Express Yourself London celebrates the power of creative arts for positive change
WHO ARE WE
Lorraine Le-Blanc Davis is an experienced dancer, choreographer and facilitator. Loraine has for the past 12 years worked with Express Yourself Boston (www.exyo.org) and closely with its founder Paula Conrad. Loraine has adapted the very successful and award winning USA programme to London and has spent the past couple of years developing partnerships with specialists in Croydon.
As well as working with very successful and established artists that have a wealth of teaching experience, Express Yourself London (EYL) is also working in close partnership with local specialists (Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services - CAMHS and Looked After Children - LAC) to implement the eight-week programme of activities working with vulnerable (who are mostly looked after) children and young people suffering from mental health disorders.
The Mental Health Foundation (MHF) reported that one in ten children between the ages of one and 15 has a mental health disorder. Rates of mental health problems among children increase as they reach adolescence. Very often mental health issues drive children into care. Looked after children are children who have become the responsibility of the local authority. This can happen voluntarily by parents struggling to cope or through intervention because a child is at risk of significant harm. A recent report by MHF assessing the impact creativity has on mental health, stated that participants engaging in creative activities experienced significant improvement in their mental health and social functioning and in particular highlighted improved self-esteem, communication skills and social interaction. Participants highlighted that such activities provided a non-threatening and accessible medium, which enabled them to address underlying issues, which may have been more difficult to explore through more traditional forms of communication,
EYL aim to help children and young people develop better communication skills, confidence and their creative voices
EYL pilot will see experienced artists, facilitators, teachers and carers working with 60 young participants on a journey of self-discovery and self-empowerment. Helping them develop confidence, an increased attention span, an ability to work cooperatively, a desire to initiate and complete a task and develop greater communication skills just to name a few. The project will enable participants to become the agents of their own development. They take ownership, investment, responsibility and independence. Their ideas expressed through different creative learning practices. It will encourage personal growth and collaborative / collective creative vision. Showing the power of arts and promoting positive practice for arts in education.
EYL will make advances to breakdown preconceptions about children's and young people's mental health. Bringing the issues they face to a wider public view.
FINAL SHARING OF WORK / CELEBRATION
At the end of the eight week pilot we will have a sharing of all that has been developed in the EYL creative arts workshops. So that all participants can immediately share their experiences and put their learning into practice to share with family members, friends, teachers, carers and other children and young people.
WHEN AND WHERE
EYL pilot will take place in February / March 2016. It will be based at the London Borough of Croydon. We have decided to place the project in Croydon as the borough has the largest number of Looked After children in the country with a large percentage of those being unaccompanied Asylum Seekers. Croydon LAC who we are directly working with have a population at present of 843 LAC of which 398 are local children and 445 are unaccompanied asylum seekers under 18 years old.
EYL FUTURE / LIFE AFTER THE PILOT
Our aim is to:
1. have our project running annually for10 months of the year.
2. have more children taking part in our high-quality creative arts experience each year.
3. have the EYL performance at a professional theatre in the west end for one night only with 100+ children, how great would that be for them!
EYL pilot aims to test our ideas, process and to develop stronger partnerships and gather more support. So that EYL can provide stability and consistency that is otherwise seldom present in the lives of many of the young people involved.
Lorraine Le-Blanc Davis – Director and Head of Performance Arts.
Lorraine has been working professionally in the performing arts and teaching, choreographing and performing for over 20 years. She has worked professionally in all three fields all over the world. She has worked in West End musical Theatre, Opera performed with various dance companies, worked in television, performing and choreographing commercially for trade shows dance videos and film. She is a teacher of Jazz Dance, Lindy Hop, Tap dance, Street Dance, and Body Percussion. She has studied Classical Ballet, Tap, Contemporary, Various Jazz Technique including Matt Mattox and Horton, Lindy Hop, African, National Dance including flamenco and Street dance. Lorraine has been working very closely for the past 14 years with the international sensation Stomp as a performer and rehearsal director and is also a member of Stomps Lost and Found Orchestra. Lorraine will bring these skills along with all of her other experience to enrich the Express Yourself London (EYL) organization. Lorraine is the head of all arts in the organization and is committed to bringing a very high standard of artist to work for Express Yourself. This is so the children can learn to understand, what can be achieved with dedication and passion toward something and for each individual to excel to the best of their ability.
Lorraine has been volunteering her time working with Express Yourself Boston for the past 11 years. Each year she work’s with over 150 young people for up to 3 months teaching, choreographing & immersing herself into the programme, working very closely with it's founder Paula Conrad.
“Lorraine has worked with Stomp for several years, as a lead performer, rehearsal director, trainer and workshop leader. She has overseen auditions and been even entrusted with achieving the rhythms and choreography of the show.
She was a natural choice for us when we put together Stomp’s big sister show: The Lost and Found Orchestra. In short, Lorraine is one of the most talented, trustworthy, inteligent and responsible performers we have ever worked with.
As a workshop leader she has shown us another side: as someone who can appeal to and motivate young people in positive, constructive way: Express Yourself is a perfect embodiement of Lorraine’s skills and strenghts in working with young people from all walks of life. We have followed Lorraine’s adventures with Express Yourself in the USA, and agree that it is perfect for youth in the UK”. (Steve McNicholas – Director Yes/No Production. Stomp)
“Lorraine, choreographer and Stomp performer, became involved with Express Yourself in 2003. At that time, Lorraine met with DHM officials and Express Yourself directors and integrated Somp performers and youth to create a performance over a 8 month period. Lorraine led these guests artists and delivered consistent positive outcomes for Express Yourself youth.
Lorraine has served as a guest artist to our organisation for many years and has been the catalyst in developing the model to have high artistic merit that motivates and excites those youth who are very challenging. Her interest and dedication to Express Yourself is evident.
Through our collaboration with Lorraine, Express Yourself has sucessifuly grown as an organisation while mantaining artistic and professional standards well documentes through its many local, state and national awards and accolades.
Our model has demonstrated success and has been successfully replicated in Milwaukee. Wisscosin, who are currently winning contracts and awards. It is with great care that Express Yourself allows the use of their name and are very particular with those they entrust to replicate the existing model. We believe that Lorraine, because of her own artistic qualities, yeas of partnership and knowledge of Express Yourself programme, is very capable to serve many young people and create high-quality art experiences in a safe environment. She has travelled from the UK and stayed for 2-3 months periods each year to immerse herself into the programme and understand the model of youth arts and collaboration at its finest. Both Express Yourself directors visited other organisations in London and believe that Express Yourself would bring a wonderful addition to youth services there”. (Paula Conrad and Stan Strickland – Express Yourself Directors)