sitting on their motorcycles outside a building. Front left, a young Black man gazes directly into the camera. Behind and to the right of him, two white men have goggles strapped to their helmets. We can just see enough of the logo to read that one of them is riding a Triumph.