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Participation & Empowerment Through The Arts
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The Client
Wakefield Children’s Fund A consortium of interest groups, comprising statutory and voluntary organisations, from the children and young people’s sector from across the district.

The Challenge
In December 2005 HQ Arts, were contacted by Wakefield Children’s Fund and asked to work with them on the My Life Project.

The My Life Project aims to enable children and young people to make a positive contribution by working alongside adults and professionals, to influence the services they receive and to improve the environment and communities in which they live.

The challenge was to consult with a range of young people, before creating a multi-agency group who would perform at and take part in, a day long seminar with key decision makers.

Method
HQ Arts worked with the Children’s Fund in Wakefield to plan and deliver a launch event at which children and young people from across the district would come together with officers and elected officials to negotiate the Council’s priorities for the coming year.

It would also be an opportunity for the young people of Wakefield to tell Al Ainsley-Green, Children’s Commissioner for England and a guest at the event, what was important to them.

What transpired was a process of creative consultation workshops with young parents, looked after young people, care-leavers, young carers, young people at risk of offending and other hard to reach groups; the creation of a new piece of theatre which reflected their views and a carefully planned participative event.

Lyle Millard, the Manager of Wakefield Children’s Fund, takes up the story:
“This was the first time I had worked with the performing arts as a medium for young people to express ideas and concerns; it proved to be a positive and exciting experience for me and the young people involved. When we met on the first morning of rehearsal I had no idea how the project would develop. A group of 13 young people, most of whom did not know each other, met together with HQ Arts and myself.
















At this stage I questioned whether it would be possible, in three days, to form a cohesive group able to perform to the standard I had anticipated. But my concerns were unfounded. Over the next three days I watched as Stuart and Karen worked with the young people, first to draw out the messages they wanted to communicate to the audience of professionals at the final event, and then to develop and rehearse the production.

I witnessed at first hand how the group came together, how the individuals negotiated new relationships, how they responded to pressure and ultimately how they grew in confidence and self esteem – all in the course of three short days.

The final production offered all of the young people an equal opportunity to contribute, and was firmly rooted in the issues they wanted to present. However it was also an excellent piece of theatre; it was genuinely powerful and affecting, not just for the audience but also for the young performers who had overcome their fears and had achieved what they, like I, had thought impossible.”

Nine months on, the “My Life” group continues to meet for rehearsals and performances as required. “My Life” was recently performed as part of Wakefield MDC’s Beacon Status
Celebration and to the regional gathering of Yorkshire
and the Humber’s Young People’s
Parliaments.
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