3 min read
Cheshire Dance has secured additional funding for its initiative ‘The Spotlight Project’ to provide young people in the area with more opportunities to engage in different activities for improved mental health and wellbeing. Working in partnership with Youth Fed, the Mind Body Balance Academy, Winsford NHS Care Community and New Images Youth & Community Centre, Cheshire Dance is providing a safe and supportive youth-led space for ages 11-18 to take part in creative physical activity free of charge, with trained specialist mental health professionals on site during all weekly sessions.
Cheshire Dance founded the Spotlight Project as an initiative to inspire young people through creativity and to provide them with a performance opportunity in their local town at the event last March. During the pilot project it was apparent that mental health challenges in the age group remain commonplace and Cheshire Dance looked to expand its work and provide a regular hub for young people to come together, build resilience and gain confidence in themselves.
With funding from Sport England via Active Cheshire, last November Cheshire Dance teamed up with Youth Fed, Winsford NHS Care Community and the Mind Body Balance Academy to expand its offering and provide regular sessions for high school-aged people at New Images Youth & Community Centre. With two strands of activity to choose from, dance and boxing fitness, Winsford’s young people have been able to take part in a range of creative and physical activities that place the young people and their wellbeing right in the spotlight.
Jane McLean, Creative Director at Cheshire Dance explains: “Mental health challenges for young people have grown significantly in recent years and were further exacerbated by the Covid 19 pandemic. In response to this, since November The Spotlight Project has been giving young people in Winsford the chance to explore fitness, boxing, dance and creative activities whilst being guided by highly experienced practitioners who listen to and support the voices and any mental health needs of the young people involved. Through these sessions, young people can explore issues, ideas and topics that are important to them.”
Mark Smith from Youth Fed continues: “A high prevalence of declining mental health issues in Winsford’s young people was identified by the local NHS Care Community – plus Youth Fed’s existing mental health programme with young people in Winsford Academy and in the community – and having The Spotlight Project as a pathway for GP, Social Prescribing and community referrals where mental ill health can be addressed through creative and physical outputs has been hugely beneficial to the community.
“Young people in the project have not only been having fun, but they are also gaining the skills and knowledge to make healthy lifestyle choices with a better understanding of themselves and their bodies, whilst at the same time learning strategies to support their mental and physical health needs.”
The Spotlight Project was initially due to run until March 2023 but thanks to new funding and support from Cheshire Community Foundation, the initiative will now continue until at least Autumn this year.
In addition to offering creative physical activity for young people with different interests, the extension to the project means that Cheshire Dance can also develop a Young Leaders Programme within project. From providing mentoring opportunities and the development of leadership skills, to giving participants the opportunity to be involved in other creative projects, the initiative looks to support the young people’s progression not just during the project, but beyond it.
Jane McLean adds: “We want to give these young people the opportunity to take ownership of the Spotlight Project. We want them to create something for themselves; something they can take ownership of and something which makes them proud. This may be an event, an exhibition or maybe even a film – it will be for them to decide. In essence, we want them to be able to take away valuable personal, social and creative skills, and to gain a strong sense of achievement.”
The Spotlight Project sessions take place at New Images Youth and Community Centre from 7pm to 8.30pm on Tuesday evenings during term time. Young people are encouraged to come along to take part in dance and movement sessions and/or boxing fitness workshops with the aim of trying something new, meeting new people, getting active and having fun. The group is for all abilities and high school ages; beginners are very welcome. No booking is required and all sessions are free.
Trained mental health specialists from Youth Fed are in attendance each week and where required, assist the young people to explore and implement strategies for supporting their mental and emotional health.
For more information, search for ‘The Spotlight Project’ or contact the team at: firstname.lastname@example.org.