For those of you who do not know about ‘The Street’, then all I can say is you are missing out, and you need to get that sorted. I had been hoping for an opportunity to visit the Street project since I first heard about it three years ago, and a few weeks ago I was privileged enough to do just that.
This is an experience delivered by young people for young people. There is no politically correct language, and much as I hate to admit it, I did not know some of the words! It was like another language. I was out of my depth and out of the loop, and felt “what does that mean?” I had to work it out in stages from the context around the situation, and by reading the expressions of the young people acting. On reflection, I thought about how often we do that to the young people we support, and we do not realise that they are trying to pull a response out of the bag and understand what we are saying when perhaps we are talking as a professional and not a person.
The young people who deliver the Street are our young people. They could live next door to you or me. They are not attending drama school, but watch out as I think they are the Irvine Welsh’s, Ewan MacGregor’s and J.K. Rowling’s of the future. Their skills in writing, acting and staging the dramatisations are extremely powerful, and more so for the fact that the material comes from their own lives. This is not a voyeuristic experience where individuals tell you about their lives, but a window into the very real dilemmas, threats and risks that these young people have to navigate. There is a rawness which heightens your emotional connection to the stories being told and elicits feelings of empathy and anger for what these young people face. With that comes a sense that we must do better for them, and all children living through experiences similar to theirs.
It was one of the most powerful evenings of my life, and it left me with a sense of thanks and privilege that these young people allowed us a window into what they experience. It left me with a sense of awe that they do this not for professionals or adults, but to show and tell other young people that they are not alone. It is a powerful reminder for the professionals and adults who accompany the groups of young people to experience ‘the Street’ to really see and think about what they are doing to make a real difference. It is a small glimpse into what their young people may be experiencing and living through. ‘The Street’ does not pretend to be every young person’s life, but reflect situations that others may recognise in relation to themselves or a friend or a family member. This is no slick, soft, round the edges dramatisation of the hard topics of domestic abuse, coercive sex and the boundary between consent and rape that young people may not understand they are crossing. The threats and violence associated with drugs, gender identity issues, family breakdown and exploitative adults preying on young people is also addressed, as is the interplay between these themes as they play out across a group of young people.
All of this is conveyed through well-crafted and interwoven scenes created by the young people. I had goose-bumps, and it stayed with me as I drove home, and even now as I write this blog. There are not enough vehicles like ‘the Street’ to allow our young people to share their experiences in a way that is on their terms, encouraging their contribution to supporting others or recognising the inherent value in listening to their voices. ‘The Street’ gives an opportunity to provide those young people who come to see it with a safe place, perhaps to recognise these experiences reflected in their own lives, and talk about things they might not otherwise share. The support workers were just like ‘the Street’, real and no flannel, but there was a strength and depth to their relationships with all the young people. There was a shared passion to do this and deliver something meaningful to others. The young people were amazing, their timing, their representation of the emotions and feelings within each scene took you there and made you feel sad, scared and angry for them.
If you get the opportunity to go along, then grab it with both hands. Walk the experiences beside those young actors and use the feelings they evoke in you to look at the children and young people you have in your life and really think about what their experiences mean for them, and what you can do to help them navigate these experiences as best as possible, and come out the other side. Most importantly, if you can, get them along to ‘the Street’.
About our blogger: Donna McEwan is a Practice Development Advisor with the Centre for Youth and Criminal Justice. Donna’s main area of work is in advancing the Whole System Approach.
Check out The Street Project here: https://bit.ly/2jeohmw