Naturally, people are wary. But Cardboard Citizens’ project manager Tony has been through this many times. He listens but doesn’t push. He wants to know what the issues and problems are. The answers are grim. The youngsters in particularly seem caught navigating a vicious, unrelenting sea of drugs, violence and alcohol. They expose the raw underbelly of life in Corby and Kettering.
I know from my own experience that this sort of creative work is certainly confidence building if not potentially life-changing. But there was a long time in my life (well most it actually) when I too wouldn’t have touched it with a barge pole so I can appreciate the lack of trust and suspicion.
We talk with a group of teenagers and Tony leads a few theatre games to help break the ice and establish a connection. They are a bright bunch but don’t believe it when Tony tells them so and do their own bit of negative self-labelling. But they say they will give it a go. I really want them to too but this is way out of their comfort zone. At the youth summer camp I worked on this year for the charity LIFEbeat www.lifebeat.co.uk, the young people were encouraged to take their metaphorical ‘cool cards’ and throw them on the floor. But it is always a big ask when the cool card is part of your survival defenses.
Tony does some other visits with The Core’s Creative Projects manager Lisa Byrne and Aaron O’Sullivan from Corby Borough Council’s housing unit. They are pleased with the response.
Then we see some young Mums cramped into a small room. Tony plays some theatre games while Lisa and I enjoy holding the babies so the Mums can join in. The second game, involving a pesky mosquito, head ducking and hand-clapping, really engages both adults and babies. “Never done a session in such a small room with babies before,” said Tony afterwards. I am delighted to have helped him achieve this first! The Mums are keen to come to The Core but it is going to be difficult for them even with babysitting help. I decide to enlist the help of my sheep puppet Sheena (Shaun’s Glaswegian’s girlfriend) in case they come.