Teenagers tired of being talked at or talked down to got the chance to ‘Talkback’ in a recent project delivered through the children’s charity Barnardos.
12 young people spent a residential drama week during the summer telling it ‘as it is’ for them. The aim of the project was to help the most vulnerable children and young people transform their lives and fulfill their potential. The week gave the young people the opportunity to connect with each other in a fun and exciting manner, and culminated in a piece of work that was performed to a wider audience. The course was led by staff and students at Swansea Metropolitan University (SMU) with the purpose of exploring issues and events that affect the young people’s lives.
The leader of the project Dr Richard Knapp is the head of Humanities and Performance and Literature at Swansea Metropolitan University. He said:
‘Barnardos help young people address issues such as self esteem, confidence building, anger management and social skills amongst others. This project will help young people address issues pertinent to them through the medium of drama which has been proven to help young people express and communicate their feelings and aid their understanding of life in their own way.’
‘For socially and economically disadvantaged young people who have not received a traditional education, this opportunity to create and perform can provide a route for gaining invaluable experience, life skills and social skills that would not otherwise be readily available.’
Many of the young people who work with Barnardos are not in employment, education and training and find it very difficult to get their foot on the first rung of any ladder because of their socially disadvantaged backgrounds and their emotional and behavioural difficulties. This project, therefore was very important to them as it offered training, education and social opportunities. It gave them the opportunity to develop their feelings of self worth through language, music, dance and movement, and encouraged them to think about their future in more positive terms.
The young people were interviewed before the workshops and were asked ‘what would you like to be doing in ten years time?’ these responses formed the basis of the workshop activity – encouraging the young people to identify ways in which they could achieve their future aspirations and visualising the steps they need to start taking in their current situations in order to realise their goals. Theatrical techniques were successfully used to empower young people to encourage solution focussed thinking.
The project not only served to help the disadvantaged young adults that were involved, but also allowed academics and students to gain new skills from undertaking activities with these groups, and from observing development workers and volunteers as they tried to draw the best from the young people involved.
This project has also led to further collaborations between Barnardo’s and the team at Swansea Metropolitan. They worked together in December 2010, undertaking a collaborative drama project between the young people, their parents and carers, and volunteers and staff. They are currently working together to prepare the young people at Barnardo’s to take part in a community performance of ‘the Passion’ which will be led by the Hollywood star Michael Sheen and The National Theatre Wales in April 2011. Michael Sheen grew up in Port Talbot and he is returning there to direct and star in the play, which will be performed on the streets, beaches and hills of Port Talbot at Easter.The young people from Barnardos will join more than 1,000 other local volunteer cast members performing in the production.
Feature Article in April's edition of the Wales Culture Exchange Newsletter here
Lead: Dr Richard Knapp, School of Humanities, Swansea Metropolitan University