Report – The Last Word
- Adults shouldn’t assume young people will trust them; many young people have been let down by adults who must work to regain trust.
- Adults must take a genuine interest in young people and not just pay lip service because it’s part of their job.
- Young people must be consultants in whatever adults produce for them for it to have authenticity and value.
- Adults must put themselves into positions where they must trust young people. Only by showing trust can we get the best from young people.
Sue Nott thanked the delegates, supporters and sponsors of the CMC and summed up a theme that emerged during the conference as trusting young people and enabling them to make a difference. She introduced Last Word’s guest speaker Nathan Geering as someone who is doing that, and then introduced a clip of theatre production ‘Trust in Care’, conceived and facilitated by Nathan, which was 4 years in the making and involves children with special needs and/or in care.
After the clip, Nathan addressed the viewers with a call to question what we, as adults, can do to ensure kids feel safe when their trust in us has been broken, especially vulnerable kids. When he works as a mentor to young people, he never sees them as troublemakers but as young people who have no trust in adults.
He believes we need to listen to young people when they communicate and told a story about the young person who wrote the poem featured in the previous clip. Poetry was therapy for her but it also enabled her to hone her skills as an artist. Nathan was so impressed with her skills that he wanted to celebrate them.
Adults must have a genuine interest in young people, not show interest because it’s part of their job. Nathan has found that working with young people to discover and realise their passions creates mutual respect. When Nathan tries new things with his mentees, he puts himself in a vulnerable position and the mentees identify with him because they are vulnerable too. Working with them, he demonstrates that it’s okay to fail so that both he and the mentee grow and learn together as people and artists.
Nathan teaches Breaking (AKA BreakDancing) as a way to help blind people develop spatial awareness and prevent falling injuries. Part of the training uses the ‘Rational Method’, which uses audio description with more than words – adding sound effects that correspond with dance movements because they communicate more than words alone. He told the story of Robyn Gell, a blind young person who was drawn into break dancing and recently appeared on BBC’s ‘Strictly – It Takes Two’.
‘Trust in Care’, featuring Robyn, was created with young people as artistic consultants involved in every stage of creation and production (on and off stage). This engendered ownership of the production and also offers a pathway with a career in the arts because the project is designed to train participants to run the show without adult support. Robyn’s involvement also ensured accessibility from the start (not as an add-on), and both sign language interpretation and audio description are fully integrated into the performance, for the benefit of both audience and performers. The show played in late June to a sold-out audience at the Crucible, Sheffield, and there are now plans to take it on tour.
Nathan ended by telling delegates about a 12-year-old girl whom he mentored some years ago and went abseiling with. At one point, he realised that she was holding onto his rope, and this taught him the importance of adults putting themselves into positions where they have to trust young people. He appealed to the CMC delegates to put themselves in that position more often too.