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What Does He Need? St Helens

1st Mar 2024

A project exploring how boys and men are shaped by and influence the world they live in.

Project Details
  • Young People,
  • Schools
Creative Team
  • Artist: Fiona Whelan
  • Artist: Brokentalkers
  • Collaborator: Rialto Youth Project
  • Learning Producer: Emma Curd
  • Children and Young People's Producer: Kate Houlton
  • Producer: Suzanne Dempsey Sawin

What Does He Need? is a project by artist, writer and educator Fiona Whelan, theatre company Brokentalkers and Rialto Youth Project. It explores how men and boys are shaped by and influence the world they live in and aims to create significant public dialogue about the current state of masculinity. The project operates at the intersection of collaborative arts practice, performance and youth work.

After six years of research, development and realisation in Dublin, we’ve invited the What Does He Need? team to develop the project with communities in St Helens. Together we’ve been exploring our shared values and ways of working, and hope to build a collaboration which brings What Does He Need? into a new context.

The foundations of this partnership are built on collaboration, listening, exploring, responding to themes that emerge through exploring the formations of masculinity. Themes which the project has encountered to date include:

  • Respect and dignity

  • Dominance, power and violence

  • Vulnerability, empathy and care

  • Mental health and suicide

  • Relationships, sexuality and gender

  • Money and work

  • Social media, pornography and the internet

  • Social expectations and socialisation

  • Masculinity and its intersections with class and race

Over the next few months, we’ll be hosting a small number of workshops and professional development opportunities built around the project themes and practices.

In Dublin, the project has been developed in association with a network of individuals and organisations across arts and culture, youth work, community development and education. Within the project are a number of strands, including long term and short term forms of engagement, as well as public art works, each contributing to the continuing development and learning of the overall project. These include:

  • Boys in The Making: a dynamic and creative programme developed for children and young people, bringing together groups to co-create a boy and explore his needs and experiences as he interacts with the world around him

  • Poster workshops for adults: workshops invited groups to listen to audio telling the story of a fictional boy from birth to early adulthood, who then explore the boy’s needs by developing a collection of posters together

  • Immersive Workshops for Adults: one day experience bringing together a group of adults to co-create a boy, taking responsibility for guiding him though his life as he encounters the realities facing young men today

  • Philosophy with Men: philosophical conversations with adult and young men to explore the concept of masculinity in an open, non-judgemental, curious and critical way, in partnership with Dr. Rob Grant

  • Public Poster Project: this evolving public art project shares a range of contrasting viewpoints on the needs of men and boys in different scenarios and at different stages of life, presented as large scale texts in public space

  • Theatre performance: drawing on testimony, research and the cast’s own personal experiences, Manifest takes the form of a workshop, where a group of men are facilitated in a conversation about what it means to be a man

  • Audio: inviting the public to listen to the story of a fictional boy from the day of his birth to early adulthood. The audio piece intends to explore societal expectations placed on boys and men, and how learned behaviours are perpetuated, particularly by the influence of other men

Get involved

Interested in hearing more about the collaboration between What Does He Need? and Heart of Glass? Sign up to our mailing list or email, adding "What Does He Need?" in the subject line.

Read more about What Does He Need? on the project website.

This partnership is part of Heart of Glass’s Speculative Futures Programme, a three year programme of work centred around Children and Young People funded by Paul Hamlyn Foundation.

Fiona Whelan


Rialto Youth Project