Express Yourself

The Express Yourself project, funded by an NHS England grant, looked at how poetry can be utilised as a medium to work with young people with learning disabilities to discuss the issue of emotional wellbeing and what this meant to them. Four young people with learning disabilities were supported to co-facilitate workshops with 16 of their peers where issues relating to emotional wellbeing were explored. Then young people spent time with a performance poet looking at important words and meanings and seeing how these could be incorporated into poems. The poet used beat boxing techniques: young people danced and clapped along performing their own beat boxing and learning about rhythm and rhyme in poetry.

Thomas Chalk, a Learning Disability Network Manager from NHS England said after reading the book: 

“I’ve just looked at the Express Yourself book online… Genuinely have a tear in my eye. Fabulous stuff. I love the way there is so much about the process of communicating and creating woven in with so much about what makes the people individual. With a background in support work with people who have significant barriers to communication, this feels really true – getting to know people, building up a relationship with them, is so much about working together on communication; and getting it right is a shared joy, and a privilege to be part of.”

Poet’s First

Working alongside performance poet, Dreadlock Alien, young disabled people took part in poetry workshops and poetry slams across Sandwell and Wolverhampton and produced their own book of poetry called “Poet’s First!” This body of poetry, funded by a Clore Duffield Poetry and Literature Award, speaks of bullying, racism, teenage pregnancy, education and depression. The young people called the book Poet’s First because they wanted the reader to hear them as young poets, rather than seeing them as disabled first.

“I have never seen this class so engaged and interested in literature. I will definitely see my students in a different light now!”
English Teacher

“The workshop has had such a positive impact on the students. I’m shocked to have heard such emotional and personal poems. It is important that their voices are heard and using poetry is a creative and engaging way to do this.”
Head Teacher