“Först var det mörkt, men nu är det bäcksvart”
“At first it was dark but now it’s pitch black”
Having worked with the Young Writers Lab group Sagolandet in Holavedsgymnasiet, Tranås for the last year, it was an honour for me to witness the group’s work come alive and performed on stage. Two school aesthetic studies programmes, from Tranås and Gislaved in the Jönköping region were invited to respond to a study into young people's mental health. . Focussed on the experiences of 8th grade and 2nd year high school students the research was curious about relationships with family and friends, social and psychological safety, sleep and exercise patterns, and alcohol and drug use.
As a writer, I supported the young people in Holavedsgymnasiet to create poetry to weave into their production that addressed the research findings. Taking the collection of Tranås poet, Joakim Becker, “I sällskapsrummet på en psykiatrisk klinik” and Colm Ó Ciarnáin’s translations “when the barbed wire slipped in” the group shared their own stories of feeling down, sad and depressed. They then wrote their own poems, script and song lyrics. A special part of our creative process was when Joakim visited the group to share his work and approach to writing.
“ I fear that the "love" that you're giving me is only going to tear my heart in two.
But at the same time
I’m longing for your love.
Like a harpoon I want to pierce my heart and make me feel both pain and desire.
I want to feel the veins fill up with the drug you're injecting into me
But deep down
I know that the only thing you give me is sorrow”
Sagolandet’s production explored communication in relationships, the inner voice we all have that often tries to undermine us, and misplaced adult concern. The scene which particularly moved me was when the girl, played by Mathilda Johannson, was taken by her parents for psychiatric assessment, as each time she tried to speak for herself she was dismissed by adults.
Given the extensive nature of poor mental health in the population the students strongly believe that we need to discuss it more openly to erase the taboo, and members of the cast recall being in tears as they performed the powerful stories. The audience were visibly moved, and a deep, thoughtful silence hung over the space as the performance ended. As one parent said.“ni satte huvudet på spiken! you nailed it, spot on!”
The group felt a strong bond from developing this work together, and especially through the intimate medium of poetry. In terms of writing and being enthused to continue the students valued Joakim’s visit. “He told us not to worry if we had a block, or felt that a piece was not good enough” said Evelina Fransson, “Just put it aside for a while, and come back to it. ”
“Jag har äntligen kommit till slutet av denna mörka tunnel och det ende som krävs är ett steg till in i ljuset”.
“I have finally come to the end of this dark tunnel and the only thing that is needed is one more step into the light”
Photos: Milou Areland and Colm Ó Ciarnáin