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


Each iteration of the Boys in the Making programme is led by a youth worker/educator and an artist. The programme sees a group of children or young people brought through a creative process to develop a boy character and guide him as he interacts with the world around him. Through conversation, drawing and writing exercises, each group name their boy, describe him as a young child and explore his experiences and related needs as he grows up. The programme is explicitly pedagogical, underpinned by strong youth work values, seeking to support children and young people to understand the complexities of their gender position and its intersection with other forms of inequality. In 2021, researcher Ciaran Smyth (Vagabond Reviews) was invited to work with the Boys in the Making team to help capture and articulate the  methodology of the programme, and give it its name.


The Boys in the Making programme focuses on how a boy’s world shapes him and how he shapes it. The process typically focuses on a boy’s life up until the age of the group although there is some projection into his adult life, as futures are imagined. Multiple themes emerge in the process. To date this has included: relationships, dominance and violence, gendered identity, the search for dignity and respect, social conditioning, bullying, sexuality, poverty and survival. As with the immersive workshop for adults, the boy characters are always from the same area as the group of young makers, creating the conditions for their lived knowledge to bear on his life.


The Boys in the Making programme was developed in 2019 by Fiona Whelan and Rialto Youth Project. It began with one young men’s group who created Stevie, after which a core team of staff from Rialto Youth Project was established, who worked with Fiona to develop a similar process with more groups of boys and young men aged five to 18. Since 2021, the programme has extended beyond Rialto and is now is development in 4 other contexts in Dublin, supported by a core Boys in the Making team.  Building on the learning from this phase of development, it is our ambition that the programme will grow across the city and country in the coming years.

For further insights, read:

Boys in the Making: an arts and education programme in conversation with ‘the biology of adversity and resilience’ by Kevin Ryan and Fiona Whelan in the Journal of Political Power Volume 15, 2022 – Issue 2. 


The Boys in the Making programme was developed in 2019 by Fiona Whelan and Rialto Youth Project.

The Boys in the Making core team are Dannielle McKenna (Rialto Youth Project), Michael Byrne (Rialto Youth Project), Jim Lawlor (independent advisor to What Does He Need?) and Fiona Whelan (Artist, Writer, Educator).

The methodology of Boys in the Making has been articulated through a collaboration with researcher Ciaran Smyth (Vagabond Reviews).

The development of the Boys in the Making programme was supported via an invited residency for Fiona Whelan at the Irish Museum of Modern Art and through funding from the National Youth Council of Ireland – Artist in Youth Work Residency, an Arts Council Arts Participation Project Award and Rialto Youth Project core funding.

Drawing by Fiona Whelan