Jack Petchey Foundation
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Roma Support Group combats bullying and low confidence with theatre

Roma Support Group, in Newham, has received a £750 grant from the Jack Petchey Foundation for their innovative ‘Forum Theatre Project’.

Forum theatre is one of the many branches of 'Theatre of the Oppressed', which was established by renowned educationalist Paulo Freire and social theatre practitioner Augusto Boal. It constitutes of a series of workshops where the participants devise dramatic scenes that initially contain a political or social 'error'. Before the scene is replayed, the audience is invited to stop the action and to take the place of the protagonist – with a view to change the scene into a model of the world or society as it could be. Forum theatre is very effective at raising awareness of social issues and creating a space of inclusion where the participants' voices are heard.

The £750 grant from the Jack Petchey Foundation will contribute to the forum theatre, music rehearsals and CD production costs. This CD will be something the 20 attendees can return to and learn from. Roma Support Group has held 4 forums in the past year. "The young Roma people who attended clearly expressed the need to focus and work on their everyday issues and frustrations through theatre-based interventions and music expression. They find the arts an effective channel of self-expression, where they don’t feel judged or criticised." says Tania Gessi, the Culture & Arts Development Co-ordinator of Roma Support Group. Given that 80% of Roma Support Group’s members stated that they are scared of declaring their Roma ethnicity in schools, projects like this are essential to boost self-confidence.

200 of the young people that attend the Roma Support Group are victims of bullying, destitution and discrimination. The Equality and Human Rights Commission 2013 noted that Gypsy/Roma children 'do far less well [at school] than any other ethnic group'. In fact, the Department for Education noted that only 8.3% of young Gypsy/Roma children got 5 A-C grades at GCSE level in 2010. "Our case notes, professional observation and meetings with schools reveal that bullying is often one of the main reasons behind poor attendance...This Project therefore will enhance their self-esteem and give them tools to develop more effective coping strategies, self-advocacy and emotional resilience” says Tania.

To find out more about the Roma Support Group visit their website.

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