In the run up to the 2010 Festival, we worked with young carers from Salisbury and across Wiltshire on a project which enabled them to spend time together finding out about the history, environment and conservation of the Harnham Water Meadows in Salisbury, and exploring traditional crafts and stories relating to this special landscape.
All the young carers who took part have a significant role in caring for a seriously ill or disabled family member. Unearthing Stories came about because they expressed a wish to learn about the natural environment and engage more with the arts; we also wanted the project to connect with our 2010 Festival themes of words and stories.
During a residential weekend, the young people cooked up a very special story soup of their own, which they shared together outdoors (in spite of persistent rain). They created a beautiful new willow shelter with Wiltshire-based artist James Aldridge, inspired by elements in the landscape and traditional stories they had explored with storyteller Jamie Crawford. You can see the shelter in the garden of Rose Cottage on the Water Meadows.
We celebrated their achievements during the Festival with a special performance as part of our Noontime Stories in the Cathedral cloisters; the young people talked about what the project had meant for them and, with Jamie Crawford, performed some of their own stories.
The young people also filmed project activities for a DVD, which they will use to share their experiences, encourage other young carers and raise awareness of the valuable role that young carers play in their communities.
Unearthing Stories was a partnership with Youth Action Wiltshire and the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers. It was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Young Roots programme (which enables young people to celebrate, look after and learn more about our diverse heritage) and by a community development grant from Salisbury City Council. With support from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, the Festival continued to develop projects with young carers and their families in 2011.