The aims behind the Me & Mine project were simple – to offer young carers of Wales an opportunity, an opportunity to focus on their creativity, self–development , and most importantly, a time to be young.
Arts Connection – Cyswllt Celf tells mailout about the creation of a community arts project which placed 40 young carers – and 20 experienced artists – on a meaningful journey of ‘bonding, sharing and achievement.’
As a community arts organisation, Arts Connection – Cyswllt Celf, have been involved in participatory arts since 1994. Our work has always been outreach and we work with a range of partners to deliver projects in all art forms.
A group we hadn’t engaged much with back in 2009 was Powys Young Carers. One of our Board Members who happens to also work for the Powys Carers Service suggested undertaking a collaborative project. During 2009 our outreach workers consulted with young people to create the Full of Care report and – while doing this – they asked these young carers what project they would like to be engaged with. It turns out that a community arts project was high on their list!
“they asked these young carers what project they would like to be engaged with. It turns out that a community arts project was high on their list!”
We decided not only to work with young carers but also to develop a project that would provide a meaningful journey for them.
Young Carers come from a wide variety of domestic circumstances, all of which feature complex roles and responsibilities, which are in addition to the general process of growing up. It also doesn’t help that we live in a very large and sparse county where access to services, opportunities and transport aren’t a young person’s best friend. Therefore the aims of the project were simple: offer young carers valuable respite time and enable them to access opportunities focused on creativity, self-development and time to be young.
“the aims of the project were simple: offer young carers valuable respite time and enable them to access opportunities focused on creativity, self-development and time to be young.”
The Me & Mine project was devised as a three year project and made possible with funding from the Lankelly Chase Foundation. The project was built as a menu for a feast. Year 1 began in 2010 as the ‘Hors d’oeuvres and Starters’, where we worked with many community artists to deliver taster sessions across the county which ranged from puppet making to rangoli!
Year 2 was devised as the ‘Main Course’ and we ran a four day arts camp with a range of community artists who camped out with the young carers. The camp involved 40 young carers and was supported by a 20 strong team of artists, enablers, volunteers and young carer staff.
The camp began with raw materials and ambition and concluded with a magnificent geodesic dome – a portable exhibition space in which to carry the realised ambitions of all involved. Year 3 was ‘Just Desserts’ and we took the dome on tour. Young carers visited a range of locations from schools o festivals across the UK sharing their work and helping to deliver arts workshops. Year 4 the ‘Speeches & Toasts’ was made possible with funding from the Arts Council of Wales and allowed everyone a chance to reflect and celebrate the achievements of the project.
Dux, one on board members and team leader for Young Carers, who worked on the project from the beginning, commented: “It was great to see so many younger ones coming along and having a go – they all tried new things and everyone left with a smile on their face and little bits and pieces of word, wool and colourful art. It is really important that Young Carers get a chance to have a bit of time to themselves.
The arts camp was a truly magical space for collaboration and creativity – 40 young carers enjoying the safety of genuine connection and allowed to thrive in a space of play and exploration – possibly the best experience I have ever shared!”
“The arts camp was a truly magical space for collaboration and creativity”
For many of the adults involved it was a moving and profound experience as well as one of bonding, sharing and achievement. Many of the artists found the project rather emotional and enjoyed the opportunity of connecting with participants on such a close level and seeing the young carers grow older and develop as the project progressed.
Many of the young carers had a brilliant experience over the three year project, and were not only able to take part in activities but also share them with their families and peers.
One of the young people involved in taking the dome on exhibition said: “The Me & Mine space at the All Wales Young Carers Festival was a great opportunity to make new friends, hang out together and create a memory we will never forget……Different people with different tastes, created a piece of art which is amazing, it’s called friendship!”
We discovered our main aim was achieved and brilliantly summed up by one carer who said: “We were like one big family, it was brilliant! Not just us but young carers from all over so we got to meet new people. We made things, we all took part, we slept in tents, we watched films on a big screen, we had a chill out area, the whole thing was great! I really want to go again. Please let me know if it happens again because I’ll definitely come. It’s the best holiday I’ve ever had by far.”
Responses from parents mostly went along the lines of Me & Mine is “Brilliant” and a parent enforced this with: “This had been one of the best experiences she has ever had!”
We’re glad we took the leap to deliver this ambitious project which has the lasting legacy of the art works created and a touring art space that has a life outside of the project and more importantly an experience and memory that will stay with the young carers, workers, families and artists that worked on the project. It has spurred us to do it all over again very soon!
The ‘Toasts and Speeches’ provided a suitable climax to an incredible three year project. All of the Young Carers who came seemed to relax and enjoy the time out of their caring role and immersed themselves in a peer to peer party of peerless arts…
Siận Walters – Project Officer Arts Connection – Cyswllt Celf
Dux – Powys Young Carers Team Leader