YOUNG carers and the lives they lead is the focus of a new installation at Abbot Hall Art Gallery.

Sheltered Spaces showcases the creativity of Kendal's young care-givers who have join forces with Lakeland Arts' gallery and architect duo Matt+Fiona.

The project shines a spotlight on the lives that young carers lead as well as giving them breathing space from the day-to-day challenges of caring.

The idea was to take over the Romney Room in the gallery - home to the collection of artwork from Kendal portrait painter George Romney - and transform it into a space they would find friendly and familiar.

Ian Read, head of participation and learning at Lakeland Arts, said that the Sheltered Spaces project gave young people the chance to go into the gallery and challenge Lakeland Arts' perceptions of how art should look and what spaces should feel like. "This is just the start of a whole host of projects which will seek to engage people, of all communities, in how we represent culture on their behalf."

Fiona MacDonald, architectural educator from Matt+Fiona - which enables young people to design and build their own spaces - said the value of the project was helping young carers see that galleries were for them and could help them in their day-to-day lives: "The aim was for them to see the gallery as a second home. They can drop in here even if it's for five to ten minutes to see a friendly face and see that it’s a welcoming place for them where they can bring their families.

"And what’s been fascinating is that they haven’t made it their own space, they’ve made it a more welcoming space for everyone. "So, the installation has seating and viewfinders to suggest how you might want to look at the work.”

The project asked five young carers aged 13 to 14 to think about what 'belonging' meant to them and what roles they play at home and in society.

Over the last couple of months, the group has been working together to design a small piece of architecture, which was then built in two and a half days.

The work is entitled Distorted Symmetry: Young Carers’ Views and it also aims to shake up visitors' ideas about how gallery space can be used.

Architect Matt Springett, from Matt+Fiona, said the project allowed young carers to experiment with materials, shape and space. He added: "When the students came into this space one of the things they told us was about the formality of the room - it was a very traditional, classical room.

“And what they were interested in was upsetting that, putting something in which broke some of those rules with art that brings chaos as well as purpose."

Young carer Ashleigh, who has been working with Matt+Fiona, admits the art work will be a real eye opener for visitors. She added: "A lot of these paintings have been here for hundreds of years and we got to bring our own thing into it.

"I think at first visitors will be a tiny bit confused. I would be if I walked in and saw this but I think people will be able to understand this is how others see things differently."

There are 376,000 young carers in the UK. A young carer is someone under 18 who spends time looking after a member of their family due to illness, disability, mental health condition, drug or alcohol problem.

Being a care-giver can be a full-time job for many young carers, with one in 12 caring for more than 15 hours a week. This can sometimes have a knock-on effect on their everyday life, including school.

One of the young carers said that it had been nice working with other people who had had the same experience. "They have someone else in their life that they need to care for and that takes up a lot of their time as well so it’s nice to share experiences."

Carer Support South Lakes, which provides support for unpaid carers of all ages throughout South Lakeland, has been working alongside the project.

Young carer support worker Holly said: "They’ve really accommodated us. We’ve done a lot of workshops and everyone has been so supportive, so lovely about we do.

“It’s been a really fabulous experience for our young carers.”

Sheltered Spaces is on display until the end of the year.