Marginalised teens set up Jazz & Blues festival
Liewenshaff, a socio-educational centre for young adults aged 16-20 years, will hold its 22nd Jazz & Blues Festival on 8 July with a host of local and international artists gracing two stages in Merscheid.
Teens at the centre have been involved in the organization and planning of this popular cultural event, choosing the bands together with Blues Club Lëtzebuerg, and organising the technical infrastructure, setting, and food for the night.
The line-up includes Fujazzi, featuring Edith van den Heuvel, local jazz duo Sascha Ley and Laurent Payfert, the internationally renowned Greyhound George Band, bringing Mississippi delta blues from Germany, and CG & The Boys, with the powerful voice of Chantal Gottschalk.
Liewenshaff was founded 27 years ago by Päerd’s Atelier to enable young people to reintegrate into society by working with horses. Today, it runs a school in collaboration with Lycée du Nord, and has five practical training areas – kitchen, professional cleaning, landscape gardening and maintenance, metalworking, and farming, to give students practical experience in different types of work. Students also receive psychosocial support and supervision.
The teenagers and young adults cared for at the centre show behavioural problems. Often, they have already been supported by other social institutions which were unable to offer a solution, and have dropped out, or are close to dropping out, of high school.
“Issues can vary from aggressive acts towards others or themselves, to a lack of autonomy in many aspects of life. Whichever side of the spectrum, their behaviour has negative consequences on their lives,” says Renée Lotz, the centre’s psychologist.
Lotz points out that almost all students suffer from psychological disorders including ADHD and psychotic disorders, or have lower IQs.
“Conflicts can arise at the centre when young people with behavioural problems are gathered together. We work through the emotional conflicts in the group to create stability and new social skills,” says Lotz. The centre helps students to replace dysfunctional life patterns with functional ones.
Learning opportunities include cultural activities, social skills, autonomy and youth groups. These are supported by teachers, social pedagogues, a psychologist and a social worker, and psychiatrists are consulted if needed.
Preparing for the future
“We also want to prepare these young people for the professional world, to plan their lives independently and to secure their economic future,” says Lotz, explaining that this is not just about acquiring knowledge or skills, but also abstract work virtues such as presence, punctuality, attention, responsibility, reliability, self-control and social skills in the work environment.
“By respecting their individual development and biographical background, their specific limits and strengths, we try to find a balance and encourage every effort made, or provide support, both work-related and socio-emotional for their personal growth.”
All students at the centre are admitted on a voluntary basis, via a recommendation from a children’s homes or caregivers, medical institutions, juvenile court and even schools, unable to manage specific pupils. They usually stay 3-4 years, before entering the workplace or returning to school. Some may start a traineeship. The centre also supports them in their living situation and finances. The ultimate aim is to help students develop new perspectives and the ability to live a self-determined adult life.
Involvement in the community
Students are involved in the festival using their practical training areas. The kitchen team will take care of the food served, the gardening team will create the outdoor facilities and setting, the cleaning team will set the scene for the artists, including decorating indoor facilities, and the metalworking and farming teams look after the electrical wiring and technical preparation, in addition to the construction of a tent for artist performances.
“Some young people also make music. In previous years the Liewenshaff Allstars Band has performed at the festival,” says event publicity manager, Stephanie Baustert, citing that the festival is not designed to raise funds but rather to raise awareness of the centre and bring teens into contact with people outside of it.
Liewenshaff students are very much involved in the local community of Merscheid. During the year they organise markets for Christmas and Easter, designing flyers for the events, planning family activities such as Easter egg hunts or carriage rides, and selling produce from the farm or metal workshop. “We encourage those at the centre to discuss current topics. Right now they are collecting ideas on how to support refugees from the Ukraine,” says Lotz.