Young Carers Youth Theatre
We currently deliver a youth theatre for young carers aged 10 – 18 years, living in Bristol South, Central & East, and additional intensive holiday activities for young carers in other areas. Through lockdown this year, the service has moved online, using zoom to deliver weekly workshops. Twelve young carers produced their very own lockdown film in the summer term, an original story that was premiered to an audience of their families and friends at the end of term in July (see film below).
The youth theatre continued to meet weekly through the Autumn term, producing a second lockdown film that premiered in December. They are now working on their third film.
The most recent intensive project was during February 2021 half term. In collaboration with Bristol & South Glos Young Carers Support Centre, we welcomed nine young carers over Zoom, half of which are now interested in joining the weekly sessions. Described as “delightful” by project leader Ingrid Jones, alongside drama facilitator Deb Miles, the Play-In-Three-Days was a huge success, and was a welcome creative outlet for the children during a tough start to 2021. Back in 2020, the previous intensive project resulted in the young carers creating an original story, and filmed on the last day; from 28 – 30 July 2020, also delivered in partnership with the Carers Support Centre.
It’s something to look forward to whilst everything else is shut, to take my mind off school work and other stress – Youth theatre member commenting on 2020 lockdown zoom workshops.Young Carer, 2020
Participation and partnership
Over the last decade, acta has developed a service for approximately 60 young carers to produce their own theatre each year. In addition to the weekly youth theatre, we work with partners in and around Bristol to engage new young carers in fun holiday theatre projects. For example, young carers from North Somerset have created and produced plays in just three days at the actacentre in the October half term. Young people from Weston Super Mare and surrounding areas, all young carers, spend three exciting days devising and producing their own original shows, with family & friends coming along on the evening of the last day to watch the theatrical productions.
Similar projects take place in February and July with young carers from South Gloucestershire, North Bristol and Bath & NE Somerset.
acta young carers told us about their experiences of the weekly youth theatre group:-
How did you hear about acta?
Through a Bristol Black Carers referral / I was referred by my mum’s social worker to have activities to get away from the stress at home / Young and Caring group referral
What were your first impressions of the acta?
I was surprised, it was different to what I expected. I thought people would be unfriendly and for it to be less laid back but it wasn’t like that. / I was scared and nervous and a bit frightened as I didn’t know everyone / I thought it was really fun and people were nice and let me join in. I thought there would be some mean people but everyone was nice and polite and funny / I thought everyone was going to ask me about my caring and I would be bullied but I have made loads of friends and people were really lovely, especially Ingrid. I was glad it wasn’t about my caring but it was just about having fun.
Why do you come to acta?
I enjoy acting; doing something I enjoy and I can’t do drama at school or anywhere else. / It’s fun, you have more responsibility and it builds up confidence and you are more confident at school when doing drama / Because I’ve made really good friends and I can talk to people who know what I’m going through and are from similar situations at home. / I get a break and I have fun. If I was at home I wouldn’t be able to go out with my friends but because this is organised I am allowed. I get transport provided and I wouldn’t be able to get there otherwise. I am learning skills; learning about acting.
How has acta helped you?
…positive, because it’s something nice to do. / Helped me lots because I used to be nervous and now I’m not. It’s built up my confidence. / I had some trouble making new friends and this has helped me with that. l Iike the safe environment and find myself not shy at all. Improved drama skills has helped me at school with drama / It’s helped me a lot; Ingrid sets me targets and that helps me get over things like stage fright, which I don’t have any more. 1 to 1 contact with Ingrid, and she lets me text her even when she’s at work.
Has your involvement in acta helped others?
My family like the plays when they are on. / Friends and family are really proud of me and think I am more confident / It’s been positive and they are glad that I’ve made new friends and wanted me to get out of the house./ Mum loves me coming here as she gets a short break from me too and I have new friends and new experiences; good to be where I am not having a hard a time / They are happy that I come because they think I am good at acting. And my mum thinks that it’s good for me to get out and have a good time, and I do!
Has visiting acta enabled you to do things or develop skills you previously would not have had the chance to develop?
Yes, because in school it’s normally hard and I wouldn’t do the same stuff in school as I would here. / Wouldn’t have done this without acta / Sticking at something and seeing it through, rather than dropping out like I would do at school. I auditioned for the school play but was so worried that I missed a session and then got kicked out. / The chance to perform in a show to an audience, learnt loads of new games, which I have taught my friends, making up scenes and characters
What would your friends/relatives say has changed about you since you started coming to acta?
Not hiding, more confident, not scared of showing myself to others / My mum says that I am more confident as I have always had problems with my confidence since I was little./ Mum says I have more confidence and I feel like I can do anything here despite my Ceribal palsy.
How do you think you have changed since coming to acta?
More confident and proud. / More confident and comfortable talking to people. I realise people like me for who I am at school and people think I’m weird and at acta they accept me./ I feel more confident.
Our work with young carers has been amongst the most valuable work that we undertake in terms of the difference that it can make to people’s lives. In 2010, acta completed a Social Return on Investment (SROI) study of our service for older young carers;
“Less confident people are often more thoughtful of others, but you need to have the confidence to say what you need to say and do what you want to do, and to speak out in front of others. I would not have had the confidence to speak out in front of others without acta. It also allows you to be yourself; when you take on another role, another character, it is an escape route, as it is easier to play someone else than be yourself, but it helps you to understand yourself better.”
“acta helped me to look outside the box. When I started, just talking to people was a risk!.”
acta SROI Report (downloadable word doc)