The George Oliver Foundation funded a new “Speak Out” youth project with The Blue Elephant Theatre in Camberwell, London
The project was created in collaboration with a group of young people and looked at issues young people are commonly facing in relation to mental health. The "forum theatre" piece (performed by the young people who created it) then toured to 14 local schools. Much of the feedback that was received was about how much children, teachers and youth workers felt this was an under-represented and under-discussed area for the majority of young people and how essential it was to get it higher on the agenda.
As a result of the success and impact of this project Blue Elephant Theatre were able to secure further funding from Comic Relief to allow a new tour to take place reaching even more schools and young people.
Forum theatre is an interactive performance method that engages an audience to find a positive resolution to a play. The audience is supported by a facilitator who encourages them to intervene in chosen scenes of the play to influence a character’s choices and guide them in a new direction. There are no right or wrong answers, just the chance for the audience to work constructively to find a positive resolve. It is an exciting and effective way to work with groups of young people to explore behaviour and empower them to make change.
BET “Speak Out” projects have been touring to schools since 2008 and teachers are consistently impressed by the difference they witness in their students during and after these workshops.
These projects encourage young people by opening up debate and discussion about alternative possibilities, facilitating young people to positively guide themselves and others. Many young people growing up in this area face daily tensions in their schools and centres, low family aspirations, and low self-esteem. It is easy for these young people to be labeled negatively before they have even started their transition into adulthood. Often there is little or no support they feel they can access.“Speak Out” offers them a chance to develop tools that will support and help them to grow up thinking and feeling positively which in turn impacts on the whole community.
The Blue Elephant Theatre in Camberwell was established in 1999 and is on the frontline of services to people of all ages in one of London’s most deprived boroughs. BET provide a wide range of projects and opportunities for children and young people. They work in local primary schools, provide youth theatre opportunities to the most marginalised young people and run their acclaimed “Speak Out” forum theatre projects.
The focus of work at BET is to tackle all forms of social exclusion as well as motivating young people, addressing the key social problems they are facing and changing the group dynamics that are rooted in aggression and division. BET work in partnership with other local agencies to ensure that each young person is given guidance that is specific to their needs while also experiencing the social inclusion of a safe and supportive group.