In 2018 we asked our Advisory Group what stories they wanted to see on stage, what was missing or misrepresented, what we should be doing better. Across the board, they agreed that mental health and wellbeing was a huge part of the lives of young people and it wasn’t being explored in depth, intersectionally or through the eyes of teenagers.
Young people are speaking publicly about their mental health and emotional wellbeing in a way generations before them never have.
We all know that there’s a crisis in mental health funding, that cases of anxiety are soaring and that suicide is the biggest killer of young men in the UK. We know that the tabloid press are quick to label Millennials and Gen Z as overly sensitive ‘snowflakes’, to blame social media for society’s ills and condemn online organising as ‘slacktivism’. But if you speak to young people, the situation is more hopeful than it might seem.
Young people are speaking publicly about their mental health and emotional wellbeing in a way generations before them never have. Breaking taboos around talking about how we feel is powerful. Conversations in the canteen with classmates or in YouTube comments can reduce feelings of shame and isolation and encourage the normalisation of seeking help when it’s needed. It also leads to greater understanding and compassion for the things that make us different. Like the Queer Eye guys say: “The original show was fighting for tolerance. Our fight is for acceptance.”
Another effect of this opening up is the greater importance being placed on emotional wellbeing. Mindfulness and meditation are becoming more popular, with some schools already using these practices to support their students and the government last week announcing a new trial to promote good mental health across 370 schools.
In order to tell the stories of this generation truthfully – to explore the trials and celebrate the progress – we need to collaborate with teenagers. We’re offering 4 bursaries of £2,500 each to artists who are excited to work with young people to seed new ideas around the themes of mental health and emotional wellbeing.
We also need this work to be interesting, exciting and relevant to teenagers. So we’re throwing the doors open.
Designers, musicians, theatremakers, filmmakers, spoken word artists, playwrights – whatever your discipline, if you’re excited about working with and for 15-25 year olds on something that can eventually happen in front of an audience – we’d love to hear from you. At Boundless we believe the process of making theatre doesn’t have to start with a script, or even with theatremakers. As an example, in dreaming up this project we talked about a designer as lead artist, creating an installation inspired by conversations with teenagers, and inviting a spoken word artist to work with them to create a multidimensional experience.
Be boundless. We want to make extraordinary things happen.
In practical terms, we expect that artists will work with young people in their chosen area at each stage of the process – from inception and initial development to feedback and further development. We anticipate some of this activity taking place during the school holidays. By December, the outcome of this process will be ready to share with an audience of young adults, industry and programmers in London with a view to getting these ideas further supported through to full development in 2020. This event will be produced by Boundless. We’re really keen for you to share your piece in your local area too, and we will do our best to attend if this is something you decide to do!
Support around the themes of this project can be found: