I am pleased to share a recent project and collaboration with artist Jamila Walker, as part of the Elixir Arts collective. Journeys is a poetry pamphlet produced with young people at The Switch Project in Wolverhampton, and the result of an eight-week creative writing and photography project. 

The Switch Project is a purpose-driven social enterprise committed to supporting vulnerable children and young people in schools throughout the Midlands. To achieve this vision the Switch team believe that early intervention is vital and offers several options to schools. Young people who may have been excluded from school, or cannot attend for another reason, attend a day centre where they have access to group activities, a relaxed learning environment, therapy and support. The programmes at Switch help young people understand how situations and issues arise and then develop the skills to approach concerns in a more reflective way, allowing them to be more effective in solving their own problems and feeling more in control.

“All learning is emotion based and where emotional development is appropriately supported, high quality learning can take place.”

Colley, D. Cooper, P. (2017)

Young people at the project are supported to express themselves creatively, taking part in a wide range of arts and media activities. The team wanted to create a poetry book, which said something about young people’s experiences, particularly written by those who may find it hard to express positive or interesting aspects of their lives. Those who believe nobody wants to hear their stories. Those who don’t think that they have a story worth listening to.  

During our eight weeks at Switch, Jamila and I facilitated various creative writing and photography workshops. We wanted to involve image making in the book, as writing by itself can be hard to engage with. Word and image combined communicates so much more. The project was tailored to give young people the opportunity to challenge and showcase how they would like to world to view them, as well as their home city of Wolverhampton, through photography and spoken word. At the end of each session, in a supportive space, we shared work produced and made editorial decisions, in order to strengthen the visual and/or word based messages.

Each session had a loose theme that was open to personal interpretation. Often participants were encouraged and supported, to take the themes as a starting and create and develop self-determined works. Our young people often directed staff and each other, to hold objects, lighting, and reflectors so they could see their visual ideas come to life. We went on walks and observed the local urban and natural environment. We laughed a lot. Confidence and trust within the group grew each, week and most became happier to share their words and art.

Journeys takes the reader on several journeys though young peoples’ lives. Exploring their surroundings and identities through writing and photography, students at The Switch Project navigate their inner and outer worlds. Creative art forms are particularly important for young peoples’ wellbeing, helping them explore what matters to them and others understand their realities. Director Tim Wakefield was delighted with the finished book and said these lovely things about our work:

“The Switch Project commissioned Elixir Arts to work alongside our young people to produce a series of images and written pieces that explored identity. The Switch Project supports young people whose social and emotional needs are causing concern and preventing them from achieving their full potential. Through our help, young people are empowered to develop the skills that enable them to approach challenges in a more reflective way, allowing them to be more effective in solving their own problems, whilst also feeling more in control of their lives. An important part of this process is to give those young people a voice, an opportunity to share their concerns and worries about themselves, their home life and their education. We are thrilled with this piece of work – the young people have shared some extremely honest and creative pieces that express how they feel about the world in which they live. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did producing it, thank you to everyone involved.”

Tim Wakefield, Director of the Switch Project

This project is our favourite so far of 2019, and we would love to hear from anyone who is interested in working with us.

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