7 years ago we started a partnership with the Lowry Theatre in Salford to look at ways of using the arts to not only engage with young carers but as a way of helping them tell their stories, helping them put their issues on the table and to help them influence politicians both locally and nationally. Due to the amazing support of the incredible staff at the Lowry, from the CEO down, those 7 years have been incredible but who would have thought that one of our partnership projects would be going on a national tour.
Who Cares has embarked on a five-week, 27-venue national tour – culminating in a performance at The House of Lords in Westminster from 30 October- 5 December.
Who Cares is a gripping verbatim theatre production based on 2 years of interviews that offers a rare insight into a year in the lives of young carers from Salford. The play aims to help identify ‘hidden’ young carers in society and signpost them to support available through local young carers services.
Who Cares, was written by Matt Woodhead and co-produced by The Lowry and LUNG Theatre, who are Associate Artists at the Salford-based venue. It was made in partnership with The Gaddum Centre’s Salford Carers Service.
The 27 youth settings across the country are non-traditional theatre spaces – these venues have been chosen in partnership with Onside Youth Zones – a national youth center charity, Aldridge Education – the academy schools chain founded by Sir Rod Aldridge and local Young Carers Services
Who Cares began in 2016 when The Lowry and Salford Young Carers Service commissioned a new production from LUNG that would shine a light on the untold stories of young carers in Salford.
It is estimated that there are more than 700,000 young carers in the UK. These are children and young people, aged 17 and under, who provide unpaid care to a family member because of a disability, illness, mental health condition, or a drug / alcohol addiction. These young people often manage a wide range of responsibilities from practical tasks like cooking, managing budgets and picking up prescriptions, through to providing personal care and emotional support for their families. What’s more, they are often managing these responsibilities under the radar of professionals, schoolteachers and friends.
We know that many young carers are not aware there is support available to them so we wanted to commission a piece of theatre that would help young carers identify themselves, and help the adults and peers around them better understand the reality these young carers are facing. We also wanted to give young carers a voice in front of the politicians and decision makers who can lobby for a change in policy so that there is more support for young carers across the country.
LUNG are one of The Lowry’s Associate Artist companies who specialise in verbatim theatre. This is a kind of theatre where actors use the actual words of real life people onstage. LUNG followed and interviewed a group of young carers in Salford for a year to build up a picture of their day to day lives. They also talked to teachers, politicians and the young carers’ parents. Then they crafted that into a professional production, working with the young carers throughout to make sure that what was being seen onstage was honest, authentic and true to them.
The response to the initial one off show was extraordinary. Within a couple of weeks we had heard from more than 20 schools and organisations wanting us to take the show on tour. So, with the generous support of Curious Minds and The Oglesby Charitable Trust we are now embarking on a five-week national tour, beginning in Salford and ending at the House of Lords, Westminster.
About The Show
The Alarm Rings, You Take a Breath, Then it Starts...
Sitting at the back of the bus, skipping the lunch queue and skiving lessons. At school Nicole, Jade and Connor are just like everybody else. But when they get home, things are very different.
Nicole started caring for her mum when she was four. Every morning Nicole helps her get washed, put on clothes and eat breakfast. Jade has always cared for her brother, but she never expected to look after dad as well - now she juggles two lots of appointments, two lots of prescriptions, two lots of assessment forms. Connor cares for his mum. But he doesn't like to talk about it.
Adapted from real-life testimonies, this bold and pertinent piece of documentary theatre examines our failing system, the impact of austerity and what happens when a child becomes the parent.
As Who Cares tours the 26 youth settings it will reach over 3000 young people nationally. In each area we have connected with the young carers service who will be present at each performance to offer support and information to young people, teachers and youth workers.