Ears Against Loneliness

By Steve Goslyn

“I used to think that the worst thing in life was to end up all alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people who make you feel all alone.”   Robin Williams

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In preparation for Social Care Future, a group of us who were involved with Social Movements for Health in Stockport, Oldham and Tameside have been thinking how the momentum around tackling loneliness and social isolation could be maintained. Our approach has been to work with what’s strong in communities and led us to continue a partnership with Paul Hine of Made by Mortals and the Johnny Barlow theatre company in Tameside.

Learning from people’s direct experience of isolation and loneliness we are codeveloping Ears Against Loneliness, a piece of forum theatre which will offer ideas for action. We see Ears Against Loneliness is a social movement that aims to challenge people to act against loneliness by donating active listening time.

Our campaign will contain a piece of forum music theatre performed by participatory performers with lived experience working alongside professional actors and musicians. The show will explore the skills, challenges and triumphs of putting your ears against loneliness. The performers will come from The Johnny Barlow Theatre Company (a drama group for people with mental health and learning difficulties) and students from Pennine Care Health & Wellbeing College. To help create the show the participatory performers will take part in a series creative workshops (music making, lyric writing, roleplay, creative writing, movement) exploring loneliness and the impact of not being listened to. The workshops will aim to develop and enhance a range of soft skills for participants, including team work, creativity, confidence and aspiration building and communication skills.

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The idea is that Ears Against Loneliness is used with loved ones, friends, neighbours, colleagues and/or the older or vulnerable people within a community. We will be asking people to seek out and establish genuine connections with others by using active listening techniques. These techniques can include putting down your device, giving eye contact, staying present when others are talking, giving people simple confirmation of understanding (nods, positive noises, a smile), resisting the urge to think about what you’re going to say next or scope the nearest exit and instead ask questions or repeat back the key conversation points to indicate that the talker has been listened to.

We will be launching our campaign by performing the show at Social Care Future on Wednesday 14h November at the Friends Meeting House in Manchester, and then taking the show across the boroughs of Stockport, Oldham and Tameside.

For more information about the creative process, contact Paul at Made By Mortals

thatpaulhine@yahoo.co.uk

For more information about the health as a social movement work that took place in Stockport, Oldham and Tameside 2016-8, contact careybamber@live.com, or stevegoslyn@outlook.com

This project is also supported by the Philip Barker Centre for Creative Learning, University of Chester.

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