Health researchers work on teenage sexual health project

Issue date: 25 January 2005

Issue date: 25/01/05

Health researchers from the University of the West of England are teaming up with the Myrtle Theatre Company and the Bristol Teenage Pregnancy Partnership to create an educational drama based on young peoples’ experience of sexual health issues. The drama will be performed in a range of informal settings to raise awareness of sexual health issues.

The Myrtle Theatre company will work with young people to gather ideas about their understandings of sexual health. The anecdotal experience of the young people taking part will be instrumental in how the drama unfolds. A playwright, Lucy Catherine, has been appointed to draft a script based on ideas that emerge from these consultation sessions.

Judy Orme from the Faculty of Health and Social Care at UWE, is leading the evaluation part of the project, she said, “We particularly need to involve ‘hard to reach’ young people who are not able to access formal sex and relationship education, to teach life skills associated with sexual health and relationships through the drama process. We will be evaluating how effective this kind of communication is amongst the target groups we seek to reach. It is anticipated that the research team will feed into the project as it unfolds.”

Heather Williams from Myrtle Theatre Company said, “We have found that this way of working can be extremely effective. The Company is highly experienced in using theatre to communicate with young people. A successful example of this is our project ‘Myrtle on the Mainline’ which aims to deliver meaningful drugs education, and has toured successfully for eight years. We found the University of the West of England evaluation for ‘Myrtle on the Mainline’ extremely useful as not only did it highlight the benefits of the project, ensuring its longevity, it also helped refine the work at an early stage.

“We envisage that this project will have a resonance of ‘Myrtle on the Mainline’. We will be working with a group of young people aged between 13 and 18 and we will use the process of theatre making to consult in a non-threatening way. Creating characters tends to make it easier for young people to talk more freely if they can depersonalise experience and project into a third person. Our experience is that this process of creating drama is great fun and we see young people become more confident as the project progresses.”

Ann Colquhoun, Bristol Teenage Pregnancy Co-ordinator said, “We know how powerful drama can be in engaging young people. It enables them to think about relationships and sexual health in a safe and non-threatening environment. I hope that by being part of the project young people will feel more confident to ask for help and advice and access sexual health services.”


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