Young people in the criminal justice system have often failed at school and elsewhere. Their literacy can be weak and their concentration poor. But young people without much academic ability are often wrongly assumed to lack the imagination to write creatively, to tell stories. Young people are risk takers, young offenders particularly. Conflict is integral to their lives; with parents, the police, with other young people and with themselves. And conflict also makes for good drama.
This is a course about getting young people in the justice system to write and writing with them, and what that teaches us both. Getting young people involved in creative writing is not only a means to improving their literacy and self expression; it can be the basis of:
It can be a part of why somebody changes.
This course will enable your team to make the development of the written and spoken word an element of your everyday practice.
It is not necessary to be a writer to do the course, but you will find it much easier to lead the uninitiated if you’re prepared to try the exercises yourself. To use creative writing as a tool it is important to enjoy a good story. If you work with young people, you no doubt will.
Michael Crowley is a writer and youth justice professional who has written extensively for and about teenagers in trouble. He has been Writer in Residence at HMP YOI Lancaster Farms for the last three years where his work in developing writing and drama amongst prisoners has won several awards. He has written for stage, for publication and for the BBC. In a previous life he was a senior officer in a youth offending team in Greater Manchester. He is an expert practitioner in his field of writing with challenging children.
Michael says: "Many of the young people I work with have never written creatively before and believe they can’t. First I have to convince them that they can write and that it might be easier than they think. They do not self-censor like adults; particularly well-educated and over-trained adults. There is little interval between action and reaction, between instinct and deed. If they want to say something they will. And if they want to inhabit a character they will do so, without inhibition or asking permission. The absence of a policeman in their head can make for expressive and direct writing.
"Many in youth work and elsewhere seem to exclusively reach for the basketball to engage troublesome teenagers. If they do look to the arts it is often to music and rap music specifically or to physical theatre. The argument is; that this is what young people want. But many desperately want adults to help them express what they struggle to make sense of themselves. Part of the point of this course is to redress the balance of work with young people and to encourage adults who enjoy writing to pass on the pleasure and freedom it brings to young people. The course will equip participants with a range of methods to get young people writing. Through taking part in exercises as well as looking at young people’s work you will look at the barriers and benefits of this approach. We will look at what we and the young person can learn through memoir, through the creation of character; through the use of dialogue and monologue. In subsequent half days we will look at the putting together a publication, a performance, issues of copyright and confidentiality as well as work that you have started to do with young people on your caseload. Michael will be on hand to support your work in this area as and when required. This is not a one off-training day but a long term development in your team’s practice."
Pre training assessment - initial meeting with staff/manager(s)
• What work are you currently doing with young people?
• Does your team currently have a reading or writing programme?
• Drafting a timescale for training and implementation.
Day One (Full day)
• Getting in and getting going; warm up exercises and writing exercises
• Tricks and triggers: photos; music and objects.
• Mediums and their merits; memoir and poetry
• Writing is rewriting. The importance of redrafting.
• What we get out of reading. Selecting the texts.
• What we get out of publication and performance.
• Goals for implementation
Day Two (Half day)
• Reviewing implementation
• Medium and their merits; story and character
• Copyright and confidentiality
• Exercises for implementation
Day Three (Half Day)
• Visiting your team and working with young people alongside colleagues
Day Four (Half Day)
• Reviewing implementation
• Medium and their merits: drama and dialogue
• Preparing for publication and performance
Optional extra support as required
"Since I came to prison I started working with M Crowley. I am in prison for burglary and Mr Crowley asked me if I wanted to do a poem for three voices which I was more than happy to do. I never had feelings for any of my victims because I didn’t understand what I was doing. Since working with Mr Crowley I have thought long and hard about what I have done and how my victims will feel and I have learned a lot. I think what Mr Crowley is doing is very good and a lot of people benefit from it and it will help people who are afraid to attend education. I also told my probation officer what I have been doing with Mr Crowley and he was pleased with me and said there had been a change in me. I think the course is very good and I am thankful for what Mr Crowley has done with me."
"People benefit because it’s a way to unlock hidden emotion. It’s a way to get out of this world and into another where anything can happen. I’ve tried to write from a victim of crime perspective, and the truth is I’ve never thought like this before. I’ve never even bothered about people I don’t know. I’ve always thought, If I don’t know someone, why should I care? Writing from their perspective makes me think about their lives."
Free downloadable materials
How much does the course cost?
Cost is calculated on a case-by-case basis dependent on the number of attendees and the course content and depth. We will initially put you in contact with Michael Crowley to discuss your team's individual needs. Cost includes the trainer's travel and accommodation.
For further information on our Using creative writing in youth offending team work course, or any of our YOT training courses, call 020 8785 9912, or email us and we will contact you to discuss your requirements.