Young people no longer watch TV.
Or so the latest viewing figures suggest. According to a recent OFCOM report teenagers and young people now spend 40% less time watching the traditional TV schedules than they did seven years ago. And while they may consume ‘television’ content in other ways – notably through services such as YouTube and Netflix – much of the content served up by the subscription video on demand services comprise of American teen dramas. In addition, public service broadcasters such as the BBC tend to invest most of their energies into serving children and pre-teens. Teenagers, it seems, are largely neglected by television. And yet the appetite for radio and on-demand audio content has grown at a staggering rate. Young people love podcasts – and they also love short form “snackable” content.
At Darrick Wood School, we decided to address this problem ourselves by creating content aimed at 11 -18 year olds and distributing it via an audio platform. DWS Audio launched in January and has so far posted over 30 original plays, shorts stories and music compositions involving pupils across different year groups. In the last year, we have unearthed some fabulous writing, acting, directing and musical talent: talent that no doubt exists in every school and sixth form college. We have also developed links with other organisations, such as the Southwark Playhouse, who kindly allowed us to post some of the plays written by a group of south London students as part of an initiative called ‘Future Voices’. This scheme in particular was created to give a voice to those most at risk of cultural exclusion. Much of the content on DWS Audio also aims to achieve this – to tell stories or present short plays that express the innermost fears and concerns of our young people. As a teacher, who likes to think he know something about young people, I was surprised at some of the honest thoughts expressed by the pupils at Darrick Wood. A group of year seven students confessed that their biggest fear was about being humiliated in a public arena – and so we wrote a play about this. Themes and issues directly relevant to the lives of young people, such as bullying, fear of failure, suicidal thoughts, and a hatred of homework have all been expressed in range of plays and short stories. And it’s not all doom and gloom, there is plenty of humorous content, as well as some fabulous original music composed by some of our students.
Although the service has been operating since January it is the culmination of eighteen months of planning. We didn’t want this to be just another school project that fizzled out after a few months or so. We wanted to create professional sounding content that would be good enough to play on national radio – not easy to do without a proper recording studio. But invention being the mother of necessity we have achieved a lot with just with a laptop, a microphone, two portable display boards and forty-eight foam tiles!
DWS Audio now aims to keep posting every week for the foreseeable future. We are continually recruiting new talent and have some great content lined up for the rest of year. A weekly soap opera is also in the works, with plans to launch this in 2019. A series of documentary and discussion podcasts are also set to feature. In due course, we would also like to open up our platform to other schools and community groups to post their own content. In the long term, our goal is to reach an audience beyond the Darrick Wood community and have our content accessed by young people up and down the country.
At the school, we genuinely believe that this is a valuable service. Not only does is create content relevant to the lives of teenagers and young people, but it also provides a platform for our many students to showcase their talents to a wider audience.
And besides, young people don’t watch TV these days anyway.
You can listen and subscribe to DWS Audio at: http://dwsaudio.darrickwood.bromley.sch.uk/