Spotlight on . . . Creative Young Carers

As part of our response to the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the creative community, we have been supporting artists and performers from across Greater Manchester to develop a variety of projects during lockdown.

To mark Carers Week, we caught up with artist Tina Finch whose Creative Young Carers scheme has seen a host of creative packs being distributed to young carers in Bolton and Wigan.

 

How did the project come about?

Well I’m an artist myself – I am an associate member of Castlefield Gallery, Manchester and Cross Street Arts in Wigan – and I’m also a carer. My dad sadly died a couple of months ago so I cared for him before, with my sister, and now we care for mum. I also used to work at the Bolton Lads and Girls Club (who run a Young Carers group) as an art worker so I had got to know some of the young carers. They really are special people – truly inspirational. They have so much to think about with  all the support they give with the physical and emotional side, and on top of this they have to do their school work and grow up themselves. I just wanted to do something to help.

So when I saw the MIF callout – it all seemed to come together. It was a chance of a project, a chance of working with young people, and, most importantly, of helping the carers.

 

What do people get in the packs?

The carers actually span quite a broad age range (they are between 5 and 24 years of age) so I wanted to make sure there was something for everybody. They all get a canvas bag – which I thought they could then decorate if they wanted to. Then, in the bags themselves, they have a whole selection of drawing materials, pens, scratching boards, sewing kits, bird box making, keyrings, cards etc. They’re all different. I sourced all the materials online and made the packs up myself. I could hardly see the carpet when it was all laid out!


How do the packs get to the carers?

I already had connections with the Bolton Lads and Girls Club and I’d heard about the Wigan & Leigh Young Carers Group so, after I had applied to MIF for the funding for the packs, I then approached the two clubs and they were really excited about being involved. They’ve been isolating too of course so they haven’t been able to run their usual sessions so it was great for them to have something that they could help to get the carers involved with. The project leaders all know what sorts of things the carers are interested in so they can distribute packs to match people’s interests.

 

What do you hope people will get from the project?

I was very aware that this will have been a difficult time for the Young Carers  – they tend to be more isolated anyway and now they’re away from school and friends etc and caring as well on top of it. And I know from my own experience that caring can be very stressful, there’s a lot of emotional stress. I wanted to try and do something to help and try give them something to distract themselves. It’s not just about how the art itself – but also about them getting a break, getting the parents involved – it’s something different for them that hopefully helps them along the journey and alleviates some of the stress they’re under.

But mainly I want them to know that people are thinking of them – that they’re not on their own. It’s hopefully a powerful thing for them to know that the wider community – and that Manchester International Festival – are looking out for them.

 

How have you felt about being involved in the project?

It’s been great to be involved. In fact the Bolton Club want me to go in and talk about art once the club reopens and get more involved in the Young carers group.

My own work has changed too. I used to do expressive landscape paintings but now I’m doing more figurative work – focusing on dealing with isolation and the mental health aspect. Art has always been something that there’s for me in difficult times and has really helped over the past few months with dad passing on. It takes you away from whatever you’re dealing with. This project has helped too – helping young people with the art has helped me to deal with bereavement.

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