Troubled Families Conference.

Yesterday Unique Voice performed at City Hall as a part of the Troubled Families conference. For her blog this week, Sarah talks about her experience of this project leading up to the performance.

Troubled families are those experiencing a number of difficult circumstances, from illiteracy and poor school attendance, to housing issues and domestic violence. For the sake of the conference Unique Voice’s performance shows one of the worst case scenarios- throughout the first half we see a family falling apart, struggling to juggle the offered help or requirements of several agencies and going down at a rate of knots. I guess for me, the process has opened my eyes to the struggles some people will be facing. It’s not that I was ignorant before, but perhaps I knew about these things without having ever placed myself in someone else’s shoes.

As an actor within this piece, my involvement within the rehearsal period was something I found emotionally draining. Putting myself in the position of these families, and in particular in the place of a young person within this set-up, left me feeling on edge, scared and isolated. By embracing the exploration and rehearsal period I found myself with a much greater understanding of what life must be like for these families, and indeed how exhausting and intense that might be.

Given this aspect of the piece I was able to get a greater understanding of the character I play too- it is understandable that a young person who is living within a violent household might find it difficult to cope with her emotions, which in the case of my character leads to her not wanting to go to school and harming herself as a means of trying to deal with what is going on around her. Even as a confident 25 year old, I felt the pressures of being involved within that atmosphere- even if it was one created intentionally for the purposes of performance.

The second part of the performance focusses on how an assigned key worker could work with a family in this sort of situation, explores ways they might gain the trust of the family and encourage them to engage with the support. Personally I’ve found this whole process really interesting- essentially the project has allowed me an insight into a professional world that I know very little about.

Not only that, but the performance will be a very different one for me. Usually performances with Unique Voice involve a school hall and 120 children up to the age of 14- not a performance in front of 200-and-something professionals! None the less, I’m really looking forward to the experience, the diversity of experiences is something that keeps this job so exciting and fresh. Something I love about performing at conferences is the opportunity is allows you to listen to other key notes, and information from other agencies. Not only that, but it has and will further improve my knowledge of the ways families in these situations- I may never be aware of any children I teach being in this situation, but nonetheless I believe understanding the circumstances of others always increases empathy, patience and compassion which will doubtlessly improve how I perform professionally both now and in the future.

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