Prosiect Hope

Reach Out - Prosiect Hope

Following last year’s ReachOut pilot project, we have been successful in securing additional funding from Coop Foundation to expand the project in 2019-21. ReachOut has been working with a wide range of youth organisations and individuals to educate and empower young people (aged 14-25) around youth loneliness in Wales.

Words by Taryn Everdeen

Pre-lockdown, open mics were a big part of my social life. When in my home city, I’d rock up to them with my guitar about three times a week, settling down for a three hour tour of local talent. It was mostly the same faces every week, a tight-knit community that made me feel safe and supported. We’d grab a drink (tea for me) and steal conversation around the sets of the performers that got up on stage, the music easing the pressure to talk.

When I went travelling alone, I sought out open mics, sharing pieces of my soul with perfect strangers. Music was our common language; for an evening, I became a part of this little world in some bar a little off the tourist path. I felt warm, lifted.

March arrived, and amid growing concerns of COVID-19, the UK was eased into lockdown. That put an end to those open mic nights. I missed the sense of community, the adrenaline rush of performing, the preciousness of hearing stuff that I could never have otherwise discovered.

I’ll bet that you can imagine my excitement when Project Hope announced their online open mic event. But I had my reservations, too–how would it work? Would people turn up? Would people get bored?

My main thought: it wouldn’t be the same.

And it’s true: it’s not the same–it’s different. But it’s good. Sure, there are things you’re missing–the smell, the noise, the crowdedness of a pub venue–but there are things you gain, too.

Hosting an event virtually means that, theoretically, anyone, from anywhere in the world, can come join. We had young people calling in from all kinds of places across the UK–London, Norwich, Brighton–all the way to the USA, and Canada. This event was bringing together people from across the planet, who would, otherwise never have been able to meet. Amazing, right?

I was really stunned by the talent and the diversity of the performers, with poets, singer-songwriters, a lute-player, and even a stand-up comedian bagging slots. Some of these folks hadn’t performed in front of a live audience before. Some were already seasoned pros. But what I loved most was that together we created an environment that allowed everyone to feel safe and comfortable sharing pieces of themselves. It was beautiful. Our host, Amelia from Project Hope, did an ace job in her role, keeping things moving between acts.

What really made this event so special was the outpouring of love and support for each and every one of our performers. I was amazed by how enthusiastically everyone took to the medium, the chat a constant stream of positivity, with all of the young people on the call

dropping messages as they reacted live to the performances. It made us all feel good, our energies amplified by each other.

Here are some thoughts from the attendees:

“It was really lovely seeing everyone support one another, it felt really calm and together.”

“It was SO supportive and everyone was just so lovely! I loved how everyone brought different stuff to share.”

“Such a kind safe space which made me feel so comfortable to perform in.”

“Lovely vibe, wonderfully supportive crowd. Insane talent.”

The team ended the night on a high, exhausted, but so, so happy.