If I was to name a community arts practitioner who I greatly admire for her work with young people, it has to be artist drama practitioner Toni Cook. Time and time again I’ve witnessed Toni work her magic with groups, using a mix of performance, wit and humility to build massive levels of confidence in the young people.
I’ve been fortunate to have collaborated with Toni on several projects so you can imagine my delight on being invited to work with her again on a project initiated by Hereford Library service and SHYYP – a charity working with young homeless people or those at risk of being made homeless.
Although I only worked two sessions with a small group of young people in Ross on Wye Library, I was so impressed by the group’s creativity and confidence, I found myself, a few weeks later, in the Courtyard Theatre watching a performance by the same young people called ‘If you walked a mile in my shoes’
The moving performance told the individual stories of 14 young people, who shared their own true-life experiences through prose, poetry, songs, rap and film, describing their emotions, questions of identity, making their voice heard and fight for survival.
It was brilliant! A testament, not only to the participant’s bravery but to the skillful facilitation of Toni and the other artists, organisations and youth workers involved. Well done everybody!