In 2014, Adam Tulloch had a vision.
Having seen firsthand how beneficial the arts can be in creating a positive impact on people’s lives, he wanted to focus his energy on giving back.
The result? An award-winning charity that uses arts to transform the lives of children and young people: Total Insight Theatre. Their mission is to increase the number of children and young people benefitting from the arts – especially those experiencing disadvantages in any way.
Ella Schwarz, head of participation and development at the charity, tells Smiley News that the charity started in a small classroom in Crystal Palace engaging young people in after-school activities – giving them somewhere to go and something creative to do. Since then, the programme has grown “quite remarkably” – having engaged more than 18,000 children and young people across the Midlands, West Yorkshire, London and the South East.
“We work in areas of high deprivation,” she says, “and focus our services to make sure we concentrate our work in areas where we think most children would benefit.”
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For the charity, “disadvantage” means socially and economically. “We recognise even where an area might appear affluent, there are pockets of deprivation,” says Ella, “so we try and address those as well.”
The basis of their work is their Creative Hubs programmes, which have the sole purpose of giving children and young people something to do at times when they’re not busy with school. This can be anything from dance, musical theatre, or singing, for example.
One of these programmes is called The Nest, a free online creative scheme for ages 18-25 that “highlights different pathways into the arts, and helps you find your voice, own your story and embark on your own creative path”. Of course, all the charity’s services are free or charge and their after-school programmes are heavily subsidised.
“We also do film and awareness campaigns,” adds Ella. “We’ve done a lot of work around crime prevention, with resources that bring home the impact of knife crime with theatre, film and workshops. The aim is to get young people thinking about the impact of their decisions and perhaps make them think in the future about making positive choices for themselves – so they don’t get stuck in cycles of crime.”
The charity supports local youth centres, too, as well as schools and pupil referral units. They work with young refugees and children exposed to crime to add and complement the use of arts for a positive impact.
The inspiring impact on young people
As for many charities, Total Insight Theatre was hit hard by the pandemic. “When lockdown came in, we had to close,” says Ella. “We had to create a whole new operating model to continue providing opportunities. We pivoted online and go so much rewarding feedback.”
One young person, who took part in one of the charity’s online creative hub programmes, said she had been suffering with anxiety since being diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome – she said the programme was incredible and still to this day she uses techniques she learned to manage everyday life.
Another young person who took part in The Nest managed to get offered training placements from two big companies – she said she’d never been able to do as well as she did in those job interviews without the charity’s support.
“It’s those kind of stories that make a difference,” says Ella.
Inspired to act?
STAY UPDATED: Follow Total Insight Theatre on social media – they post projects they’re starting and share details about everything going on.
VOLUNTEER: The charity has volunteering opportunities, as well as paid ones, available on its website.
DONATE: Help Total Insight Theatre continue their mission by donating.
Photo credit: Erica Dezonne