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Theatre | Chichester

Chichester Festival TheatreChichester Festival Youth Theatre

Chichester Festival Theatre (CFT) runs a national portfolio theatre complemented by an extensive Learning, Education and Participation (LEAP) programme aimed at all sectors of the local community. It is also home to one of the country’s largest youth theatres, with over 750 members.

Young Carers Connect launched in September 2020 in direct response to the COVID-19 crisis. It was a one-year pilot project running in partnership with West Sussex Young Carers, local schools and family support workers. The project aimed to address a number of specific challenges facing young carers, particularly in light of COVID-19.

Chichester Festival Theatre

Dan Hill © Chichester Festival Theatre

Target Beneficiaries

There are an estimated 6,000 registered young carers in West Sussex, and many more who are unregistered. These are caregivers under the age of 18 (some as young as five) who give vital support to their families and loved ones. With their education disrupted under normal circumstances, the impact of the pandemic and associated lockdown on young carers was severe. Many took on additional caring duties as support services for their family members fell away, and were unable to attend school despite schools reopening, fearful that they would put their vulnerable family members at risk. With many not having access to suitable technology, forced to do schoolwork on their own or a parent’s mobile phone, these incredible young people were unable to continue their schooling. Many of these carers were stuck at home during the pandemic due to family members having to shield, without access to technology to assist with home schooling nor social interaction and opportunities for relaxation and enjoyment. CFT stepped in with a group of philanthropists, led by the G D Charitable Trust, to help these Young Carers.


The scheme is supported by The GD Charitable Trust and other foundations along with an appeal for individual donations, which raised the £91,000 needed within 3 months. Total cost of the project is £303.33 per young carer. The nature of the project and its direct connection to the impact of COVID-19 lockdowns on the young carers themselves, means that a number of supporters gave who had never given to the theatre before but were moved by the project.

Young carers are nominated through their schools and the Young Carers service. The project aims to support young carers, many of whom are home schooling and without access to laptop provision or equipment.

  • Stage 1 of the project began with awareness raising, laptop procurement and laptop allocation.
  • Stage 2 of the project involved the delivery of an online arts engagement programme, designed especially for young carers  who had been gifted a laptop through the project.

Creative sessions began in January 2021 and continued to July 2021, with an online drama workshop followed by a live stream of the Chichester Festival Theatre production of Pinocchio. The full programme included drawing and design workshops, mindfulness sessions, drama games, create your own movies, yoga, signing and rhythm, story illustration, poetry writing and even puppetry.

All activity was delivered virtually, enabling young carers to engage with their peers and express their creative talents through the arts, from their homes. Sessions were delivered weekly to up to 52 participants per activity.


The project delivered 300 laptops and internet provision to young carers enabling them to stay connected with their peers, education and the world, at a time when they could not leave their homes. The creative programme provided learning resources and opportunities for social engagement and ensured that young carers were able to discover the joy of the arts.

The artistic element of the project enabled young carers to experience the fun and joy of creative activities, and provided a structured programme in place of extra-curricular activities.




It was evident throughout the duration of the project that participants were gaining confidence and enjoying the variety of the programme. For young carers, having time to engage with the arts and benefit from the joyful moments this can bring, is incredibly difficult, and it was brilliant to see that so many young carers embraced the opportunity to take part.

The project has demonstrated a vital need to support young carers and CFT will continue to build their activity and programmes around supporting this vulnerable group. The project is ongoing and will continue to be monitored with the view to extending it.

CFT were also fortunate to receive additional funding early in 2021 which enabled them to engage 20 Young Carers in a live film and animation project at the theatre during the summer and hold a Young Carers film premiere at CFT. It was an incredibly special, moving event and a brilliant way for the Young Carers, friends, family and project supporters to celebrate the impact of the project and the young carers themselves.

Impact film demonstrating the need for the project


Thank you very much for the laptop you gave me. Receiving it made me feel special. My mum has MS so we have watched films together on it. During lockdown I was using Microsoft Teams to join in group lessons and doing schoolwork. It was a great help. I could also chat with a few friends

Young carer – aged 13.

Now (due to Covid restrictions) more than ever have we realised the importance of staying connected. Many of our children do not have access to a device of their own. We cannot thank Chichester Festival Theatre and all of their kind donors enough for this amazing offer. 12 of our families will be able to access online learning at home. They will be able to complete all of their homework. Being part of the Young Carers Connect project will also enable them to take part in virtual creative activities with CFT. Most of all they will connect with other young like- minded people. What an amazing project.

Andrew Strong, Headteacher of Portfield Primary Academy, Chichester, which has received 12 laptops for pupils who are Young Carers