QMUL’s Department of Drama uses performance to support young people in care

A performance and theatre project from Queen Mary University of London (QMUL), explores the narrative of young people in care and helps them turn their experiences into theatre.

Published on:

“I have literally become a catalogue of statistics and just irrelevant facts and info and its dehumanising to be honest” -  Andi, 14-years old, The Verbatim Formula.

The Verbatim Formula (TVF) is led by QMUL Drama Lecturer Dr Maggie Inchley, RCSSD Lecturer and Artist Fellow Sylvan Baker, and Business and Management Lecturer Sadhvi Dar. In partnership with People’s Palace Projects and QMUL Widening Participation, the team delivers residential workshops for young people with experience of the care system.

The project aims to support and work with young people, who can face extraordinary challenges in entering and staying at university, helping them think about the possibilities for their own futures.

With three years of funding secured from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) grant the research team will be able to share their research so that three other universities - Greenwich, Goldsmiths and East London - can hold their own residential workshops for care leavers. Inchley also says that the TVF team will be working with Battersea Arts Centre to develop participatory evaluation techniques: "Using creative practice can help service providers listen better.”

Travelling Theatre

As a result of these tours, TVF have collated a ‘living archive’ - a bank of more than 150 testimonies from looked after children and foster carers to facilitate conferences and as a training tool. They have been heard at the Beyond Care conferences at City Hall and at the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, where a group of child migrants shared their stories.

The latest instalment in TVF are the portable testimonies where young people are able to articulate their own experience, wishes and desires, and to start dialogue with adults who are responsible for their care and education – including at QMUL itself.

They have taken place in various locations around QMUL such as the Professional Services Conference on 6 July.

Enlightening Research

TVF’s arts practices help to develop social justice communities, particularly concerning young people in care.

Sylvan Baker, Associate Artist of the People Palace Projects, said: “We thought, it was important to build research around using verbatim practices, to get the experiences of young people in care back on the table. This has allowed us to build a practice that doesn’t judge and allows the different stakeholders to come into dialogue in a way that’s different, so they can see the difference they can make to the experiences of young people in care.”

Effect on Care Leavers

Talking to one of the young people on the project, Shalyce a graduate from University of West London and co-founder of the Tope Project said: “The TVF project is really good, it helps you express how you feel about university and provides the support you need.

She added: “Lots of young people in care, don’t have enough guidance from family or even social workers to be able to experience university in a successful way. The TVF project helps you do this and you don’t need training in the arts or be a performer to take part. I highly recommend it for young people in care intending to go to university, it encourages them not to have low expectations of their experiences and to flourish as much as they can while studying.”

Another care leaver on the project said: “I wasn’t really supposed to graduate, I was supposed to be doing a 9 to 5 job at a retail store, and probably pregnant with two kids by now, but I’m not, I’m twenty-three with a degree now. I’m not an outcast. I’m normal. I can achieve what everyone else can achieve.”

More information