Gwen Dalziel, from our Schools Team, talks to us about her experience working on the Melva Production.

Recently I have had the opportunity through my work with Children North East to be involved in a wonderful project called Melva.  I’d like to tell you all about Melva and why it is so much fun.

Melva is a theatre production staged by our esteemed colleagues at Mortal Fools which has toured schools.  My involvement was teaching workshops around mental health based on the production to KS2 children after they had enjoyed the performance.

I cannot overstate what an enjoyable experience this has been and I am truly grateful to my boss for sending me down this wonderful rabbit hole, although the first meeting I attended I found doing the rubber chicken (watch the link) in a room full of people I’d just met, uncomfortably surreal.

It was like a weird work dream when you wake up and think, ‘Well that would never happen in real life!’  

But therein lies the strength of Melva and the power to deliver a serious and much needed message in a relaxed and accessible form.

Melva is a story about a girl turning 11 who suffers from anxieties or 'worrits' as she calls them.  Her Grandad stages his own disappearance to push her into an adventure to go and rescue him.  The subject matter can be difficult and moving at times, severe depression, bereavement, kinship carers and agoraphobia but Melva delivers in such an uplifting way the overall message is one of solidarity and hope. Worrits can be overcome, people can get better and we can all be a bit nicer to each other.

Children react to the production and the workshops with such enthusiasm.  The issues perceived as being difficult to discuss are illuminated and normalised.  The workshops give the children tools to take away that will help them with anxieties in every day life but they just feel they’ve had a fun day with the characters and met some teachers who actively encourage them to shout, be silly and not do any work!

One thing I will take with me is that at a point in one of the workshops the children are asked to use a positive word to describe their own character which many find incredibly difficult to do.  However, when this happens so does a piece of Melva magic. 

One or more of their peers will always step in with a flurry of gorgeous adjectives. Isn’t that just how the world should be?

And for me personally Melva has been even more than the benefit I see being conferred onto children.  It has allowed me to selfishly indulge in all of the aspects of teaching I enjoy without any of the marking, attainment worries or pressure. It has made me feel part of a safe and happy Melva gang where everyone works together, everyone is kind and work is fun!

I could write more about this magical bubble, its immeasurable value to the children it touches. I could continue to enthuse endlessly about the charismatic, talented people who have made it possible and so warmly welcomed me into their world, but while the benefits of Melva are numerous, they can also be summarised into one word. Talking - pure and simple.

To normalise talking about anxieties and therefore their mental health, for me, is priceless.