Today we begin fundraising for an exciting new research and development project Encounter. We have a shared interest, originating in our combined arts and research practices, in exploring transitional spaces for adolescents, particularly for those who are vulnerable or marginalised in their social and school environments. We draw on our combined interests and passions for working with young people to begin this investigation with the working question:
How can we create transitional spaces by using the arts with vulnerable young people?
Our Starting Points
Alex McIntyre’s interest in transitional space is informed by her exploration of sculpture, exhibition curation and participatory arts practice. The production and viewing of sculpture in particular is seen as a process in which the subject is consciously embodied and so routed in present experience. Her current work as a practitioner with Art for Change, a creative learning project in collaboration with Watford Palace Theatre and three schools in Watford, demonstrates engagement with the use of creative processes to enable expression, conversation and transformation. The project uses the arts as a means to de-stigmatise mental health and to provoke discussion amongst young people across the schools. Her observation and reflection on conversations with young people and teachers regarding the challenges of discussing mental health has revealed ways in which the use of the arts might help us understand, re-imagine, and so change, responses to mental illness. Alex’s participatory practice has evolved through previous work producing sculptural installations and exhibitions, which aimed to engage the viewer in moments of interaction and response. Visitors were invited to construct their journey within an exhibition space by reacting creatively to sculptures and written stimuli.
Martin Heaney is completing a PhD, which explores theatre in relation to ideas of transitional spaces of the male adolescent. He is particularly interested in exploring testing Donald Winnicott’s ideas of transitional space, that the event of inner transition is made possible only in relation to ‘the outside world of people, environments and events’ and exploring the arts in relation to Massumi’s ideas of ‘emergent’ transitional space where identities are played with and rehearsed.
Together, we wish to investigate how we can construct a dynamic transitional space for young people that has, in its construction, multiple dimensions of relational care, art-making, sensory engagement and productivity.
We are responding to the increasing presence of mental health issues for young people in Hertfordshire. One in ten children and young people aged 5 to 16 nationally have a clinically diagnosed mental health disorder and around one in seven has less severe problems. Research data of the Hertfordshire Young People’s Manifesto 2014-2015 indicates that the overall majority of young people in Hertfordshire may not know how to keep themselves emotionally and mentally well. It also identifies a lack of funding for CAMHS in Hertfordshire, which means that many young people are waiting up to 6 months between an initial meeting and regular professional support.
Through our research, we want to create a model of practice and research findings that we will share with other agencies. Through the exhibition, seminar and conference contributions we have planned, we aim to create a unique resource for Hertfordshire agencies to develop imaginative new pathways for young people to engage with the arts and increase their emotional wellbeing.
 Annual Report of the Chief Medical Officer 2012, Our Children Deserve Better: Prevention Pays
 Hertfordshire Young People’s Manifesto. https://www.youthconnexions-hertfordshire.org/media/428032/Manifesto-1125-2014.pdf