PCC welcomes 'incredible opportunity' to explore ACES as popular youth festival returns to Merseyside

Young people preform with drums on stage at last year's Now Festival

Merseyside PCC Emily Spurrell says the return of a popular youth festival to our region, presents a vital opportunity to once again explore important mental health topics relating to young people.

Schools, community groups, and organisations working with children and young people across Merseyside will participate in the city's ninth annual NOW Festival next month during Children's Mental Health Week.

Organised and directed by Merseyside Youth Association's (MYA) RAISE mental health promotion team, in partnership with the Liverpool Child Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), the Merseyside Violence Reduction Partnership and School Improvement Liverpool, the festival will take place over three nights at the Liverpool Lighthouse in Anfield.

With an estimated 1 in 5 young people having some form of diagnosable mental distress, the NOW Festival provides a platform to raise awareness, challenge stigma, and explore ways of building resilience and improving mental health.

Merseyside Police and Crime Commissioner Emily Spurrell said: “NOW Festival provides an incredible opportunity for young people across Merseyside to express themselves creatively by opening up and exploring important topics relating to their mental health.

“It’s crucial we all improve our understanding of how ACEs can impact young people as they journey into adulthood and, if unaddressed, can often contribute to negative experiences and poor life choices.

“We are working hard to prevent the harm that can be caused by ACEs by creating better opportunities that help young people realise their full potential. Much of this work is driven by our fantastic Violence Reduction Partnership, which is committed to preventing adversity in the first place by building protection and resilience for those young people, families and communities who have suffered trauma.

“I would encourage schools and youth groups across our region, if they aren’t signed up to take part, to come along to watch to help us to learn from young people from all walks of life, helping create a society that understands how adversity can be prevented, how we can build resilience within our young people and how we can focus on positives and strengths to overcome negative experiences.”

Speaking about the festival's theme, Lucy Oliver, Festival Producer, explains: "The RAISE Team at MYA are thrilled to host our 9th NOW Festival. This year, we are revisiting the theme of ACEs – Adverse Childhood Experiences; there have been so many developments in the field since our last ACEs-themed NOW Festival five years ago.

“We now have an appointed ACEs coordinator in the city. Young people’s voices have been listened to and continue to be at the forefront of their performances. Feedback from one of our audience members last year said it was the best piece of youth-work training they had ever attended.” 

The NOW Festival is based on youth engagement, with the planning process beginning early in the academic year. Participants receive support and mentoring workshops from the NOW Festival team, with the initial workshop exploring the theme. Each group creates a 15-minute or less piece of devised drama, music, film or dance, all based on mental health and the NOW theme.

Judith Bairstow, Deputy Virtual School Head and ACEs Project Co-ordinator, School Improvement Liverpool, said: “SIL are proud to support this year’s NOW festival. We have been working together, alongside Liverpool City Council, to coordinate and strengthen our response to ACEs for adults and children.

“We are looking forward to seeing the talents of our young people showcased on stage and to listening to what they say about overcoming ACEs.”

Lisa Nolan, Senior Programme Manager (Mental Health) Cheshire and Merseyside ICB, Liverpool Place, said: "The NOW Festival has grown from strength to strength since it was first launched in 2015, and I am continually overwhelmed and inspired by the confidence and creativity of our local children and young people. The festival has demonstrated positive outcomes for children, young people and families over the last nine years. It is a pleasure to continually support and commission such an excellent programme and organisation."

The festival takes place from 6th – 8th February at the Lighthouse Theatre in Anfield.

Tickets can be purchased here - nowfestliv.com/the-festival/