Changing young lives through theatre: the South American way

Published: 23 Oct 2014

Author: Matthew Elliott
Changing young lives through theatre: the South American way

Matthew Elliott is the youth theatre director at Collective Encounters, a theatre for social change company that works with a range of communities in North Liverpool and across Merseyside. He has spent six weeks travelling across Chile, Argentina and Uruguay, working with young people in a range of locations including prisons, secure children’s units, and on the streets.

Over the last few years, arts and children’s services have been subject to numerous cuts, in Liverpool as well as across the UK. Matthew wanted to explore and observe different ways of sustaining projects for young people that can withstand budget cuts or the end of a funding agreement.  As well as sustainability, observing different ways to engage communities in creative political debate was vital to the trip.

Matthew’s travels were funded by a Winston Churchill Memorial Fellowship, in partnership with NCVYS. During his time overseas he met with punk clowns, comedians, satirists and theatre groups, all striving to empower vulnerable young people and bring about social change.

Matthew said, “The Churchill Fellowship offered me a unique insight to different ways of using theatre to engage marginalised young people. Chile, Argentina and Uruguay all had very different styles and approaches. However, there were recurring themes in all of them: continuity, self-sustainability and activism; from theatre groups who have had a presence in the community for over 25 years to serving prisoners performing in youth offender institutions.”

Matthew plans to implement his findings within his own work in Liverpool. He will be encouraging debate with a range of organisations and groups including community theatre students and workers, youth workers and a range of community organisations. A short film is also being compiled including interviews and excerpts of work from the Fellowship.

Matthew’s travel blog: http://collective-encounters.org.uk/2014/08/south-american-blog/

Contact Matthew: 07999424110 / matthew@collective-encounters.org.uk