In ‘Who Cares’, writer and director Matt Woodhead shares the inspirational stories of young cares in Salford.
What is the story of Who Cares?
Matt: ‘Who Cares’ is a verbatim play adapted from over 200 hours of interviews with young carers in Salford made with LUNG, The Lowry and in partnership with Gaddum. It follows the lives of Nicole, Connor and Jade and what it’s like caring for a loved one. As well as exploring the reality of being a young carer in Salford, we get an insight into their every-day lives. We follow the young carers as they skive lessons, cut the lunch queue and getting the number 36 bus. We see them as normal teenagers at school but also get an insight into their lives at home.
Are the characters portrayed real people?
Matt: ‘Who Cares’ is adapted from the real-life testimonies of a group of young carers. All the words spoken in the play, they said in interviews. The young carers also cast the show, fed into the set design and picked their favourite tunes to play throughout. It is made by, with and for young carers.
How did you find working with young carers?
Matt: The whole experience has been eye-opening. I had no idea when we started the process 1 in 12 young people will care for someone at some point in their lives and they save the government £132 billion a year in the unpaid caring they do. This interview process first began in 2015 and I’ve been staggered by their commitment to the project. More than anything though, they are just normal teenagers. They are naughty and rowdy, just like everybody else.
Why was it important to keep the script true to the young carers’ words?
Matt: From the beginning the young carers said they wanted the piece to be verbatim because they wanted to speak about their own experience and not have someone speak on behalf of them. Adults are guilty enough of that as it is… They also felt film and telly sometimes portray young carers and get it wrong. We wanted to make something that gave audiences direct access to the voices of young carers. Verbatim was the only way.
What has been the response from the young carers involved and their families?
Matt: We’ve had a lot of tear-jerking performances. The shows where the young carers and their families have been in the theatre have been particularly emotional. They’ve also felt like a celebration of how incredible these young people are and what they’ve achieved.
The project began in 2016, what has happened since then?
Matt: Since 2016, the play has been performed the schools, youth zones and young carers services across the UK. The play has already identified 28 young carers across the UK and they have been signposted to local services. We’ve also taken it to the House of Lords where the young carers spoke to effect social change. We are currently at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival at Summerhall and we’ve launched a parliamentary petition to try and improve services for young carers in Salford.
What would you like people to take from the show?
Matt: If you are an adult, we invite you to sign our petition and stand up and fight for the rights of young carers in the UK. If you are a young carer, we have one clear message: ‘You are not on your own’
What is the Who Cares campaign and how can people get involved?
Matt: A young carer is someone aged 0-18 who looks after a relative with a long-term condition. 1 in 12 young people care for someone. They save the country £132 billion a year in the unpaid caring they do. We are asking Parliament to improve the quality of services available to them. Please sign our parliamentary petition – https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/268610 and find out other ways to get involved by visiting whocarestour.org.uk
Read our review of Who Cares when it premiered at The Lowry in 2016.