Recipe for an amazing festival: 1600 young carers, music and a cardboard house
You can find many photos from this year's Young Carers Festival on our Facebook page.
The atmosphere was electric at this year's Young Carers Festival. It was something close to a cross between a fun school trip and a music festival.
People were about at all times, fun things happening all around and great friendships forged during the weekend, which was the 14th festival.
The contrast between this atmosphere and the isolation that can come with being a young carer is immense. They are two completely different worlds.
Add to this a dash of live music, a fun fair, all sorts of exciting new activities and a seemingly unlimited supply of sugary snacks, and you have yourself a recipe for an amazing, hugely successful festival.
Giving young carers a voice
In addition to providing young carers a break from their caring responsibilities, the festival also gives them a voice. There were many innovative and fun consultations running throughout the weekend.
While it's only a small part of all the festivities on offer at the festival, the Voice Zone is the place for young people to get creative, and to have their say. There was a variety of activities running, all designed to give young people a voice.
They ranged from the expected (my questionnaire) to the creative (painting words on a canvas) to the downright ridiculous (the cardboard house).
A plethora of other amazing consultations were also being run, young people could paint themes on a canvas, write poetry, make stop motion animation videos, create face masks, or leave a video message for the internet. (You can watch some messages on the Young Carers in Focus website.)
Psy, Catwoman and a thrash metal band
One of the many highlights of the festival was definitely the opening ceremony, with members of the YMCA team performing songs written for the festival, dancing and some bad acting to boot.
Many 'celebrities' - Psy, Barbie, Catwoman and even the Annoying Orange - added some class to proceedings. Perhaps the biggest surprise, however, came from an unexpected performance by a thrash metal band mid-afternoon on Saturday - now that was an inspired booking.
The band was well received and I even spotted a 'mosh pit' consisting of no more than four young people thrashing about. I will never forget the sight of the 20 or so young people watching the band all headbanging during their last song, whilst other people just looked on in confusion or ignored it completely in favour of their football game.
Creativity at the festival
Creativity was the theme for this year's Young Carers Festival, with the tagline 'Creating a brighter future'. As anyone who interacts with children and young people will know, creativity is certainly something they’re good at, and there couldn’t be a better way to get them involved than to get their creative juices flowing.
There are so many activities running at the festival, all designed to give young people something to do, get them to try something new and to give them a voice. The festival is all about them.
In the words of Children’s Commissioner Maggie Atkinson, the young people 'get the chance to be selfish, which is something [they] don’t get to do very often'.
Even then, considering that they have the chance to be selfish, they have so much to give us when doing so. On the final day of the festival the walls dividing up the Voice Zone tent were transformed into an impromptu art gallery. There were so many beautiful pieces of artwork for us to display.
Temporary art gallery
They also created word spirals, poetry, sculpt with clay, paint on canvas, create a video diary, decorate cupcakes, or create stop motion animation. The cupcakes were unsurprisingly quite a popular option - sweets are always a good incentive to get young people to get involved.
There was so much creativity flowing out of these young people, so much in fact that there is too much to display. We have taken out the best bits and put them up for display on Makewaves. Please visit the makewaves site for more.
These consultations all yielded results, which is a testament to how eager the young people are to help others, even when this is their own chance to do anything they want to.
Young Carers in Focus - join in
Visit the Young Carers in Focus website, a national campaign we're leading on to support young carers - if you know a young carer or are one, please get involved. The project enables young carers across the UK to share their experiences using a safe social networking site.
Have a look at the Young Carers in Focus website.