Mike Walters is the Activities and Wellbeing Mentor at our On-Route Foyer…. he organised the first CHADDFest to bring people together…. He wrote about what and why on the Foyer Federation’s website….

Great work Mike….

This September saw the community at On-Route Foyer come together to celebrate the first CHADDfest – a festival created by and for the young people and staff at the three CHADD services in Dudley. Mike Walters, Activities and Wellbeing Mentor at On-Route Foyer, shares with us his experience of co-creating CHADDfest with the young residents at On-Route Foyer, and his idea to empower their young people to take this initiative on and really make it their own!

How did the idea come about?

Ever since I started my role at On-Route Foyer in January, the idea of putting on a festival has been in my mind. Actually, the path that led me to this role is quite interesting, as the young people at CHADD ultimately had the final say in me being hired! During our second round of interviews, myself and another candidate had to put on an activity for four young people that focused on decision-making. Following the activity, I talked with them about my plans for the future, and that I had a vision for putting on a festival. This is where the seed for CHADDfest started to grow!

Tell us about the preparation and what happened on the day?

Since then, we’ve been running weekly activities to prepare and in each meeting I’d ask the young people what they’d like at the festival. They were very clear about what they wanted! Live music, games and food, with a specific focus on fun fair type games. So we put together a selection of activities including Horse Shoe Toss, Apple Bobbing, Noughts and Crosses, Toilet Roll Toss, Grass Pong, a Graffiti Wall and a Clown Stock that staff took turns being in so young people could throw water balloons at them! There was also face painting and an arts and crafts stand. Two singers, a current resident of our young family scheme and a former resident who is still involved with CHADD via the Rise Project, stood out with their amazing performances. The live music added an incredible energy to the day, and seeing the residents grow in confidence as they performed was truly heart-warming.

What were the standout moments or stories from the event?

We invited everyone from all three schemes, young singles and families alike, which created a wonderful, fun and family-oriented atmosphere. Around 40 people, staff included, came to the event, and everyone who attended got involved in the activities. Toward the end of the day, all the residents and staff came together to listen to the live music, which was a fantastic feeling. The food, made by our night concierge and her mother, was Caribbean-inspired and was really enjoyed by everyone.

Talk us through the planning and how young people have been involved.

Although I did the majority of the planning, I had initially tried to put together a committee. It didn’t quite come to fruition this year, but it’s definitely something I’m determined to work on in the future! My plan is to set up a ‘CHADDfest Committee’ to empower our young people to take ownership of the event and put on the type of festival that they want, whilst building their leadership and confidence skills too. This year’s event was brilliant and a great start, and I’m confident that next year we’re going to see even more input from our residents. My hope is that CHADDfest will become an annual celebration with more and more young people involved each year. We’re excited to start planning our 2024 festival, making it even bigger and better than before!