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Young people at a dedicated mental health centre take part in theatre project

Becton artfelt art work
17 November 2021

Young people who are currently the Becton Centre for children and young people with mental health issues have had the opportunity to take part in a creative arts project thanks to a collaboration between Sheffield arts companies and funding from South Yorkshire Community Foundation.

The Becton Centre for Children and Young People is a state-of-the-art centre for children and young adults, across the UK, with serious and complex mental health issues. The Centre, part of Sheffield Children’s, offers inpatient services as well as community child and adolescent mental health service (CAMHS).

Sheffield Children’s is supported by dedicated charity The Children’s Hospital Charity, which helps the Trust go the extra mile in supporting patients and their families. The Charity has a dedicated arts programme, Artfelt, which not only helps enhance patient and staff spaces with art and design but also provides creative workshops for patients, providing opportunity for artistic outlet whilst visiting or staying at the Trust.

In 2020, Artfelt began a collaboration with internationally acclaimed theatre company Third Angel. The Sheffield based company have been making performance work for over 25 years, encompassing theatre, live art, installation, film, design and more. Their work often draws on themes of escapism – exploring imagination, dreams and ambitions. This inspired a conversation between the two organisations about finding imaginative ways to engage with young people within the hospital spaces.

Building on Third Angel’s recent projects with a Pupil Referral Unit and Young Women’s housing charity they are developing the ‘Anywhere Theatre’ initiative. A strand of work which is about bringing creative experiences to diverse or unexpected locations and audiences. With thanks to funding from South Yorkshire Community Foundation’s Young People’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund in memory of Molly Hurst, they were able to trial this exciting project with patients aged 13 to 18 in the Sapphire Lodge at the Becton Centre.

Over the course of three months, young people took part in a variety of creative sessions exploring how they could transform or transcend their environment.They created treasure hunts, outdoor chalk artworks, interactive surveys and even a physical version of spot the difference. One of the activities saw participants put together a large-scale dream map in Becton’s outdoor space. Everyone was asked ‘if they could go anywhere or do anything, what would that be?’. Individually, everyone drew their wishes and then linked them together to form a collective visual journey which ran the length of the courtyard.

Charlotte Newton, Artfelt Engagement Coordinator, said: “The workshops are essentially about the power of escaping into our imaginations and feeling freedom and autonomy through this exploration. The young people and staff really enjoyed both the discussion about their dreams and then physically drawing them, using paints and printmaking techniques.”

The visual journey put together created this narrative: “We started by going to pride festival in Leeds, then moved onto the Hollywood, one of us finally learnt how to ride a bike and rode it up Mount Fuji, we then went to Thailand to learn how to dive and California to skate where the sidewalks are smooth! We then jetted off to a Paradise Island and fished while watching exclusively Rotherham United on telly. We finally flew through a fantasy otherworld and followed some footsteps which lead to green meadows where we wild camped under the stars.”

Lizzy Watkiss, Occupational Therapist at Becton, said: “It was a really nice activity as the young people had the option of being part of a group conversation or working individually exploring their own dreams. It allowed everyone to work in a way which felt most comfortable for them. It gave us plenty to talk about and discuss the places we all want to see and visit, understanding more about each other and look forward to the future.”

Workshops like this, curated by Artfelt, are designed to complement the work done by mental health professionals at the Centre, and provide the opportunity to explore a creative outlet for young people currently accessing support. Previously, Artfelt have organised music workshops including drumming and electronic music, which has seen patients build an interest in music while they stay at the centre.

To find out more about Artfelt and its award winning arts programme at Sheffield Children’s, visit www.artfelt.org.uk

To find out more about Third Angel, visit www.thirdangel.co.uk

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