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Telling Your Story

Telling your Story was a series of three after school wellbeing programmes for young people led by storyteller Hilary Watkins and visual artist Lorna Hamilton Brown. The courses were commissioned by East Sussex Targeted Youth Support as part of a wider series of wellbeing programmes delivered in rural East Sussex with courses delivered in partnership with Claverham Community College, Rye Community College and Hailsham Community College.

Each course lasted six weeks and was structured around the 5 steps to wellbeing. Schools referred young people to the programme, identifying those that would benefit most from a focus on mental health and wellbeing. The young people were from years 7,8 and 9.


  • For young people to address personal challenges, learn coping strategies and develop greater resilience
  • To connect with other young people and experience the value of a supportive peer group
  • To reflect on what makes for good mental health and be better equipped to make this part of their day-to-day lives, with reference to the Five Steps to Emotional Wellbeing: being connected – keeping active – giving to others – keeping learning – taking notice
  • To develop confidence and skills and recognise the value of creativity as a route to personal and social development


High priority was attached to creating a safe ‘listening’ space. This involved setting out clear ground rules and working with approaches that destigmatise mental health issues. Initial practical activities, such as finger knitting, created ways for young people to get to know each other and to begin to share stories.

Further art activities, such as singing, writing and journalling allowed deeper exploration of participant feelings of times of happiness and other emotions. This was supported by work on mindfulness and breathing techniques.

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  • The majority of young people rated their enjoyment of the course as 9 or 10 out of 10
  • Young people learnt new strategies to manage stress, anger and difficult emotions
  • Young people valued the creative space provided by Telling Your Story and were keen to see these spaces continue within their schools


[She’s] been like a new person, up-to-date with all her homework and taking part in a big school production.


[She] found her voice through the group – she is able to voice negative stuff, very enthusiastic about the course.


I’ve had less detentions. I stop to think before I say things, before I would say things and get called rude.

Young person

My behaviour has improved. The group has made me not get so anxious so much. It calms me down and stuff.

Young person

Telling your story