Icons of the big and small screens and sport legends, including Sir David Jason, Paul O'Grady, Chris Tarrant, Ryan Giggs and Jo Brand, have all sent their own congratulatory video messages to young carers. Dame Helen Mirren sent a personal letter wishing young carers 'a happy and sunny festival in 2009' and inviting everyone to leave their own supporting message. Theo Walcott and Rebecca Adlington OBE joined Dame Helen with their own written messages of support for the Young Carers Festival.
Once again YMCA Fairthorne Manor and The Children’s Society are hosting the largest annual youth participation event in the UK, bringing together over 1,800 young carers on 26-28 June 2009. The Young Carers Festival gives this forgotten group of children a rare moment to enjoy their childhood and a chance to have their voices heard as they describe what need to change for them and their families in order to help make their lives easier. At the festival young carers can enjoy everything from canoeing, abseiling and a beauty salon to a sailing regatta, football tournament and a ‘chill-out’ zone. They are encouraged to do as little or much they want.
Since 2000, more than 14,000 young carers have attended the festival, giving them a chance to meet other young people who are also looking after someone with an illness or disability. Over the years, young carers have had a major influence on the content of two major pieces of carers’ legislation, guidance for teachers and, most recently, the content of the Prime Minister’s New Deal for Carers Strategy.
Peter Cooper Children’s Work Director at YMCA Fairthorne Group says: “For 10 years the festival has put back some of the rights of childhood that have been missing from these exceptional young lives. The right to play, socialise and have a say about their lives and those of their families are at the foundations of this unique festival. For one weekend each year childhood returns and with each passing year their rights are increasingly recognised.”
Sir David Jason said: “Young carers play a vital role in their families and today I would like to acknowledge your commitment and dedication. I wish you a happy festival, making new friends or catch up with old ones and hopefully taking time to relax too!”
Star of stage and screen Dame Helen Mirren, Arsenal and England footballer Theo Walcott and Olympic Gold medal-winning swimmer Rebecca Adlington OBE have also added their voice in support through written messages. You can read these messages and submit your own by visiting our Young Carers Festival webpages.