“Food, heat and shelter should be fundamental human rights”
If you’re reading this, give yourself (muscular dexterity allowing) a huge pat on the back. You’re a survivor.
It may only be the fact that you’ve come through a particularly difficult or challenging day, or that you’ve managed to keep yourself afloat in these really tough times, or like millions of others, you’ve managed to see off a global pandemic and are just determined to keep on keeping on. Up to this point, you’ve made it.
Every single one of us will have been through some rough patches in the past few years, and with very little sign of the country’s myriad woes being remedied any time soon, resilience, families, friendships and sheer bloody-mindedness will be required to keep ourselves in good spaces for the foreseeable future.
It goes without saying that in order for everyone to stay well and to feel as though the tough times will be worth enduring at some point in the future, we all need the basics. Food, heat and shelter instantly spring to mind. Three things which, in my opinion, should be fundamental human rights. Without these, we simply can’t function properly and the absence of any or all of them leads to an inevitable deterioration in our health and wellbeing.
As a species, we also cling to relationships to nurture and bolster us. This aspect of our collective need is crucially important, particularly for our mental wellbeing and our capacity for emotional development and the construction of self-esteem and empathy for our brothers and sisters in the citizenry. This is especially true for children and young people as they grow and navigate their way into adulthood.
Recent studies have shown that the incidence of children and young people presenting with mental health issues have been exacerbated by disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. For example, in 2017 in the UK, approximately one in nine children were reported as having mental health problems. In 2021, this had increased to one in six.
It’s never been more important for young people to be able to access services and opportunities which endeavour to foster healthy, open and positive relationships with their peers which also allow them to express, explore and deal with all of the good and bad things which inhabit their worlds.
One way in which this can be achieved is through the provision of tangible experiences of the arts for children and young people – the importance of which successive governments have failed to acknowledge or support in the way that they should.
For example, take the theatre. It’s not just entertainment. It also helps to foster collaboration, empathy and emotional intelligence amongst young people. It can also help to build self-esteem, confidence and patience.
Despite a lack of meaningful support from government, and the arduous task of providing such a precious outlet, there are organisations and groups out there working their socks off to keep young people engaged and thriving. One such group is Forth Children’s Theatre (FCT).
FCT was established as a registered charity in 1979 with the overall aim to encourage further interest and participation in theatre and drama among young people. The group rehearse their shows in Granton and provide free access to children and young people from all backgrounds, providing those young people with the opportunity to achieve their aspirations by building confidence and interpersonal skills in both performing and theatre production.
As someone who has attended FCT productions in the past, it’s obvious that these young people do not only possess prodigious talent. They also give off the unmistakeable air of having been nurtured in a positive and wholly collaborative environment by people who really care about them and their development, not only as actors or technical theatre workers, but as confident, empathetic and supportive individuals.
Support for such organisations is needed now more than ever and will be crucial to ensure that they continue to grow and provide children and young people with an invaluable resource as they navigate their way in the world. That’s where you come in.
FCT’s next production will be Anything Goes, a musical comedy set aboard an ocean liner bound for London from New York. It will run from 15-18 February at the Edinburgh Tabernacle in Ferry Road. Whether you love musicals or not, do try and get along if only to witness the energy, talent and sheer joy which these young people put into every minute of every show.
Trust me, you’ll come away feeling uplifted and reminded that there really are things in this world worth surviving for. ■
Feb 15/16/17; 19.30-22.00; (£10 to £15)
Image: Mark Gorman