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Passion and Resistance! Creative expression workshops for grassroots youth workers

For the project Passion and resistance! eight grassroots youth workers from communities around London took part in an intensive two-day workshop, using creative methods to explore their feelings about their practice and the policy context in which it takes place. 

Aiming to create a unique opportunity for youth workers by combining ideas from youth work practice, creative practice and research, the project was organised collaboratively by Tania de St Croix, an early career researcher and experienced youth worker, and Alice Nicholas, a Health and Care Professions Council-registered dramatherapist and experienced theatre practitioner.

Passion and resistance! was a free, two day creative expressive workshop for grassroots youth workers and was inspired by Tania's PhD research, which explored how grassroots youth workers are affected by the current policy context.

Grassroots youth workers are practitioners who work in youth clubs and on the streets, often with young people who are marginalised. Tania’s research found that committed youth workers are passionate about their work and genuinely care about young people, but that they also experience more negative feelings such as frustration, anger and shame, often related to the challenging policy and organisational contexts in which they work. Their important work with vulnerable young people is often undervalued, and their voices are rarely heard in either policy or research.

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The workshop was a highly innovative blend of research dissemination and dramatherapy, providing a unique form of professional development for practitioners who lack opportunities for playful self-reflection. The workshop began with a process of creative ‘getting to know each other’ and setting expectations, followed by story-telling with evocative objects brought by the participants to represent or reflect on their practice.

Three sessions then began with a short 5-minute input from Tania, introducing some of the themes from her research. Each input was followed by a number of creative exercises facilitated by Alice, including: trust exercises; group tableaux; group story-telling through drama, movement and music / sound; games; mirroring exercises in pairs; discussion; and, at the end of each day, time for individual reflection using clay, pastels, story-cards and art materials.

The two-day workshop:

  • used creative methods to enable practitioners to celebrate their work, while also exploring and expressing more ambivalent and negative feelings;
  • engaged largely non-academic practitioners in a cultural project within a university setting;
  • facilitated collaboration between dramatherapy, research, and youth work practice;
  • provided a unique form of professional development for practitioners who often lack opportunities for creative self-reflection. 

The project will inform future research and the practice of both partners. 

Project Team

Dr Tania de St Croix, Department of Education and Professsional Studies, King's College London

Dr Tania de St Croix researches and teaches Education Policy and Child and Youth Studies in the Department of Education and Professional Studies  at King's College London's. She also teaches youth work at YMCA George Williams College, and is external examiner for the BA Youth and Community Work at Ruskin College, Oxford. She has been a youth worker for over twenty years and is a founder member of Voice of Youth, an innovative youth workers' cooperative in Hackney, East London. She is actively involved with In Defence of Youth Work, a campaign network that aims to defend and develop youth work as a critical, democratic and emancipatory practice. Tania has published articles and book chapters on youth work, policy, surveillance and radical education. She completed her PhD exploring passion and resistance in grassroots youth work at King's College London in 2014.

Alice Nicholas works as a dramatherapist, playwright and theatre practitioner. Previous experience includes working in theatre venues and education settings such as Sherman Cymru (Cardiff), Belgrade Theatre (Coventry) and De Montfort University (Leicester). She now freelances for schools, theatres and theatre companies including the Bristol Old Vic, Bigfoot, Travelling Light, the egg, Creative Youth Network, Inside Out and Acta Community Theatre delivering participation and creative learning projects. Alice is interested in how theatre, drama and performance can benefit health and well-being through its creative expressive, transformative power. 

Passion and resistance! A creative exploration of grassroots youth work is a collaboration between the Department of Education and Professional Studies at King’s and Alice Nicholas, drama therapist and theatre practitioner.  It was supported by the university's Culture team.

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