In the spirit of #WorldPoetryDay and its purpose to unite communities with shared values and to celebrate poems as a means of self-expression and as a powerful catalyst of social change, we invited our Ashington Youth Theatre Groups to write poems to share with our community! Our young people responded to the prompt “What would you do to improve your local area?” and worked with our practitioners to creatively explore their wants, hopes, needs and thoughts and to collectively come together to write poems, which we have the pleasure of sharing with you all.
Our youth theatre members frequently express that they often don’t feel listened to when it comes to what’s happening in the world and what could be different! Part of our role at Mortal Fools is to give children and young people a space, where they can authentically express themselves without judgement, and have their thoughts and opinions listened to, respected and like in this blog post today, platformed and amplified to our community.
Since arriving in Ashington in 2021, we have experienced firsthand how friendly and open the community is, continuously partnering with YMCA Northumberland, working with local schools and big, warm supportive Ashington audiences and youth theatre group members who have joined us! The community has welcomed us with open arms, and we are so thankful!
The first poem we’d love to share from our young people, celebrates Ashington, community pride, belonging and the open welcoming ethos of everyone who lives here:
In crafting their poems, our young people shared ideas for how things could be improved in Ashington and wider Northumberland. Children and young people aren’t often invited or supported to explore social and community change in a meaningful way; we have found giving space and scaffolding these conversations in a similar way to our theatre devising process, enables such insightful and quality contributions! An idea that was shared with us repeatedly, was that Ashington needs more clubs and activities for children – with opportunities to try different things!
As a charity, we know how important access to quality provision and a safe space is for children and young people and that in the cost of living crisis, families often can’t afford membership fees, tickets etc. Our young people tell us that extra-curricular activities and the opportunity to participate should not be a nice to have, but an essential part of their growing up – this next poem demonstrates the importance of choice, the importance of nurturing interests and enabling folks to find likeminded people:
At Mortal Fools we are always experimenting with and exploring different ways of involving young people in our decision making; most recently we have been working on creating a youth advisory group that would enable youth led accountability, governance, and critical thinking beyond what we already have in place to allow for authentic meaningful co-creation. We are collaborating with YMCA Northumberland and other youth settings to deliver several creative consultation sessions to gather the insights of Northumberland young people beyond those we are already engaging with. This will enable us to explore what a Southeast Northumberland offer for children and young people could look like, ensuring it is needs responsive, featuring activities young people want to try and support they would benefit from.
As well as activity variety, young people have expressed a need for more mental health and wellbeing support. As the NHS is struggling to cope with a continuously increasing demand for young people’s mental health services and young people often find themselves stuck on long waiting lists, schools and youth groups have become even more vital in supporting young people as a front-line service providing interventions. The poem below perfectly illustrates the role all folks can have in looking after each other and providing a supportive space for the young people in their lives:
The reoccurring theme from all our poetry writing sessions was that our young people want the adults in their lives to proactively ask them about their needs, feelings, and ideas. They are passionate about creating change both on an international scale and in Ashington, but they need adults to listen and take their ideas seriously! If young people are the future, then we need to listen in the present:
Poetry is a powerful tool that young people can use to succinctly express their feelings and creatively play with language, and we hope by reading the poems featured on this blog post that you understand some of the things that Ashington young people want and need and that you’re inspired to ask open questions to the young people in your life and to listen.
And beyond today’s #WorldPoetryDay – you can see and hear from more Ashington young people on the 1st April at our theatre show FLUX – coming to YMCA Northumberland and devised and performed by our oldest group of young people! Join us for FLUX and you will see 12 unique young voices come together on stage, exploring what it means to question your identity in a world that feels determined to put you in a box. You can find out more and book tickets here.