Over the last decade Ireland has had one of the highest rates of teenage suicide in Europe and Cork has been at the epicentre of this epidemic, particularly amongst young men. The festival director William Galinsky thought this issue was an important one for the festival to explore as well as the wider context of what it means to be a young person living in Ireland today, post-Celtic tiger.
Out of his relationship with Belgium creation house CAMPO he invited CAMPO director Pol Heyvaert to develop a theatre project. The other FML team members consisted of dramaturg Bart Capelle, 15 Irish teenagers and Dr Ella Arensman of the National Suicide Research Foundation, an expert in the field of suicide research, counselling and prevention.
This team worked together to create a full length theatre production casting a spotlight on the lives of the teenagers and issues relating to suicide and self-harm.
The production toured internationally in Ireland, the UK and mainland Europe and received significant media and audience attention.
The process for developing FML took a number of stages.
Back in 2009, Cork Midsummer Festival’s Director William Galinsky invited Belgian director Pol Heyvaert to come and run a workshop with a group of young people. The young people were first recruited through a Cork county and city wide search with letters going out to youth clubs, secondary schools, Further Education colleges and other youth related organisations. Pol wanted young people with no stage experience who represented the whole spectrum of youth. From initial interviews (rather than auditions) 20 young people were selected to take part in a workshop entitled Out of Order. From Out of Order a public presentation was shown during Cork Midsummer Festival 2009.
The FML production was developed through a devised process over a year using interviews and workshops which were gradually developed into rehearsals and a script.
The process involved working with the FML performers’ own personal experiences through a simple question and answer format, giving them the safety of being able to lie (if they wanted to). This feedback was worked together to form the basis of a script. Dramaturg Bart Capelle researched and referenced other contemporary footage through television and the internet.
Based on Dr Arensman’s recommendations, in order to increase the public’s understanding of the issue of teenage suicide and self-harm, the project included the following elements:
• the use of appropriate presentation and language which involved Dr Arensman reviewing the draft script and making recommended minor adjustments.
• the use of suicide and self-harm statistics (alongside other statistics).
• the use of a recommended process for communicating with the young people involved in FML in dealing with the sensitivities of the subject matter.
• briefing publicity officers, press officers and journalists where necessary with regards to good practice for reporting on suicide and self-harm.
• working within a recommended process for delivering the workshop programme, should any issues arise for the participants involved.
• providing positive health promotion literature.
• working with mental health agencies to ensure that audiences have support material to deal with the issues raised, should they require it.
A report was produced for the Wellcome Trust as part of a funding requirement. This is not publicly available.
The outcomes of this project include:
• the production of a critically acclaimed, high quality full length theatre production with an extensive international tour which received considerable media coverage.
• shining an international spotlight on local teenage issues with suicide, self-harm and mental health in Ireland and Cork in particular through the performances themselves and a substantial press and marketing campaign.
• partnerships between Cork Midsummer Festival and the mental health sector through working with Dr Arensman and organisations such as Inspire Ireland
• enabling Cork Midsummer Festival to work with esteemed Belgian Director Pol Heyvaert and the CAMPO production house, thus buying in talent and expertise to the festival and the Irish arts sector.
• raising the production values and extending the potential life of the production through added value of shared resources, expertise and finance from the co-producers CAMPO (Ghent), LIFT (London), Belfast Festival and The Everyman (Cork).
The production was seen by many teenagers and adults throughout Europe:
• nine performances at The Everyman, Cork, Ireland (24 June – 3 July 2010) as part of Cork Midsummer Festival
• one performance at Byre Theatre, St Andrews, Scotland (9 July 2010) as part of the National Theatre of Scotland youth exchange week
• four performances at ICA (14 – 17 July 2010), London, UK as part of the London International Festival of Theatre
• two performances at Kiasma Theatre, Helsinki (30 – 31 July 2010), Finland as part of the Urb Festival
• three performances at Romeo Tent, Groningen, Holland (19 – 21 August 2010) as part of the Noorderzon Festival
• two performances at Project Arts Centre, Dublin (11 & 12 September 2010), Ireland as part of the Dublin Fringe Festival
• three performances at Waterfront Studio, Belfast (15 – 17 October 2010), UK as part of Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s
• two performances at CAMPO Arts Center, Ghent, Belgium (28 – 29 October 2010)
• five performances at The Everyman, Cork, Ireland (1 – 5 March 2011)
• two performances at Belltable Arts Centre, Limerick (26 & 27 March 2011)
• one performance at the Heimspeil Festival 2011, Cologne (31 March 2011)
• two performances at Siamsa Tire Theatre, Kerry (8 & 9 April 2011)
Documentation and Dissemination
The outcomes of this project were disseminated via presentations to arts practitioners and educators via:
• a formal presentation about FML and a video showcase at the ‘Youth Perspectives’ seminar in Cork, bringing together young people and those involved in developing and delivering programmes in the formal and non-formal education sectors.
• Q&A post show event at Everyman Theatre, Cork
• Q&A post show event with young people and youth workers during the National Theatre of Scotland youth exchange.
Dr Ella Arensman has made reference to FML in two awareness programmes on depression and suicidal behaviour for community based services for young people – The European Alliance Against Depression and Optimising Suicide Prevention Programmes and their Implementation in Europe.
Margaret O’Keeffe-Gould, Lecturer in Community Education and Development at Cork Institute of Technology is making a direct reference to FML in her teaching.
Inspire Ireland, who help young people lead happier lives by delivering ReachOut.com, an online service to help young people get through tough times, facilitated a Q&A post show event for healthcare professionals.
CAMPO (Ghent), LIFT Festival (London), Belfast Festival and The Everyman (Cork)