6 February 2018

Hundreds of young people perform at the Epstein Theatre in Liverpool’s third children’s mental health-focused, NOW Festival.

Hundreds of children and young people from schools, clubs and youth groups across Liverpool came together last week to deliver a range of dramatic performances at the Epstein Theatre, exploring the subject of ‘My education, my mental health’.

Merseyside Youth Association’s mental health promotion team hosted the third annual NOW Festival, in partnership with Liverpool Child Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), Liverpool Cultural Education Partnership and the Arts Council.

Speaking about the festival, Elaine Rees, chief executive of the Liverpool Learning Partnership said: “The NOW Festival was fantastic and again I was impressed by the talent and determination of the young people involved. Their passion in sharing their message will remain with me for a long time. We consistently heard that we must give children and young people a voice and they must take those opportunities to speak out.”

Since September, staff from Merseyside Youth Association’s mental health promotion team, part of the Liverpool Child Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) partnership had been working with local children and young people.

Under the guidance and support of the team and guest artists, Maurice Bessmen, Collective Encounters, Opus Media and MD Productions, the young people curated pieces around the subject of mental health and education.

Kath Thompson, NOW Festival director said: “With at least one in ten young people suffering with poor mental health, and the huge pressures facing education, this festival gives young people the opportunity to have their voices heard on these important issues.”

Each night performances were recognised and individually rewarded for demonstrating a range of criteria including; music; mental health message; overall film; lesson plan; team spirit; and choreography. The overall winner of the festival was Archbishop Blanch School with their performance ‘My teacher said I was, so I am’.

One of the judges, Alice Demba, coordinator for the Liverpool Cultural Education Partnership said: “This performance blew us away with its energy, style and wit. Exploring how teachers may be at risk of labelling some students and even failing to notice the existence of others, we stepped inside the classroom to explore what this feels like for young people.

“Through the acting talents of these students and the highly creative writing and choreography of the piece, it was not until the very end that we realised that one young person had been invisible on stage throughout the last scene. Left alone and isolated, to our relief she was finally carried off stage by a supportive peer.”

A selection of performances from the festival will now tour schools throughout Liverpool.

Pics: Dave Brownlea Photography