It’s likely that you know someone who is a young carer.
It is estimated that 1 in 20 young people are caring for a loved one with a disability, illness, mental health condition or drug and alcohol problem (reach.ac.uk - Jan 2019). For many this means taking on the role of a parent, looking after siblings in addition to the person they are supporting, and the responsibilities of running a household.
Within South Wales this ‘hidden’ population is particularly prevalent. The town of Neath is home to the highest proportion of unpaid carers in the UK (2011 Census | National Office of Statistics). But from within this same town a creative project is helping to bring these issues into view both across the UK and internationally.
A play by multi award-winning Neath-based company Theatr na nÓg goes on tour around the UK this autumn and aims to raise awareness of the situation for many young people in Wales. Eye of the Storm tells the story of Emmie Price, a young carer living in a mobile home in Aberdare with her bi-polar mother. In 2018 the play scooped ‘Best Show for Children and Young People’ at Wales Theatre Awards.
This work of fiction is rooted in the shared stories from dozens of young carers across Swansea and Neath, with whom Artistic Director Geinor Styles worked with during the development of the story over several years. The play aims to bring a young carer’s perspective to life for school audiences and general theatre audiences, provoking discussion and helping other young people understand the reality of other people’s lives.
“There were two key moments for me as I interviewed the young carers - One when I asked what their dreams were, their goals - the response was “To have a dream is pointless” The second was when I asked if they felt any obligation to caring. and then to be floored and humbled by the answer “Is there anything more important than caring for another human being?”These two things I wanted to address and illustrate for the young carers it is important to dream, and to have a dream and for us the wider community to be aware of what they do day to day and to understand and support them,”said Geinor.
During development, the production attracted the interest of Grammy award winner Amy Wadge. One of the UKs most in-demand songwriters, Amy has written for the likes of Ed Sheeran, Kylie Minogue and Jason Mraz and many will recognise her powerful soundtrack from the BBC series Keeping Faith. Amy contributed her songwriting skills to work with Geinor on the musical, playing with the storytelling qualities of country music to tell the young carer storyline.
“The story talks about coming from nothing, and about hardship – the same stuff country music does.” Amy explained, “Obviously, country is usually Texas or Tennessee or wherever, but there’s something about Wales that, for me, lends itself to country music more than anywhere else in Europe – it’s got the small-town vibe and our character lives in a trailer park, albeit in Wales.”
Since an initial run in 2017, Eye of the Storm has helped raise awareness to nearly 5000 young people and adults, and will be setting out on a UK wide tour to reach more audiences throughout September and October.
Performances take place in Edinburgh Kings Theatre, Swansea Grand Theatre, Portsmouth’s New Theatre Royal, Birmingham Hippodrome, Newport Riverfront, Pontio in Bangor and Aberystwyth Arts Centre. To find out more visit eyeofthestormmusical.co.uk.
Image: Rosey Cale as young carer Emmie Price in Eye of the Storm – Best Show for Children and Young People at Wales Theatre Awards. Simon Gough Photography