Late in 2011 myself and Lynsey Merrick (now O'Sullivan) the Participation & Learning Manager at the Lowry Theatre Salford sat and chatted about how we could open up the arts for young carers whilst also raising awareness of young carers issues both locally and nationally and increasing the opportunities for young carers to be identified and recognised for their caring...........
Jump forward to November 2015 (3 films, 1 tool kit for schools/youth groups, a wedding & a baby later) this amazing partnership between Salford Young Carers (Run by the Gaddum Centre) and the Lowry theatre received national recognition at the 2015 Children & Young People Now Awards when it was awarded The National Young Carers Award for the initiative that has done the most to support young people under the age of 24 who care for a family member or friend with an illness, disability, mental Health problem or addiction.
The Award ceremony took place at the amazing Hurlingham Club in London, just on the river at Putney Bridge & and although Lynsey could not make the event, Michael and Gillian from the Lowry accompanied myself and Grace and we all had an amazing night. The food was excellent, the atmosphere was electric and to be honest we never expected to win and were just happy to be there and to see the recognition young carers were getting in the wider youth work field. So when the words and the winner is was followed by the Lowry we all went a bit giddy but it was an amazing feeling, standing there being presented with the award and knowing all the workers from Salford Young Carers who have been involved in the various projects, Jennifer, Jen and Emma from the Lowry who have worked on various parts of the projects but always made the young people welcome in the North Wests major theatre. But as I stood there I also thought about the 60+ young carers who have worked on the main projects, the 50 plus who have benefited from access to drama sessions and theatre trips and the others who had had work experience placements and our very own John who is now a dance ambassador for the Lowry. An amazing partnership between Gaddum Centre, Salford Young Carers & The Lowry Theatre which has achieved a lot and we hope will continue to do so-we are meeting on the 3rd December to start planning the next 12 months.
One last thought the whole idea of raising awareness and identification is still there, the films and tool kit are being used across the country, not just in Salford, and in Ireland and Australia-they are there as a tool, the responsibility to find the hidden 70% of young carers remains with us the professionals working with young people, teachers, social workers youth workers, lets see how well we can do.
So a massive thanks to the Lowry for their support and incredible hard work and commitment, to my staff team for their commitment to the yearly project on top of all else they do, and to the young people who make us so proud to work with them, and so humble when they share their stories and build them into resources for others to learn from
So to the future