Our guest post today is by doctoral candidate Fidelma Hanrahan from the School of Psychology, University of Sussex.
Together with my supervisor, Prof Robin Banerjee, at the School of Psychology, I have been carrying out research focused on investigating, and developing a better understanding of, pathways to disaffection in young people and how theatre and schools can re-engage them. I am currently doing my PhD studentship in psychology which is part funded by Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, who are also supporting the theatre work. As part of this research, we have been working closely with THE PROJECT which is a film and theatre company under the artistic direction of BAFTA award winning writer/director Ray Harrison Graham. Their aim is to produce ground breaking theatre by creating productions based on the life experiences of school-excluded young people who also perform lead roles within productions, supported by theatre professionals working alongside them.
Their current production, ‘The Girls’, tells the stories of four young people who once attended Pupil Referral Units after being permanently excluded from their mainstream schools, and has just finished a very successful three week run at the Bussey Building in Peckham. In collaboration with THE PROJECT, we are also in the process of developing of an Education Resource Pack for secondary schools which uses filmed scenes from ‘The Girls’ as a basis for reflection and discussion. The pack focuses on pertinent issues for disaffected youth today such as the perceived importance of peer reputation, and conflict with authority figures. It is envisaged that the resource will provide an opportunity for staff and pupils to reflect and grow in awareness of the source of their own behaviours, emotions, and attitudes.
A BBC report on ‘The Girls’ and the work of THE PROJECT – which includes interview excerpts with the cast and crew, as well as a mention of our ongoing research at the University of Sussex – was aired on Sunday 14th October and provides further insight into some of the experiences of these young people. The report can be found using the following link (the report on ‘The Girls’ begins at about 18m:40sec): http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00yxrsp