My Own Family Portrait

I collaborated with a group of care experienced young people to produce this music video for a song they had written and produced. The collaboration was facilitated by the charity GMYN.

During this project I found out that care experienced young people are some of the most vulnerable people in our society, that they don’t get enough support from the state, that the places where their support is coordinated or takes place are often community centres.

How does it feel to be resourced, rather than parented, loved, cared for, in a space that is designed to fulfill a number of other primary functions in the community?

It made me think about the Sure Start centres, how the Labour government created them specifically to engage disadvantaged families. The centres themselves where designed for 0-5 year old children and their families.

The Sure Start centres in my community are bright open plan spaces, with a large outdoor space and sometimes a specific space for non-walking babies, stocked with play structures, books, educational toys, comfy chairs for the adults, sensory and heuristic play activities. I imagine that getting support in a Sure Start centre does not feel like punishment.

Care experienced young people do not have compassionately designed spaces to go to. Perhaps this communicates its own messages:  because you are not worth it, because you have no potential, because you are going to end up a scrounger or in prison.

Lemn Sissay quoted David Cameron’s 2015 Tory Party Conference speech in his Radio 4 Programme: Lemn Sissay’s Origin Stories:

“These children are in our care; we, the state, are their parents”

Lemn Sissay said:

“Shouldn’t the parenting of these children be the most important thing that the state does?”

What can we do about it?

Fortunately, (but unfortunately because it SHOULD BE the state’s most important job), there are amazing charities like GMYN where intensely hardworking and well-meaning staff try their best to care, and to nurture growth.

GMYN create projects that demonstrate to the young people that take part in them that each of them has strengths, often unrealised and unrecognised, that they can use to grow.

Katie Charlton from GMYN says:

‘With such complex and traumatic lives, it is vital to give care experienced young people the support to thrive in their own unique way. Creativity gives young people a platform to get their voice heard and this can have such an incredible and positive impact on their lives.’

GMYN are always looking to support and expand their programme of activities as there just isn’t enough out there for care experienced young people. You can donate money to GMYN here.

You can also buy all your crimbo pressies on easyfundraising https://www.easyfundraising.org.uk/causes/gmyn/ at no extra cost – but GMYN benefits.

You can sponsor Katie’s fundraising efforts: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Katie-Charlton6

Building on strength

I hope that the young people I worked with felt inspired, that they could see that creativity can be a balm; a way to access positive emotion via a state of emersion and engagement.

Mostly I wanted them to experience pride in themselves and hope for their future selves.

In terms of my own strengths, this project forced me to adapt my expectations much more than I usually would – it is the only project I have worked on where you show up and nobody wants to film anything that is on the storyboard – so I developed my ability to have a fluid plan and to embrace fully the playfulness and creative potential of not being in control of the outcome.