Hackney GIving
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Spotlight on Activiteens - Puppetry, Here I Come!


by David Kingsley, Communications & Information Officer

Activiteens was set up in 2004 to relieve the needs of disadvantaged young people by providing out-of-school clubs, mentoring services, day and overnight trips and vocational training courses.

They successfully applied for a grant from Hackney Giving during the pandemic to run a puppetry project to support the wellbeing of young people from the Orthodox Jewish community. We spoke to Toby Erlanger, Activiteens project manager, to find out more.

DK: What made you start the ‘Puppetry, Here I Come’ project?

TE: Every year we deliver a range of performing arts sessions which develop the artistic skills of approximately 170 young people. They then showcase their newly acquired skills in a dazzling display of talent at the Millfield’s Art Theatre. This is an amazing way of promoting young peoples’ personal, social, and emotional development - maximising their potential.

Due to Covid-19, these sessions were unfortunately cancelled. The young people were understandably upset to lose out on this opportunity and were also feeling bored, low, and unmotivated during the endless months of lockdown. Together we brainstormed ways of continuing to develop their drama skills whilst providing them with fun activities that would make them feel creative and productive. And this is how ‘Puppetry, Here I Come’ was born.
 
DK: In what ways has this project benefitted young people from the Orthodox Jewish Community in Hackney?

TE: In addition to giving them the opportunity to develop artistically, young people have said that hiding behind a puppet has given them a unique opportunity for self-expression, allowing them to explore and work through their emotions in a safe place. It has also helped them bond with family members as they engaged them in the exciting puppet shows.
 
DK: Do you feel as if a project like this would be beneficial for other groups of young people within the borough, or across other boroughs as well?

TE: Puppetry is known to have therapeutic qualities. With all that our young people have been through this past 14 months, this may be a great project that could bring healing and hope to other young people.

A big thank you to Toby Erlanger

"Puppetry is known to have therapeutic qualities"