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We’re bringing young people’s empathy centre stage

Feel Me production photo. Three causally-dressed young performers sit on the floor and take selfies.
We are bringing two visually stunning and provocative shows, Feel Me and Belongings, to the Northcott Theatre within the next few weeks. Both shows’ creative teams have used years of research and planning to actively connect the audience to their stories and help build empathy.

Feel Me

Feel Me is an interactive theatre show from the multi-award-winning company The Paper Birds. It was developed for young people by young people through a team of exceptional artists, all under the age of 30. Feel Me is a spectacular mixture of live performance, film, projection, dance and music. The show asks, via the audience’s mobile phones, who and what they care about from the stories unfolding live on stage.

Feel Me started with a research project called The School of Hope, which ran with eight youth groups across five countries. Empathy was the focus of discussions and workshop exercises, and young people were given artistic briefs to respond to. For the project, The Paper Birds worked with three academic partners to help measure participants’ empathy levels. One of the academics was former Exeter University Lecturer Katrina Brown.

Feel Me production photo. A performer stands facing away from the camera with a black rucksack raised above their head. Behind them, a cube made of gauze which can be projected onto. It is missing two side walls, and the back walls are displaying a brightly coloured and highly-saturated photograph of a stagnant body of water, bordered by short, scrubby trees.
Photo by Will Green

What the groups achieved in The School of Hope and how they expressed their ideas, emotions and learning was amazing and very powerful. They told us that The School of Hope was fun; they learned a lot about empathy, and developed new skills not just in terms of the artwork they produced, but also in self-expression and understanding of self.

Katrina Brown, Emerita Professor at the University of Exeter

Feel Me will be performed at Northcott theatre on 25–26 Mar at 07:30 PM
Three individuals smiling in a cosy, makeshift tent engaged in a joyful conversation


Belongings Director Nathan Curry describes his show as ‘Uplifting, enriching, and beautiful’. It was developed through years of creative work with young people in care. The show received excellent feedback from 7-11-year-olds, who said they loved to see the characters playing, inventing new games and creating imaginary landscapes. Nathan Curry describes the characters as ‘super relatable, and the actors are brilliant at portraying the energy and wit of children’.

Belongings is a collaboration between the physical theatre company Tangled Feet and the dramatherapy organisation Rowan Tree, which uses drama as a tool to process complex childhood experiences.

Belongings will be performed at Northcott theatre on Wed 3 Apr at 6:00 PM

‘Empathic people are made, not born. Only 10% of our empathic capacity is genetic’

(Warrier et al., 2018).

Developing Empathy Statistics

Both productions use the power of creative engagement to build empathy. The community-interest company Empathy Lab, whose mission is to help children learn more about empathy and develop their empathy skills, has gathered research that indicates empathy is an ability that can be developed.

‘98% of us can improve our empathy skills at any point in our lives. (Simon Baron-Cohen, Zero Degrees of Empathy, 2011)’

98% of us can improve our empathy skills at any point in our lives.

Simon Baron-Cohen, Zero Degrees of Empathy, 2011


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