This summer, Elo and I ran one of our Storeys projects with a brilliant group of Westminster young people. Over twelve sessions, we explored how the creative arts can be used to strengthen emotional wellbeing and resilience - all of which culminated in a very special exhibition at the Tate Britain.
It all started in an underground room in Soho’s Berwick Street. On our introductory session, new faces found out some unusual and interesting things about each other: there was a lot of love in the room for hardcore gym sessions, a lot of hate for early mornings, and very mixed feelings about Justin Bieber (the jury’s still out). Although all the participants on the project were referred by Westminster social services, the differing nationalities stretched much further afield - from India to Afghanistan to Sudan to Eritrea to Ireland. Levels of English varied, which could have seemed like a real difficulty for Elo and I due to our session content. In fact, it was actually an incredible opportunity for us to really interrogate our content and delivery, making sure our points were as clear as they could be. And of course, the arts have a language of their own, which was beautifully shown through the photos the group took of each other, showing such personality and thoughtfulness with no words at all.
In six weeks the group talked about and made a lot of things with some big opinions and learnings: the harmful effects of plastic on the environment was turned into an expertly wrought spoken word piece; the difficulties of conflicting emotions was explored in a handmade zine; positive possibilities for the future were tracked through quirkily crafted collages.
Three of the participants’ main collective goals for the coming months were initiated during the project: seeing more theatre, “eating tasty”, and getting involved in more projects. The first of these was addressed with the support of the incredible Soho Theatre. As the sessions were being run a handy three minutes walk from the theatre, we linked up with their education team, and the group was treated to a comedy workshop with the fantastic and hilarious Lee Griffiths and Jules Haworth, followed by tickets to the show of the moment, Roller Diner. For many of the young people, this was the first theatre they had experienced: the energy and passion from everyone at Soho Theatre made this first experience truly special. How valuable to have cultural institutions like the Soho encouraging new talent and new audiences.
Secondly, the group ticked off their food goal, thanks to generous sponsorship of sessions from Honest Burgers, Byron Hamburgers, and Chipotle. Such top class food fuelled a hive of productivity, and made it possible for us to focus our Storeys resource budget on professional art materials - all of which were gladly and creatively used up by the group.
Lastly, the Storeys group was introduced to further projects and organisations working with young people in the arts, culture, education and training sectors. At the end of the project, all the work produced was showcased at the Tate Britain in their Clore Studio. This was a hugely valuable experience for the group: offering them a platform for their creativity on an internationally recognised and celebrated stage. Laura and Rachel, the team behind the Young People’s Programmes at the Tate, told us that “the Tate belongs to young people” - and their support for this Storeys project showed that conviction in spades. Helping us hang our exhibition was Ernest, a member of the Tate Collective - a group of young creatives running free events and festivals for young people at both the Tate Britain and Tate Modern. The Storeys group were able to pick Ernest’s brain, and a couple of Storeys participants are keen to join the Collective themselves. Also at the exhibition were Drive Forward Foundation and the Peer Outreach Team from the Greater London Authority. Storeys participants chatted with both teams about upcoming projects - and there was even discussion of re-mounting the exhibition in another exciting location for National Care Leavers Week 2017 - watch this space …
For more information on our projects, our partnerships, or working with Westminster, get in touch!