Last October, many Totnes residents and businesses will have participated in the first Golden Iris Festival. As a group of 15 and 16 year olds, the festival producers are one of the youngest festival enterprises in the country. They established the Totnes event last year to provide platform for their peers to celebrate their creative talents, working alongside professionals including international musicians, a range of technicians and industry specialists.

Seventy-eight young people volunteered their time and skills during the fashion show and music festival in October. The young team of organisers were keen to show that providing a positive space for creativity is part of enabling young people to avoid isolating or dangerous activities and provides practical ways for us to support each other and promote positive mental health as a community.

Golden Iris Productions are now preparing to launch a series of creative activities in the community of Totnes over the next year designed with the young people from in and around the Town. Continuing their work with Totnes Community Development Society who provided support to the team during Golden Iris Festival 2017, the Elmhirst Centre at the KEVICC site will open later in the spring as a community-led facility within this programme. Local organisations and groups are encouraged to look out for an invitation for Expressions of Interest in order to participate in the programme.

In the meantime, the young co-founders of the Golden Iris Festival, have found their way to the House of Commons, in London, to attend a discussion forum alongside pupils from London as part of a joint inquiry on young people’s mental health by the Education and Health Select Committees.

Members of the Committees, from across the political parties, asked what more could be done to support and enable young people. The Golden Iris team focused on potential for wider intervention. They acknowledge that young people in the town know how poverty, lack of job opportunities, lack of housing and lack of facilities affects young people and their families, their friends and their peers.

The group also talked directly about the pressures created for young people and teachers by current education policy and stressed the significance of young people as a central part of the solution to mental health challenges in communities.

Having seen the positive approach taken by the inquiry Members, the young people have been in touch with the Committees to encourage them continue to involve young people in their discussions about what will help in schools and communities more widely.

Back at home, the Golden Iris team said: “We also know that there is less and less support available. That is why we want to continue to create places and spaces for young people and vulnerable people in this Town.”

For more information:

Golden Iris Festival https://www.facebook.com/GoldenIrisFestival/

The Transforming children and young people’s mental health provision inquiry http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/health-committee/