Toonspeak were delighted to receive support from the Listening Fund for Professional Listeners, a Youth led Consultation event and a Youth led Media Team.
We employed two “professional listeners” throughout the three week rehearsal and production period of our summer show Time Oot in July 2019. Young people from across Glasgow had been working since January in four separate groups (three groups of actors and a writers group) in order to develop their show – a musical set in the 80s. We engaged two trusted freelance artists who already had good relationships with many of the cast but who were otherwise uninvolved in the production. Their role was purely pastoral – being a dedicated source of support to those who needed it.
The material in the show reflected the lives of many of our participants, with themes including young carers, bereavement and parental separation. This subject matter, combined with the intensity of work and working in a hot building, seemed to bring a lot of things to the surface for our participants, and through having the listeners there to support we learned a great deal about the daily challenges faced by these remarkable young people. We believe that for some of the most vulnerable participants our listeners helped generate the resilience to ensure that they saw the production through and took their place in the spotlight.
Here are some comments from young people when asked whether they had used the services of the listeners, and if they had any thoughts about them
- “I think it was great to have an adult there to help with personal problems because you can’t always say everything to your friends that you want to say”
- “It was really useful to have them just so someone could listen to us on how we felt during the process”
- “They were helpful and helped calming me”
- “I spoke to them a couple of times during rehearsals because of sensory issues, the rehearsal process being overwhelming, and once because of an asthma attack. I thought it was good that they were always there to help, listen and sometimes make adjustments to help those who need it.”
- “I think it was really good to have them there. If anyone had any issues about anything, it didn’t have to be anything to do with the show, we knew who to go to and we all knew we could trust them. It was very helpful to have that extra bit of help while making the show.”
The show Time Oot was a resounding success.
- Highlights and audience and cast feedback (5 mins) can be viewed at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Huy05GVkoxY
- The full show (1 hour 17 mins) can be seen at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U9jvOMOb1PE
We also recruited a team of five young people who were each paid a living wage of £9 per hour to plan, deliver and evaluate an event designed to gather feedback, ideas and opinions from their peers. Each member of the group did 32 hours of work in the planning, delivery and evaluation of a Halloween themed event. They worked with several members of the Toonspeak staff team, including the Chief Executive, in order to ensure that the consultation would have as much relevance as possible to the organisation’s and our participant needs. 82 participants attended. As these young people are already on the payroll we have already identified opportunities to offer them additional work on another project as young assistants working with 7 – 12 year olds during our upcoming October holiday club.
A youth led media team is still a bit of a work in progress, but we’re excited about bringing this fully to fruition in year two, with young people helping to bring Toonspeak’s stories and impacts to life!
By the half way point of the project this work had already had a notable influence on the way we operate. We can’t imagine putting on another show without Professional Listeners. They have proved to be absolutely crucial and we will fight tooth and nail to sustain these positions into 2021 and beyond, even if it means having less to spend on lights and costumes. In the hierarchy of needs, mental well-being and positive relationships take precedence. The fund has also acted as a catalyst for Toonspeak to deliver on our intention to more often provide employment for young people. As well as delivering our youth led consultation, several of the same young people also ended up being employed as workshop assistants on our local holiday club programme. We are delighted to have given such meaningful opportunities for young people to earn their own money and gain positive work experience. And Toonspeak has benefitting enormously from having their support, energy and enthusiasm – Win, Win!
Head of Finance & Operations