August

Youth Connect South West writing group

In May 2022, third-year Creative Writing student Kylan Smith approached one of our partners, Youth Connect South West (YCSW), to see if he could develop his teaching skills with a community group. Steff Reynolds, Team Leader at YCSW, reported back on Kylan’s impact.

This year we at Youth Connect South West co-created a writing group to explore the written word with third-year Bath Spa student Kylan Smith. We decided to introduce a four-week project that gave young people a chance to meet as a group to explore different styles of creative writing.

About the group

Seven young people were involved in the project, with one young person reflecting at the close of the group: "poetry is my safe space."

We work with several young people with poor mental health whose symptoms manifest in many ways, including through:

  • isolation
  • self-harm
  • drug/alcohol abuse.

Some members of the group were also interested in attending the writing group to increase their confidence before taking their GCSE English exams.

What we set out to do

The aim of the group was for young people to lead the direction of each session, which in turn would increase confidence and self-esteem. Having fun was also a high priority!

We used our new electric minibus (and engagement worker, Pete) to transport young people from outside of Bath to our Southside Hub.

Week one

During our first session, Kylan explained that the group was there for the young people and would be run in a way that met their needs.

The group wanted to work on their planning skills to help with their GCSEs and college work, so Kylan focused on writing short stories as a way to build confidence. After some initial nerves, everyone quickly settled in.

Week two

At the start of this session, one young person asked to read out two short stories that they’d worked on over the week and was really pleased with their feedback.

The group then worked on and shared poems. This led to a group discussion about poetry, rap and spoken word. One group member was keen to set their words to music and I referred them to the YCSW Street-to-Studio programme.

The group then set their writing target for the next week: “write about your experiences of being stereotyped”. Everyone (facilitators included!) gained confidence through working together.

Week three

Kylan presented different poetry styles through the ages and the group discussed classic poetry, spoken word and lyrics.

He demonstrated a great knowledge of his subject, presented confidently, was patient and flexible to the group as a whole and to individual members, and was full of good humour and praise.

The group shared their stories around being stereotyped. Once again everyone grew in confidence. They shared work that covered some very sensitive, personal and challenging subjects, showing the value of having a safe space in which to discuss their feelings.

Week four

In our final session, we looked at chain poems, limericks and freestyle writing, with hilarious (and frequently rude) results. It’s been great to see the group become more confident in sharing their writing with each other.

What we achieved

I feel that we achieved far more than we set out to do. We provided a safe space that young people connected with and wanted to attend.

Kylan received lots of great feedback from the group, who said (among other things):

“We could express how we felt”
“It was a helpful and safe space”
“It was Bless”

One young person plans to apply for The Prince’s Trust screenwriting programme. Another shared her work with her community at a local art festival in Radstock to celebrate the Queen's jubilee.

Kylan has been an inspiration to the group. He’s encouraged everyone to feel comfortable and to participate. He has really benefited from the experience, too, and will take his learning with him.

Could you work with one of our cultural partners?

We’re proud of our partnerships with the creative and cultural sector in Bath. Together, we work to provide support for our community, our students and staff, and our valuable research and creative practice.

If you’re a student who’d like to expand on what you’re learning as part of your degree by working with one of our cultural partners, please email external@bathspa.ac.uk.

Disclaimer: The Bath Spa blog is a platform for individual voices and views from the University's community. Any views or opinions represented in individual posts are personal, belonging solely to the author of that post, and do not represent the views of other Bath Spa staff, or Bath Spa University as an institution.

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