Through the Looking Glass…

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Written by Wonderland Group on in Lothian, Borders and Dumfries and Galloway

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Let’s take a look ‘through the looking glass’ (see what I did there?!) at another positive example of young people who are making a huge impact in their community and challenging the myth that when it comes to drugs and sexual health, young people are the problem. The Wonderland group show that they are in fact the solution!

So, what is Wonderland and what do this group do?

Wonderland is a youth led interactive issue based learning experience aimed at meaningfully raising awareness on a range of issues affecting the lives of young people e.g. drugs and alcohol, bullying and prejudice/discrimination. It is a giant game of consequences which uses the theme of Alice In Wonderland to offer experiential learning during a journey which takes them through 8 different themed zones e.g. Mad Hatters Tea Party (mental wellbeing); Eat Me/Drink Me, drugs and alcohol); Queen of Hearts court (sexual health).

The concept and content of Wonderland and the workshops it contains were youth led with a core group of young people actively planning, organising and delivering the project.

With over 400 visitors coming through Wonderland at the Youth Beatz event we significantly increased the numbers of young people able to access the experience and the learning it held quadrupling the numbers completing it last year. 47 groups of young people completed the whole experience which was a relentless and adrenalin filled task for the Wonderland team as they had to deliver 47 back to back performances within a 5 hour period an exhausting schedule for all involved. However this still didn’t meet the demand we received there was again a constant queue with lots of disappointed people being turned away when it approached time to close. Some diehard fans waiting over 2 hours to enter Wonderland but this didn’t hamper their enthusiasm –  “it was well worth the wait!”

The feedback from our Wonderland explorers was outstanding:

• “It opened my eyes - I learned to respect people and not to take stuff if you don’t know what it is”

• “creepy but cool”

• “off the hook!”

• “I learned lots of good lessons”

• ‘made me think about what I’ll do when I’m older”

• “ I learnt to stand up for myself”

• “Its teaching in a cool way about drugs prejudice and not discriminating”

• “fun and on a level young people can understand”

• “different and good way of getting info to us”

• “I learnt that discrimination on facebook still counts”

• “weird and funny

• better than expected – 10/10”

 Local young people were involved in all aspects of Wonderland from the initial fundraising project planning and creative directing through to costume, set & prop design; soundtrack production; script writing; multimedia production; character development and performance (including lead characters within Wonderland and walkabout performance entertaining the crowds with magic as they waited to enter Wonderland). Young people were also involved backstage taking on roles with audio visual/technical support as runners resetting scenes/rooms and in the wardrobe dept with costumes hair and make-up.

There has also been lots of feedback and interest regarding the future development of the Wonderland concept from parents, community members and local agencies with one elderly couple commenting that they were particularly impressed with how ‘in tune’ we were with young people and saying that we should be running events all over the UK on a regular basis.

The impact of this year’s Wonderland has resulted in a real legacy being left locally with the commitment from the young people and theatre professionals who were involved in this year’s event to re-establish Dumfries Youth Theatre allowing us to sustain the young people’s opportunities to perform and to allow them to build on their skills on an ongoing basis.

Another legacy from this year’s Wonderland is going to be a mini touring Wonderland which is currently in development.

All in all, I think you will agree that the group are a fantastic example of how creative, enthusiastic and passionate to see change young people can be! We hope that the group and their example helps to shatter myths about young people.

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