In collaboration with Carers Support Merton (CSM), Create delivered a series of workshops as part of its inspired:arts programme for young carers in 2012/13.
The project reached 32 young carers aged 11-16 at CSM, who worked with Create’s professional artists to produce original dance, drama, songs, sculpture and photographs. The workshops were inclusive, self-contained and designed to allow the participants to arrive and leave as they needed to, so that each young carer could balance their “time out” at the project with their caring responsibilities.
Kojo, one of the carers who attends CSM, lives with his mum in a quiet suburban area. She is from Ghana and speaks little English. She has epilepsy and is partially blind and, with the language/communication difficulties, is unable to work. The family survives on a very low budget and Kojo is his mother’s primary carer. He has Asperger’s syndrome himself, which can impact on his understanding of the subtleties of communication and language.
As a result, he has led a sheltered life. He struggled to make friends in his area and at school, so at weekends he would stay at home doing things for mum, such as accompanying her to an all-night church service despite not really wanting to go. He does most of the shopping and helps her interpret letters and bills. Kojo’s mum is quite independent but if she has a seizure, Kojo knows what to do – CSM has done first aid courses with him. Here, he talks about his experience of inspired:arts.
“I took part in the drama, sculpting, photography and song-writing workshops. I hadn’t really done song-writing or sculpture before. My favourite was probably the drama – we were doing improvisation, making things up on the spot. It was pretty funny sometimes. We did different games using improvisation. There was one that we played called ‘Death in a Minute’. We got random scenarios and within a minute we had to find some way to die, and it had to be different to the other person’s. So sometimes it could get pretty random. The person I was with, he apparently tripped on a chair, hit his head, got a concussion and died; and I got eaten by a shark. We only had to die once, though!
“I really enjoyed the artists who led the projects. It really helped that they were professional – it made it more enjoyable in a way, more real. Olly [Create’s drama artist] was really funny … and he obviously knows what he’s doing because he’s done theatre. On the last day of the drama, we played a few of the improvisation games that we’d done, with the parents. I actually didn’t know about it till I heard about it, so it kind of threw me off a little bit, but it was alright. I was a little bit anxious to be performing but I felt proud afterwards.
“I learnt many new things from the workshops: I learnt better ways, in photography, using different features on a camera, like macro/micro. And using things the zoom as well. And there was loads of teamwork – I’d known the other carers before the project but I think I know them better now. It was easy to work with them. If I could pick any art form next, I’d like to try painting. I’m not normally keen on painting but I’m willing to try it! I wasn’t really interested in photography before I started doing it with Create, and now I’m a little bit more interested in it. Our photos got exhibited, which was quite good. We got to see all our work.
“When we were taking photos during that project there was this fair going on, and I took a picture of these … they weren’t exactly lollipops, but they were on lollipop sticks … and they were these doughnut balls or something. They had icing on them and I used macro when I was taking a picture of them, and quite a few people liked that picture! It was also in the exhibition, and sold! I didn’t actually expect that. I’m studying Media A-Level at the moment and I think a lot of these workshops, particularly photography, are going to help me. I feel that I’m more confident now.”
Kojo’s name has been changed to protect anonymity.
Photo: Kojo’s ‘cake popsicle’ photo taken during Create’s photography workshops, which later sold at the exhibition.
This story is from 2013.