March 23 2012

Barnardo’s Project Blog

Barnardo's DVD Cover

Over the last few years we have been working in partnership with Barnardo’s Cymru on a range of film and arts projects that explore often difficult issues with young people that have been the victims of or may be at risk of grooming, sexual abuse, violence or damaging relationships. The aim of this work is to enable young people to speak out and tell their stories creatively. We work with Barnardo’s who offer the young people support and essential advice, and we aim to promote awareness of these issues by creating artwork and films that will then be taken across Wales to be shown to young people to encourage dialogue.

The latest projects we have been working on in partnership with Barnardo’s have included the ‘A Piece of Me’ exhibition and ‘What’s Happening Frankie?’ DVD.

In the film project ‘What’s Happening Frankie?’ a group of young people from the South Wales Valleys who were identified as being at risk of child sexual exploitation came together to produce this DVD with our support. The young people had complete ownership of the project from the initial planning stages to the final production. These sessions included film and animation, art, music, stories and poetry. The sessions were designed to assist young people to express themselves and talk about their experiences of sexual exploitation and trafficking. The young people came together to make and produce a short animated movie, writing the script, drawing the animation and producing the music. The young people hope that this film will highlight the risks associated with child sexual exploitation and reduce the likelihood of other young people being sexually exploited.

We have had excellent feedback from this work. Keith Towler, the Children’s Commissioner for Wales, launched the ‘A Piece of Me’ exhibition at The Pierhead Buildings in Cardiff, and has written his thoughts about this challenging creative project:

“Sometimes when we get drawn into debates about the importance of listening to the views of children and young people we talk about children’s voice. Sometimes we take that rather too literally as if it is only the spoken word, usually in a meeting or discussion, or the written word usually on a questionnaire return, that can give us those views.

When I left secondary school I did a fine art degree and I still favour paintings as the pinnacle of artistic expression; a bias that just speaks to me. I can look at a painting by Whistler, Turner, Hockney or Banksy and I ‘hear’ their message or can see and feel their response to the world around them.

So it was at the Barnardo’s Cymru Seraf Service exhibition called “A Piece of Me’ which was shown in the Pierhead in Cardiff Bay and includes film, art, animation, songs, poems and stories by young people who have received support from the Seraf Service. The service works with children and young people who have experienced sexual exploitation. “A Piece of Me” has been described as:

“A gritty exhibition which challenges our minds and perceptions through the eyes of young people’s experiences. It is impossible to leave the exhibition untouched.”

By any definition this is art and creative expression that gives voice to children and young people’s experiences. It is powerful and I would urge you to see it when it tours around Wales in the months ahead.

I had the honour of opening the exhibition and I was really pleased to be able to do so. As you tour around the exhibition you can see children and young people expressing anger and frustration. It is uncomfortable in places. It concludes with hope showing the resilience that children and young people have. To do more than to just survive. To understand and to move to achieve their full potential.

Art encourages freedom of expression and this exhibition speaks to all who are up for listening and hearing. It is a brave thing to do and I hope that as many people as possible view the work on display.

With thanks to all the young people and staff at the Barnardo’s Cymru Seraf Service, their partners Valley and Vale Community Arts and to the Arts Council for Wales for funding such a worthwhile project.’”

(Keith Towler, Children’s Commissioner for Wales)