Talkaoke – the art of conversation
The People Speak used a Dying Matters grant to host creative conversations about death and grief with young people
‘If you’re watching this then I’m dead’
In April 2023 we announced the next eight projects to receive a Dying Matters Community Grant, all of which use the arts to instigate conversations about death and grief.
The project set out to foster creative conversation about death and grief with young people affected by violence, criminality, gangs, trauma and hopelessness in the borough of Tower Hamlets, London.
Young people working with Streets of Growth are likely to have been affected by death, grief or violence in their personal lives or social circles, but there are few opportunities for them to reflect and process their experiences amongst their peers.
The People Speak set out to use their signature ‘Talkaoke’ format to provide a platform for these young people to speak.
Talkaoke – what is it?
Talkaoke is a pop-up talk show run by The People Speak, and is typically found in festivals, clubs, galleries, theatres, conferences and on the street.
Consisting of a round table with a host sitting in the middle on a swivel chair, participants sit around the outside and are passed the microphone whenever they want to talk, coming and going as they please. The conversation is a journey from one unexpected subject to another – it can be topical, funny, deep, out-there, or all of the above.
For this project, The People Speak provided broad themes and conversation starters, for the young people at Streets of Growth to begin conversational round-table discussions about death and grief. The People Speak also introduced artists who have explored some of those themes in their practice, and produced a podcast of conversational moments from the project.
Speaking and listening
‘If you’re watching this then I’m dead’ provided young people the chance to not only share their own feelings and experiences, but to hear and learn from the experiences of others, reducing feelings of isolation that many people experience when grieving.
The Streets of Growth found that many young people – who would not typically participate in group activities – would, after listening to other people share, begin to share and open up about their own experiences too.
“What Talkaoke has done is opening up the conversation to share thoughts and know you’re not on your own, and I think that’s so powerful” – Streets of Growth frontline leader
“I think with Talkaoke it really helps you listen more. If Talkaoke wasn’t there, it would be much harder to try and unravel something. But because Talkaoke has a structure, it helps a lot to listen, understand and then respond.” – Streets of Growth frontline leader”
About the Dying Matters Community Grants Programme
Supported by end-of-life services provider, Dignity, the Dying Matters Community Grants Programme funds innovative and creative projects with the aim of starting conversations about death, dying and grief, with communities that we know are least likely to have received such support.
At Dying Matters we believe that by starting the conversation, and breaking down taboos, we can work towards a society that is better equipped to support people through these life changing, but inevitable, experiences. The arts, in all its forms, can play a vital role in creating spaces where these conversations can flourish.
Images courtesy of The People Speak taken at 'Talkaoke on Youth Safety, Nelson Town Centre, 2022' and 'Talkaoke in Hoxton Gardens London, 2022'
Community Grants Programme