Young people creating belonging

creative sensory methods to explore how young people who are looked after feel that they belong

The project

The Sight and Sound Project used creative sensory methods to explore how young people who are looked after feel that they belong, or do not belong, in the places that they live. In this project therefore, the concept of belonging, which is often used in relation to faith or ethnic groups (1) is applied to home spaces. Research suggests that ‘sensory experience can provide a strong sense of belonging’ (2)  and that sounds, textures and what people see in the places they live are important in terms of making a person feel “at home’. For example, participants in studies of parental substance misuse did not feel at home in houses dominated by loud music and arguments, and often tried to make their bedrooms feel safer by playing music to blank out these sounds (3).

Research has also pointed to the significance of personal items in building and maintaining self-identity and relationships (4) and of sounds – including music (5) – to making spaces feel safer. Feelings of belonging whether positive, negative or ambivalent therefore affect everyone in different contexts. Drawing on these key ideas, the Sight and Sound Project sought to explore how belonging, and the sensory experiences connected to it, were relevant to children who are looked after, and their carers.

This briefing focuses primarily on the relationship between the senses (visual, audial and touch) and participants’ feelings of belonging (or not) while looked after and leaving care. It also outlines other key issues raised by the young people, including their relationships with various agencies, notably the police as well as further detail on the creative and sensory methods employed.