We’d like to thank everyone who came along to the ‘Loneliness Connects Us’ Youth Summit and Project Celebration events on 22nd February, at Federation. The aim of the event was to invite young people and people that work or live with them to join us in continuing to rethink how youth loneliness is represented in relation to the types of recommendations that we are able to make to open more appropriate forms of resource and relationship for young people seeking to navigate experiences of loneliness.
The summit began with a wonderful performance from Clean Break Theatre – thanks all! A work in progress, the performance explored youth loneliness through a series of scenes interspersed by dance sequences where the young women moved in flow and against one another. The performance perfectly communicated our orientation in the research that arts-based and in particular theatre practice enables young people to explore and communicate the complexity of the pain, striving and intermittent connections that young people might experience while feeling lonely.
Janet Batsleer and youth co-researcher Kurtis Angell presented our research findings – see slides below – before young people from Barnados, Off the Record, Clean Break, Fresh R&B, and the Proud Trust led world café/ living library discussions on the loneliness and connection focused projects they participate in and lead.
The rest of the afternoon was devoted to developing and exploring scenarios of young people and the spaces, actions and reactions of experiences and attempts to navigate or endure feelings of loneliness. These scenarios challenged us to think beyond the simplicity of other people’s problems in suggesting that lonely people should just make friends or tell people how they feel. The biographies, the constrained spaces, the reduction in funding for services, the social and emotional dynamics of loneliness can frustrate the obvious and by grounding our responses to youth loneliness amongst these complexities we aimed to develop more relational and realistic engagements with youth loneliness.
Through the research we identified that youth loneliness is never simply a matter of young people being alone or feeling lonely. As we worked towards ideas for action or recommendations it became apparent that most went well beyond went initiatives that focused on loneliness amongst young people. Some of the ideas bordered into manifestos for re-ordering society wholesale:
This ideas will be taken forward in the form of a second performance piece around practical and political action on youth loneliness. We have been working with young people from the emerging Greater Manchester Housing Association Youth Assembly to plan this new performance and also to begin a dialogue on youth loneliness in and through youth democratic structures feeding into the Greater Manchester Combined Youth Authority.
An aim of the research was to work with young people to develop new perspectives based in their experiences and testimony and open up new ways of engaging with youth loneliness. We were happy that ITV Granada, ZDF and That’s Manchester joined us to report from the summit. This is the news report from ITV Granada:
Following the summit, we co-hosted a project celebration with Metropolis – thanks Veronica and Kai! Cllr Rishi Shori (Leader of Bury Council, GM Lead for Young People and Social Cohesion) opened the meeting, linking the research to the significance of empowering young people to engage with issues such as youth mental health, anti-radicalisation and youth loneliness. Jim Cooke from the Co-op Foundation outlined the foundation’s plan to engage with youth loneliness through its Belong network. Simone Spray (42nd Street) then gave an overview of the severe challenges facing the youth mental health and well-being agenda in Greater Manchester.
This blog is an extended opportunity to thank all the people that made the research possible. Our roll call of honour and gratitude!
Janet Batsleer, James Duggan, Kurtis Angell and Simone Spray