As our next residencies kick off, we’ve had a chance to look back at our Father Figurine residency at Omnibus Theatre in January. And the first stop of our tour has been a great success!

We worked with two diverse groups of young people. The first, an all-girl group of Year 8s from Grey Coat St Hospital. Emma-Jane and I had the pleasure of working with these talented girls at their school to create a piece they were all proud of.

“It was a very fun and exciting experience,” said Polly Dean. “And I would love to do another one similar to it!” Mirroring these thoughts were Poppy Hathway really loved being on stage, and her friend [who wished to remain anonymous]. “It was exhilarating, nerve-wracking, thrilling,” she said. “I’ve really enjoyed myself!”

The second group was a collective of six young adults from across London. These workshops took place in Omnibus Theatre and allowed these creative movers to settle into the space they would soon perform inside.

Statistics show that there’s a sharp rise in the number of young people seeking help because of anxiety as they struggle to cope with the demands of modern life. According to Childline, the number of counselling sessions it has delivered to young people with anxiety has almost doubled in two years, with nine out of 10 calls from girls. And the issues tied with this anxiety range from bullying, stress of exams, and relationship issues to self-image, self-expression and confidence.

And confidence was something we were sensitive about for the residency process. These young people were challenged to learn repertoire, create their own movements, write poetry, and perform it all on stage over a period of 3 days. Yet there was no pressure. Naturally, there was a freedom and openness to the process that they all felt and valued. Because of this, they all succeeded and grew in confidence!

Of the two groups, when asked how confident they were of their dancing skills on a scale of one to 10, 30% selected 5 or below and 54% marked 6 or below. However, it showed more of a balance when quizzed on the confidence they had in their creative writing skills and performing poetry. 46% chose 5 or below and 46% chose 7 and above (the remainder choosing a 6).

And after the residency process, the numbers were unbelievable! 92% marked a 7 or above on being confident with their dance moves, and 92% also selected 7 or above!

Isaac Ouro-Gnao (far left) with the young adults of the second residency group

“I enjoyed being able to tell a story through movement and dialogue,” Joelle Motondo of the Mosaic Clubhouse group said. “I would have liked to explore mental health in men a little bit more but the workshops taught us that it’s okay to talk about how you feel. I would love to work with Body Politic again!”

Therefore, it was so important for us to use spoken word poetry and hip hop dance as a medium of self-expression to allow both these groups to feel okay with talking about mental health. To talk about themselves, and ultimately, to be be okay with being vulnerable in exploring these themes.

Consequently, Callum Edwards-Manning, one of the young adults, beautifully expressed his own vulnerability through poetry. He showcased what talent can be harnessed when young people, in Callum’s words, are given the “safe space to speak about mental health without worry or being conscious about it.”

Growing up broken and lost no direction a pup influenced by wolves 
these wolves raised me, 
they showed me the ropes, 
the same ropes I used to hang round my neck, 
away from peace away from grace, 
I was bound by chains, 
viper poison in my veins, 
I knew I needed a saviour never knew his name
now I rejoice my scars have become a reference point of praise, 
Every hard time a reminder me I am more than an overcomer, 
I am thankful for the cross and prayer,
Jesus gave me a new life free,
from all the pain of my past 
Now I look at life from a overflowing glass, 
I have a purpose and future I made it through 
I hear a voice from the clouds say 
“Hold strong and look up 
I am watching you”- God 

Father figurine continues its tour at The Mill Arts Centre, Banbury (Friday 8 March); Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough (Friday 15 March); and Stratford Circus Arts Centre, London (Tuesday 19 & Wednesday 20 March)

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