Creative writing and song-making for young people affected by suicide
Participants: Young people affected by suicide
Lead artist(s): Melanie Perry and Rufus Mufasa
Location: Carmarthenshire and Rhondda Cynon Taf
Further information: Keep Talking Tidy connected with marginalised young people affected by suicide in Carmarthenshire and Rhondda Cynon Taf to take part in a series of ten creative writing and song-making sessions. The workshops encouraged and supported the participants to be open, ask for help, and help to prevent suicide in a way which was culturally and linguistically relevant for them. The series contributed and culminated in the production of an album of poetry and music curated by Rufus Mufasa and performance events in Carmarthenshire, Rhondda Cynon Taf and Cardiff.
The aims and objectives for the project were:
- To deliver a series of ten creative writing and song creating sessions focussed for participants to express themselves through poetry and song. Five sessions in Carmarthenshire and five for Rhondda Cynon Taf
- To promote wider community inclusion within Carmarthenshire, Rhondda Cynon Taf, Wales and internationally
- To promote confidence and self-development
- To deliver practical and documented creative outcomes through spoken word and sung performance and publication of an album
- To offer development of participants in the spirit of mentorship of young writers
Objectives – for participants to:
- experience the therapeutic benefits of creative writing and song creation and performance
- experience the therapeutic impact of connecting creatively with issues associated with suicide
- write and share, where appropriate, individual and group work
- contribute to collaborative pieces of writing and song
- create written work suitable for song composition
- contribute to a showcase event launching the album of poetry and music
- experience self-reported increases in confidence, psychological wellbeing, and inclusion
- meet and learn from a range of professional writers and performers in Wales
- connect internationally with wider project partners
Mel and Rufus worked alongside the team of Voices from Care Cymru, https://vfcc.org.uk/ who linked them in to their local support groups of young people with care experience in Carmarthenshire and Rhondda Cynon Taf. The artists and participants arranged to meet in each centre every fortnight with a plan to come together as one group towards the end of the project. The project was challenged, but not totally thwarted, by two key events of 2020. The storms of February and early March resulted in postponing sessions in RCT due to flooding in Pontypridd. The national lockdown to manage Covid 19 meant that all face-to-face work ended on 12th March.
Activities during the sessions included collaging and writing about self; making Origami sailboats and writing about a journey we might make in them; writing inspired by the Keep Talking Tidy project image; writing inspired by some of the poems of Joakim Becker from when the barbed wire slipped in; writing their own weather report and forecast and making a wellbeing rainbow from writing inspired from moods evoked by colours of the rainbow.
The young people involved in the project enjoyed and appreciated the sessions. In the brief time that they met they said that they felt included, welcomed, listened to, accepted. For brief moments they felt less isolated and more self-confident. After the first session in January participants were keen to share the activities at a Voices from Care Cymru conference in February 2021, and they expressed a desire to meet and engage in creative activities more frequently.
Many of the participants talked enthusiastically about the impact of writing and shared powerful and moving pieces. They appreciated that: “I can get my true feelings out without talking” and “it’s not all about foster care”.
One participant became a peer leader. She progressed significantly, speaking more confidently about her experiences in care and her identity beyond that.
The challenges of COVID 19 and lockdowns required great sensitivity and adaptability from the artists and young people. One of the main learning points being that going online for young people was not as simple as it appears. Young people do not necessarily have access to stable and safe platforms to work on. They may have to share a suitable device such as laptop, PC, or tablet. Phones were limited in their capacity for direct live group sessions.
About Melanie Perry: Mel is a poet, spoken word artist and writing practitioner from Carmarthenshire. Her poetry appears in a range of publications including TwoThirds North from Stockholm University. She has two poetry collections, Rum Dark Nights, published by Three-Throated Press and the bilingual Sound the Hollow-Det håligas ljud published by Magnus Grehn Förlag. As a performer she is a member of The Rockhoppers, a trio of women poets who have performed in Wales, England, and Ireland.
About Rufus Mufasa: Literary activist Rufus Mufasa is a pioneering participatory artist who advocates hip hop education and poetry development accessible to all. Lyricist, rapper and performance art poet, with an MA in scriptwriting, Rufus recently launched a solo album, Fur Coats From The Lion’s Den, dubbed a cultural highlight by Wales Arts Review.
Rufus is a Hay Writer at Work, supports several intergenerational projects, works internationally and has recently been an International Coracle Europe Literary Resident. She is currently the Poet in Residence for the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales.
“We hope that young people can be open about their feelings, ask for help to cope with difficult life experiences and be willing and able to help others in preventing suicide and self-harm. Through the creation of hip-hop and rap Keep Talking Tidy will be culturally and linguistically relevant and nurture creative talent through a novel approach to peer engagement.”