‘Being the Light’ Festival of Care 2021

Shetland shone a light on Care Experience with their second Festival of Care, titled ‘Being the Light’: an exciting five-day event (19th-24th Feb 2021) that began on Care Day.

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Shetland shone a light on Care Experience with their second Festival of Care, titled ‘Being the Light’: an exciting five-day event (19th-24th Feb) that began on Care Day. 

The Festival provided opportunities to engage, explore and connect with Care Experience from a young person’s perspective through poetry, film, art, performance and a diverse range of online workshops.

The theme chosen this year was ‘Being the Light’ – a metaphor that reflects the topography of Shetland itself: with the dark, craggy rocks of the Islands being lit up by the historic lighthouses of the coast. As lighthouses use their light to provide safety to passing vessels, Care Experienced people too serve as beacons of brightness which illuminate those around them. The festival also asked: How do we find ways of kindling light even in the toughest of times?

Ciara North, of the #ShetlandCrew, explained:

“Being Care Experienced can be a huge part of someone’s life. It can be hard to grow up within these circumstances. Being in care shouldn’t be something that has to be faced alone and the Festival of Care hopes to highlight how everyone can make a difference, no matter how small.”

The Festival’s launch was accompanied by a 28-minute opening film featuring a combination of ceremony; poetry; opening statements and reflections on the theme of “Being the Light”. Hosted by the #ShetlandCrew, a group of Care Experienced leaders from the Islands, the film also featured opening reflections from:

  • Maree Todd, Scotland’s Minister for Children and Young People.
  • Maggie Sandison, CEO of Shetland Islands Council.
  • Louise Hunter, Who Cares? Scotland’s Chief Exec.
  • Mike Bullock, CEO of the Northern Lighthouse Board.

The opening film also featured additional footage from Edinburgh Hogmanay’s “Message from the Skies” art exhibit, in collaboration with Hertfordshire poet and radio critic Charlotte Runcie.

“’Being the Light’ for someone with Care Experience is an amazing feeling. It’s letting Care Experienced people know they aren’t alone or singled out for having a different upbringing. I hope for anyone else that has to go through this dark tunnel, has the light to help guide them and know they aren’t alone.” – Erica of the #ShetlandCrew

Further events led by the #ShetlandCrew included the Verbatim Theatre project. Hosted by Tony McBride, known nationally for his work with Cardboard Citizens, the Verbatim Theatre brought together a group of Care Experienced young people with leading ‘corporate parents’, and allowed them to share personal stories exploring the theme of “Home and Belonging”.

Both Care Experienced people and corporate parents then swapped stories, in an engaging process allowing for a deeper level of empathy to be developed between the storytellers, who then took responsibility for each other’s stories.

The Verbatim Theatre project was part of the ‘Home and Belonging’ collaboration between the University of the Highlands & Islands, Centre for Island Creativity, Who Cares? Scotland and other partners, supported by the Life Changes Trust.


For two years, Care Experienced members of the #ShetlandCrew have also explored what the words “Home” and “Belonging” mean to them with acclaimed Shetland poet Jen Hadfield, winner of the 2008 T.S. Eliot prize. 

For Care Experienced people, darkness can be a familiar challenge, but they are also their own source of light. 

In collaboration with the University of the Highlands and Islands, Centre for Island Creativity, as part of Home and Belonging, the ‘Projectiles’ project saw the powerful words of the #ShetlandCrew projected onto public spaces across Lerwick during the Festival of Care. These projections were captured by filmmaker Stephen Mercer in the above video, as the broader community were invited to contemplate both the light and dark of experiencing care.

Digital workshops

In collaboration with Shetland Islands Council (SIC), Who Cares? Scotland hosted a diverse range of 21 digital workshops across a 3-day period to explore how we could build lives of love and care for every child nationwide.  

The Festival of Care’s events tapped into a broad range of experiences and expertise, with digital workshops hosted by Who Cares? Scotland; the Children and Young People’s Commissioner of Scotland; The Promise; Life Changes Trust; Shetland Island Council; 42nd Street, and the Hot Chocolate Trust. We are delighted to say that we received over 300 registrations across our digital programme!

The diverse range of hosts allowed the Festival to explore many facets of Care Experience with both local and national approaches. Some of our workshops’ themes included:

  • Identifying unconscious bias and subsequent barriers facing Care Experienced people within education and employment.
  • Utilising emerging platforms such as Minecraft to keep young people engaged.
  • Insight into how to ensure that Care Experienced young people are at the heart of their formal meetings
  • Writing of care records to ensure they meaningfully document a Care Experienced person’s life journey.
  • Supporting Care Experienced people with their mental health, including suicide and self-harm.
  • Using art and creativity to develop positive mental health and wellbeing for young people.
  • Updating professionals with the current stages of the Promise and the Incorporation of the UNCRC into Scots law.
  • And many more.

The Festival of Care closed with Care Experienced leaders from across Scotland coming together to explore the theme of Being the Light. James Docherty, a leading voice on childhood trauma, was joined by Megan Sutherland, Shannon Boston of the #ShetlandCrew, Thomas Carlton, and Maria Kelly. Their powerful reflections were a fitting close to a hugely successful Festival.

National Solidarity

Commitments to ‘Being the Light’ were displayed across social media, as both young people and corporate parents lit up their beacons on Care Day in a symbolic act demonstrating the power of the Festival of Care.

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