Being stereotyped is pretty frustrating, isn’t it?
Sometimes, for whatever reason, people have perceptions of you based on anything from your age, your interests, to even where you’re from. It’s not really fair, as more often than not, these perceptions aren’t accurate at all!
It’s even more frustrating when we’re not given the chance to challenge the labels that people try to stick on us.
Rewriting the script
As a community-based youth organisation from Glasgow’s east end, PEEK aims to improve the life chances of children and young people, with a focus on nurturing their potential through play and creativity.
They run a fantastic array of projects and activities, allowing young people to shape each outcome themselves. Since January, we’ve been working quite closely with PEEK’s Youth Theatre Group, witnessing first-hand the impact community projects like these can have on the wellbeing of young people.
We had the chance to observe rehearsals and script development sessions for the group’s very own play, entitled ‘G40FIED’, and the whole process has been really encouraging.
The script was co-written by the theatre group’s young people, with help from PEEK’s Participatory Arts Coordinator, and it gave ‘an honest look at what life’s like for young people growing up in the East End of Glasgow’.
There were some really intriguing aspects to the group’s approach – they decided to personify concepts they felt represented people and places in the area, and centred the play around characters such as ‘GALLOWGATE’, ‘BARRAS’, ‘CUPPA’, ‘GAFF’, ‘NEDS’ and ‘HOPE’.
Behind the zines
There were then live performances of the group’s play at Glasgow’s Tron theatre in March. In the run-up to this, we gathered a few observations from the rehearsals, as well as an analysis of the script. We then followed up this work with some post-show reflective discussions with the group.
These activities allowed the group to express in-depth how they felt about being involved, and which of the issues they felt mattered to them most.
While we were capturing the learning from this community project in action, it was clear that the young people were keen to address some of the stereotyped views surrounding the areas they lived in.
One of our PhD students, Amanda Ptolomey, organised a creative zine-making workshop for the group. This was a fantastic way to capture the impact the project had had on the young people.
‘Zines’ are like magazines or fanzines but are self-published and are circulated on a much smaller scale. They’re great ways for individuals, or small groups, to express themselves and collaborate on themes of their choice.
It was great to see the group working together creatively to create pages for their zine – which focused on their experiences of being involved and participating in the theatre group.
Giving youth a voice
We found that participation in PEEK’s theatre group had many positive effects on the young people involved. Several members spoke of the importance of being able to write their own stories about the east end of Glasgow – stories which challenge the often-negative perceptions of this area:
“We realised there were pros and cons of living in the east end of Glasgow, so we wanted to show other people what the east end is about, and show what Gallowgate, Parkhead, Tollcross and everywhere really are – and how we see it as young people.”
“We worked on how the media sees the East End of Glasgow, and basically it’s not a good place sometimes. We wanted to show it is a good place, and there are good people in it.”
The group also spoke of the empowering aspect of being able to shape the play’s direction, content and script – which was a totally different experience of drama compared to their encounters with it at school:
“You get the option to pick what you actually want to base it on. I’ve always done topics that I felt passionate about… we always do something different. We never do similar things to anybody else – we always do it our way, and how we see things. It’s always different and I just enjoy coming here a lot.”
This community project has had a clear positive impact on the confidence of the children and young people involved, and they felt their involvement in it had an influence on their everyday lives outside of the theatre group.
As well as this, we learned that the young people saw having supportive, encouraging facilitators and working in a mixed age group as important factors to their development.
We’re really looking forward to continuing our work with these young people while supporting PEEK, and other organisations based in the local community, to capture the learning from the great work they undertake.
Going forward, we aim to develop a new framework for evaluating local community-based initiatives like this, using the ‘Capabilities Approach’. You can find more information about the Capabilities Approach on our website.
The visual data from the zine-creation activity is currently being analysed, and we’ll be following this up with further one-to-one interviews with PEEK’s staff and young people in the autumn.
Early findings from this research will be presented by Sarah Ward and Maureen McBride, from our Research and Evaluation team, at the Human Development and Capability Association conference in London in September.
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