Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all of you and I hope you enjoy your day, surrounded by people you love or maybe giving time to help those who have less than you.  This season is all about giving and spreading love, so let’s spread the good cheer and keep it going the whole year round.

I also wanted to take this time to say a big thank you for all of the support you’ve shown to me and Young People Insight this year.  It might have been through reading or sharing the posts, taking time to answer my questions or coming out to my short film launch.  It really does mean a lot.

So lots of love to you on Christmas day and I hope it brings you a ton of joy.

Merry Christmas

Launching My Short Film: ‘What Would You Say?’

As you know, last week I launched the short film I made with youth charity, Fixers, in my hometown of Croydon, where the film was also shot back in September.  There was a good turnout, as we enjoyed an intimate gathering in Project B to watch the film and engage in discussions.

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The reaction to the film was great, better than I could have hoped for, and it definitely seemed to get people thinking, as a lively discussion followed.  In fact, people got so into the discussion that it was hard to stop it, which was a real positive for me, as I saw that I could definitely go further with this.

We spoke about the topics of sexual exploitation, various aspects of education and knife crime, amongst other things.  Yet what was interesting was that we regularly came back to the need for all of the community to work together.  It was a common belief that young people need to be supported and called into account for their actions by their parents and other members of their family, teachers, mentors and members of the community as a whole.

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However, there was also the point that young people themselves have a lot to answer for.  One individual mentioned that young people aren’t afraid of the consequences when they do wrong, while another brought up the issue of resources — they are there, but young people choose not to use them.

Just like me though, we would all like to understand why some young people do the things they do, as getting to the root of those problems would help us in addressing and solving them.

It was great to hear all of the things that people had to say and I’ve taken a lot from the launch, which will allow me to take discussions further over the course of next year, which is when the really hard work begins.

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Now I’ll leave you with some words by two of the participants from the film and one of the young people who attended the launch, followed by the film itself, ‘What Would You Say?’  I hope you enjoy watching it and please share your thoughts.

“It was good to take part… It’s quite an easy procedure and really enjoyable… [I’m] glad that I participated and good to be involved.  The launch was good.  A lot of issues within the younger people was addressed and it was good to hear other people’s opinions about the issues out there.”

– Jemel, 17

“It was an amazing experience and I’m so happy I was able to get the opportunity to be a part of an incredible project.  The words I recited in the video wasn’t a script to me, it was real life.  I was struggling with unemployment and felt so lost.  Those words were coming from my heart, Shaniqua couldn’t have worded it any better…

“The launch was inspiring!  To see something I was a part of come alive on the big screen was a great feeling. The questions Shaniqua threw out that began the discussions were eye-opening! It was such a deep, knowledgeable, and interactive conversation.  Everybody was vibing with each other, bouncing off one another and we all respected one another’s thoughts, even if we didn’t all necessarily agree.

“The launch raised some interesting and valid points.  At the time of filming, I was unemployed and getting nowhere in film, which is the field I studied for.  Two months later I’m now a Production Coordinator for a film company in London.  It was great to have two people come up to me and ask me how I did it.”

– Nahed, 23

“The launch was good, nice small intimate turn out… The short film was inspiring.  I love the monologue/poem everyone said.  But it was a reminder that I think everyone needed of how society is and what we need to do to go about making it a better place.  I learnt that we got work to do in our community and it starts with us wanting to make a change.”

– Giselle, 21

Embracing His Calling: Reece’s Story

When I asked Reece Thompson if he had always wanted to be an artist, his response was, “I had no choice.  I tried to get away but my hand is attracted to paintbrushes like banks to cheques and teenagers to phones.”

I met Reece, 24, the straightforward young man who has a beautiful way with words, last week at the Livity office in Brixton.  He was bringing a room to life through painting, as the winner of the PAINT Livity competition.

Learning that he had won “was like when you get your GCSE results and know you done well in the exam but you can’t be sure because it depends who’s judging it.  Opening that email was another confirmation to continue pursuing what I am doing.”

Brought up in South West London and now living in Essex, Reece has always loved art.  He says: “When I was a child and my nan used to babysit me she would give me pencils and paper and I would draw until I fell asleep. I have a lot of time to think and often my thoughts become pictures; other times they become poems or stories.”

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However, he only started pursuing art as a profession in the last few months, after he released a print that was bought by someone in New York — “That was the confirmation I needed”.

Reece studied Fine Art at A-level and got “very good marks”, but was unfortunately told that “art is not a realistic thing to pursue”.  He went on to get a BA Hons in Sociology and Criminology, but he was happy that he didn’t go to art school so “I can make my own decisions, techniques and sort things out by myself.”

Although his favourite art medium is oil paint, Reece says, “I use whatever I have and whatever I feel will convey what I am trying to say best. Most of my work is improvised and has a range of mediums.”

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One of his main artistic inspirations is Kadir Nelson, who is also one of his top three artists (William Turner and Basquiat are the other two).  Despite naming Kadir Nelson, Reece said that he could name hundreds, as he’s “inspired by anyone who has odds stacked against them and reaches their goals (morally).”

However, Reece’s biggest influence is his cultural identity — he is of Jamaican, Indian and Irish descent.  This is because “it’s hard being mixed race in a world where people see black and white. I express it by including black subjects disproportionately. Many pieces are about subverting stereotypes, secretly.”

Despite winning PAINT Livity and exhibiting in an event in September, Reece told me “I am working on my portfolio quietly until I feel it is strong – then you will see me around.”  Nevertheless, he wants to use his career as an artist to make a difference right now — “I do things in the background. I have activist friends and I contribute artistically where I can.”  He also plans to do creative workshops in schools.

To any aspiring artists, Reece’s advice is, “If you’re calling yourself an aspiring artist you’re not going to be taken seriously. You’re either an artist or you’re not. You can’t be a an aspiring student or aspiring plumber. Get the job done.”

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He would also tell young people who may be afraid of pursuing their dreams “you need to work on your skills because you’re not confident enough. Make something, put it out there. Then repeat the process.”

Reece says: “Just recognise this is real life and not a dream and some days/weeks/months/years may be a nightmare for you. But whatever you can do better than everyone around you, capitalise on that from as early as possible. I was spray painting t-shirts when I was 15. That used to be the thing then.”

Reece has a solid determination to make his dreams a reality and I love that he tells it like it is, providing strong, inspiring words for the youth.  Like he so clearly puts it, “If you’re not pursuing your dreams what are you doing?”

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To stay updated on Reece’s journey, follow him on Instagram (@reece.spect), Twitter (@reece_spect) and Tumblr (reecespect).

 

Your Invitation to My Short Film Launch

In April, I shared with you that I was developing a media project with youth charity, Fixers, to help me reach out to a wider group of young people and take the concept of using your voice further.

This project has been a bit of a rollercoaster process, with ups and downs, and ideas bouncing back and forth.  After creating a spoken word script that I believe will speak to young people in the best possible way, the film was shot on a bright, crisp Autumn day in a beautiful park in Croydon with six amazing young people.

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What started early this year has now come full circle, with the completion of my short film on empowering youth voice, which I would like to share with you at my official launch.  I have seen the end result — I cried tears of happiness when I saw it — and I love it, so now I can’t wait for you to get the first look.

The launch will be taking place next Monday (7th December) at 6.30-8pm in Project B (3-7 Middle Street, Croydon, CR0 1RE), giving you the opportunity to come by after school, college, university or work.  Once you’ve watched the short film, you will then have the opportunity to use your voice in a discussion, so come prepared with issues that matter to you and your thoughts on youth engagement.

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I would love to see as many youth workers, teachers, members of youth organisations and members of the Croydon community as possible at the launch, but most of all, I want to see the largest amount of young people possible, because this is all about the voice of the youth.

For more information, you can contact me by email, shaniquab29@yahoo.co.uk or Twitter, @ShanqMarie