Recently the government announced a fall in the number of young people in England who are NEET, an acronym for young people who are 'not in education, employment or training'. Yet is this fall, reflective of the aspirations of vulnerable young people looking to forge creative careers?
The increase in the number of apprenticeship schemes and start-up opportunities available to young people, has offered a light at the end of the tunnel to youth unemployment. Yet there still remains a lack of creative opportunities, for NEET's who do not possess the problem-solving skills to undertake these apprenticeships, with many not catering for vulnerable young people with interests in the arts.
Pianist James Rhodes, emphasised this issue that surrounds young people, beginning with government cuts to arts subjects in state schools at grassroots level: "Music education is so f----- at the moment" he said, "the arts can be a life-changing outlet that (young people) must not lose".
Situated in the vibrant and culturally diverse area of Whitechapel in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, Cardboard Citizens provides a creative outlet for vulnerable young people, including those who are homeless and suffering from mental illness, helping them to explore their passions in performing arts.
The Speakeasy? project, part of Cardboard Citizens youth program ACT NOW, focuses on the story of a character called Charlie, a character forged on a culmination of problems and experiences suffered by many young people, a character who is homeless, suffering from mental illness and living in a hostel. Charlie is isolated, alone and crying out support, but is not getting any help from either the key-worker or job centre. This lack of assistance from the authorities has lead Charlie to seek outlets through drugs, making the suffering worse.
Charlie's experience echoes the experience of many vulnerable young people and Cardboard Citizens by conducting these workshops are helping to release these frustrations in a relaxed and interpersonal environment, setting the scene for a final performance showcasing the talents of these young people and enabling their voices to be heard.
"It is about freedom of expression" said Tony McBride, director of Cardboard Citizens:
"We look at what the barriers and obstacles might be to freely expressing yourself and how we can become prone to negative experiences." "It's about creating a debate around certain issues that are faced by homeless people."
The project opens possibilities for the young people as Effie Makepeace, programme delivery manager at Cardboard Citizens described:
"Each year, just under 40% of young people we work with go on to other opportunities in London whether that is in education or official employment."
Certainly the workshop opens up these opportunities and the performance I witnessed at the Platform in Islington brought out the need for more opportunities like these for young people to showcase their talents and offer an outlet for anxieties or depressive thoughts that they may feel, inviting the audience to participate and creating a dialogue on these issues that is interactive and thought-provoking.