Art is Key 2021 / 2022

The 2021 / 2022 Art is Key group wrote and produced a musical called “Voices of the House”, exploring their experiences of growing up with HIV.

The project was carried out through a series of zoom workshops and in-person residentials. Participants then performed the musical at the 16th annual Chiva conference, which was very well received.

“This weekend has been great, we worked together to create something which has an indepth message, formed from the foundations of acceptance, unconditional love, insecurities, fear, a sense of belonging and identity.”

Art is Key alumni event 2020

Throughout July 2020 we ran an Art is Key alumni event which celebrated all the projects delivered since 2013 on this programme. Young people worked with professional artists throughout the month with new material created virtually. This captured some of the experiences of connection between young people who had attended Art is Key previously and current feelings and challenges around lockdown and the impact of COVID-19.

A collective song and group poem were created and shared with a private audience during an alumni celebration event held on Zoom at the end of the month. Previous Art is Key participants along with Chiva trustees, funders and partners attended the virtual celebration event. Work from past projects was shared and young people gave live performances of drama, poetry and music.

You can listen to ‘A Place Where I belong’, a song written by young people from Art is Key during lockdown.

Art is Key 2019: The ArcHIVe podcast

The 2019 Art is Key project group produced a podcast including conversations, poetry and music exploring participants’ stories of growing up with HIV. All material was written by the young people, the background music was produced by one of the participants, and the narrator was a project facilitator who also grew up with HIV. The group named the podcast The ArcHIVe. 

Participants shared an edited live version of the ArcHIVe at Chiva’s support camp in 2019. The young people at camp responded very positively to the performance. It resulted in spontaneous dancing and joining in the song about being part of Chiva, which was heartwarming to witness.

The podcast can now be listened to here:

Young people reading scripts

Art is Key 2018: Life Growing Up performance and film

In 2018 young people on Art is Key worked with performance poets, musicians and a drama director. The week culminated in a performance of work to a private invited audience at the Lyric Hammersmith.

Listen to poems written and performed by the Art is Key Project participants in 2018.

During the week, participants shared stories and participated in individual interviews discussing their experiences of growing up living with HIV. This formed the basis of a theatre piece and short film, ‘Life Growing Up’, written and produced by Danny Scheinmann and Sarah Sutcliffe. You can also find out more about the project and watch the film.

Art is Key 2016: Film If You Knew

In 2016, Art is Key participants formed a film production company and worked alongside a professional filmmaker and drama facilitator to generate the ideas, characters and scenarios that would form the basis of their film, ‘If You Knew’.

‘If You Knew’ explores the experiences of two young people navigating their adolescent lives with HIV. One is determined to inform her peers about HIV and chooses to give a talk at college for World AIDS Day. She is reticent about meeting other young people who also live with HIV as her nurse suggests, but eventually decides to give Chiva support camp a go. The other character has not long been in the UK and is struggling to accept her HIV and take her HIV medicine. Both attend the same college and neither knows that the other is living with HIV. The two characters then meet at Chiva support camp.

The young people who wrote, produced and acted in ‘If You Knew’ wanted to explore challenges around taking HIV medicines continually, and how sometimes clinic appointments can create anxiety and pressure for them. The young people felt strongly there needed to be positive messages of hope and encouragement for their peers. One character tells her boyfriend and he reacts well. The characters’ coming together at Chiva support camp reflects the friendship and support that is available.

A week was spent making the film at the Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith, with young people taking roles as technicians, camera operators, directors/producers as well as actors. Following a screening at the Lyric Theatre to an invited private audience, the film has since been shared only at private Chiva events, protecting the identity of the young people who participated.

Above images show work in the recording studio and the private film launch and screening


In 2013, Chiva delivered the first Art is Key project with Turtle Key Arts and Platform. Drama, music and poetry were used to explore experiences young people raised in relation to navigating teenage life with HIV.

The clip below is from the final sharing session at Platform.