The hidden lives of young carers from across Salford will be the focus of a new play at The Lowry premiered on Tuesday, 22 November at 7pm
In 2011 we picked up the phone to Salford Young Carers Service for the first time, asking if they’d be interested in working together and invite young people to visit our building. I know that the arts are special and unique in the way that they can allow young people to explore how they feel about the world, but this was the start of a journey that has given more learning and joy in my work, I could ever have expected.
Six months later, The Lowry ran its first ever Christmas Appeal to raise funds to work with Salford Young Carers Service; to develop a new project that would use The Lowry’s creative expertise to give young these young people a platform to express their thoughts, feelings and ideas about their caring responsibilities and to share their thoughts with the wider world.
In that first year we made a film, which the young people wrote, directed and performed alongside a professional director, writer and film maker; starring alongside Maxine Peake. The young people presented at a red carpet launch and then also showed it to the House of Lords in London. That film has now been seen by over 4000 people and is currently being used in Salford High Schools well as in other local authority areas within the UK such as Cambridgeshire and Berkshire and even further afield in Ireland & Australia as a tool to start conversations, identify young carers and to raise awareness. It was then that I knew we were onto something really special.
The Lowry has worked with Salford Young Carers ever since to continue to build on this relationship and this year, we wanted to give them an even bigger platform to make their voices heard. So we embarked on a more ambitious and significantly larger scale project.
Earlier this year we commissioned a new production, in partnership with Salford Young Carers Service, which is the culmination of more than a year’s research and interviews with young people by verbatim theatre specialists, LUNG; Associate Artists at The Lowry.
Who Cares? highlights the reality facing some young people who – often under the radar of social services, their schoolteachers and friends – provide care to family members with a physical disability, an illness, a mental health issue or a drug or alcohol dependency.
As around 70% of young carers are ‘hidden’ we wanted to give some of those in Salford a platform to express their thoughts, feelings and ideas about their caring responsibilities.
We hope Who Cares? will help raise awareness of the whole issue of young carers, make it easier for people to identify young carers in their community and ensure those providing care get access to the support they need.
Alongside this new work, we have also been working closely with a group of young carers from Salford and a group of young people from Trafford who have devised their own performance about the challenges young carers face in building relationships with peers. This performance of ‘Behind Closed Doors’ will be shown on the Quays Stage at The Lowry as a curtain raiser to Who Cares?
Complementing these performances is also an exhibition called Hidden by Max Alexander (15 – 24 November). Led by the Children’s Society, this exhibition is part of The Big Lottery funded Young Carers in Focus programme and features the portraits of 22 young carers from across the country.
I am so proud of how brave, tenacious and strong these young people are to share their stories with us so that we can hopefully help support other young people who are currently hidden, without support.
Written by Lynsey O’Sullivan, Engagement Manager at The Lowry
Tuesday 22 November 2016, 7pm
The Lowry, Pier 8, Salford Quays, M50 3AZ
Who Cares? was funded by The Lowry’s 2015 Christmas Appeal and BBC Children in Need.