Blog: Depaul on its Cardboard Citz residency

Posted on: 18 November 2016

Written by: Charlie Marshall

As part of our national residencies programme, last month Cardboard Citizens worked with nine young people at Depaul, the national youth homeless support charity for people aged 16 to 25-years old, to create a piece of Forum Theatre.

The aim was to use Cardboard Citz’s theatre expertise to build confidence, offer skills and qualifications, and use theatre as a way of helping the participants process their own experiences of homelessness. Depaul’s Angela Gault explains below the challenges of the project and the remarkable effects the residency had.

The process for the group of nine young people from Depaul was at times incredibly challenging due to them having to pull from their own personal experiences of living within supported accommodation. This led to group discussions and learning that they have all walked very different paths to arrive within Depaul’s services. Ultimately this was the largest factor in helping bring the group together as a cohesive unit, as they realised, with each day that passed, that although they all come from different parts of London and have faced different struggles, they actually had much more in common with each other than they first thought.

"The way the entire group pulled together for the final week of intensive rehearsals – and encouraged each other when they were getting stressed, frustrated and tired – was a testament to this."

On a day-to-day basis each young person had different hurdles and areas of growth that they were working on – ranging from improving their time management skills and waking up on time in order to be at the studio on time, to commitment to attending the entire course, and understanding the needs and personal issues others in the group were facing.

The ownership that the group had over the performance, in terms of seeing their own stories coming to life and being put into a meaningful experience, seemed to give them all a sense that, although at times there were opportunities to relax, play games and have a bit of downtime, they were there for a serious purpose. Furthermore, the way the entire group pulled together for the final week of intensive rehearsals – and encouraged each other when they were getting stressed, frustrated and tired – and to give their best performance on the night of filming was a testament to this. The entire programme was only for three weeks but many expressed how impressed they were with themselves and as a collective at what they had achieved in such a short amount of time, and the fantastic direction that Terry from Cardboard Citizens brought every day to ensure she got the best out of everyone.

"During the programme the group bonded not just in a creative capacity, but also socially,"

After finishing the programme the entire group had a chance to reflect on the experience and what they had learnt. The general consensus from the group was that they had learned how to be more self-confident and had built up their self-esteem by being challenged and put into situations that took them out of their comfort zone. Certain individuals said it was a second chance to prove to themselves that they had the talents and ability, and for others it was an example of something that they had achieved and seen through from start to finish. After seeing the reaction of the audience members who came to see the live performance, they then truly understood that not only had they simply achieved their aim by producing a performance, but they did so with flying colours;  the end result being a fantastic achievement, which proved a huge learning opportunity for members of the audience.

During the programme the group bonded not just in a creative capacity, but also socially, and since its ending many members of the group have remained friends and have since met up with each other. This shows an additional element of lasting impact that this programme has brought to these young people’s lives.

To find out more about our residencies, watch the video below from a previous residency in Manchester.

Cardboard Citizens are bringing Creative Residency projects to vulnerable people across the country, exploring the barriers they are facing and identifying solutions through fun, creative workshops and performances. This work includes bringing intensive Forum Theatre projects, which raise confidence, improve self-esteem, help people overcome personal issues, boost employability and break down barriers, to at-risk communities across the UK.