Create and Patron Sir Matthew Bourne OBE give 20 young carers a life-changing dance experience

2016 has started in an astonishing way for 20 young carers (and therefore me!).

For the second year running, we have collaborated with our recently knighted Patron Sir Matthew Bourne OBE to bring these young carers from across London together to create and perform a Curtain Raiser. They spent six extraordinary days working alongside professional dancers Michela Meazza and Luke Murphy from Matthew’s New Adventures. During this time, they transformed into a dance company, choreographing their own five minute piece entitled Dreams, which opened last night’s showing of Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty at Sadler’s Wells.

It was amazing to see these young people, many of whom had never danced before, working as a dance troupe, building trusting relationships with other young carers and soaring in confidence: I felt less shy and more able to take on the challenge by being the person I am.” All of them spend a significant amount of time caring for an unwell or disabled family member, with little time to consider their own personal ambitions. These caring responsibilities can last for more than 50 hours a week, longer than most full-time jobs.

One of the young carers, Shannan (15), told The Guardian that on a typical day when she was caring for her granddad she would feed him, sort his clothes, give him his insulin injection and take him to hospital for further treatment. She started caring for him when she was just nine years old. The amount of pressure and stress that carers face can affect their own mental and physical wellbeing; they often miss out on their education (“would you go to school if the person you loved most needed you at home?”); and they can struggle to build and maintain friendships. Being able to offer them an opportunity to express themselves, release tension and have time with likeminded peers is central to Create’s mission of improving the happiness and wellbeing of vulnerable people. As Shannan told me, “It has built my confidence, I have made new friends and I can now work in a team and share ideas.

By the end of the six day residency, these young carers were true professionals, beaming with pride, holding their heads high and delivering an imaginative, moving, polished performance to a packed house at Sadler’s Wells, arguably the leading dance venue in the country.

As Rebecca, who also took part in 2015, commented, “Some professional dancers spend most of their lives working their way up to the top to be able to perform on the Sadler’s Wells stage and I have performed there with Create twice – before the age of 16!

After the performance, our young dancers partnered with New Adventures dancers for a bucket collection, which raised an incredible £1,423. If you too would like to ensure that other young carers have access to opportunities like this, please support us.

I’m immensely proud of what these 20 exceptional young people were able to achieve within one week and hope that this experience will inspire them to continue pursuing their dreams.

Nicky Goulder, Chief Executive

Read The Guardian’s article about the project.

Watch BBC London’s coverage of the story in their afternoon broadcast and evening broadcast.