“We heard her voice”

Working with Half Moon Theatre, Our Time ran two drama workshops for children in Tower Hamlets in the summer holidays and October half term of 2021. More than 20 children took part and gained so much from the sessions – confidence, a sense of belonging and a place to express themselves and have fun.

All these children have a parent with a mental illness or a mental health difficulty. These workshops provided an opportunity to use drama and games to explore themes such as bullying, empathy, friendships and responsibility. As well as writing and performing a poem about bullying, the children worked on the idea of a play about having a parent with a mental illness. This gave the children the chance to share their experiences such as the responsibility they feel for their parents, and being bullied because of others’ perceptions about your life.

“We heard her voice… Talking about her own situation was very empowering for her and helped her focus on what she thinks. She also spoke about how she is bullied at school.”

Many of the children taking part felt nervous about the activities, and about meeting new people. But over the workshops, they were able to relax, and many new friendships were formed.

There were lots of nerves, to the point where they were out of their comfort zones. We played lots of games that were fun and not a lot of pressure… they did really well in being confident and getting over their first day fears.

Every single child at the October workshop was able to stand up and perform. They had the opportunity to express themselves, to be creative and to work together as a team. Our Time and Half Moon Theatre staff were able to give a few of the young people one-to-one time to work through particular challenges they were facing at home and felt “these moments of one-to-one connectivity were important”.

We’re delighted the workshops were such a success and hope to build on them in future collaborations with Half Moon Theatre. We’d also like to say a big thank you to the Wakefield and Tetley Trust for funding this project! The impact of work like this is significant, and for many children who take part, will be the first time they’ve been able to talk openly about their parents’ difficulties. By sharing these experiences, and connecting with other young people in the same situation, they realise they are not alone and can find support and new connections. As one member of staff said, “we ensured there was enough space for her voice…. the difference we saw in her was incredible”.