Pure Fire from Young Talent at Poetic Insight

There was a double dose of Poetic Insight in July, as our regular monthly night took place on July 31st after coming to Thornton Heath Arts Week (THAW) for the first time two weeks prior.

I love poetry, so it was great to have two poetry events to see out Young People Insight’s activities before going on my extended break.  And boy, did we see out our events with a bang.  I fully mean it when I say that if you were not there, you missed out.  It was pure fire.

Returning to the Poetic Insight stage for the second time that month – following his THAW debut – was Elisha with his usual words of wisdom, encouraging us to connect with people.

Like Elisha, Antonia debuted for us at THAW and had us up in our feelings again by sharing a beautiful poem dedicated to her late cousin.  Antonia displayed incredibly bravery, as her cousin only passed away during the weekend and she managed to get through the piece without crying.

Veteran, Aaron, encouraged us all to never give up, utilising his wonderful way with words to inspire us all.  Second time performer, Emma, continued to display bravery and honesty as she gave us a greater insight into who she is with a gorgeously deep poem.

Aaron James took to the Poetic Insight stage for the first time and brought fire with a real, raw messages that made us all think.  Ada was real and raw as well, delivering a strong poem about knife crime.

We were happy to welcome Kris back to our stage, who had us all engaged and clicking away with his bars on the mic.  It was amazing to watch him bring a two-way conversation to life through spoken word.

The night then elevated to an even higher level when Annotate blew us all away, and branded me speechless, with a powerful new poem that told a hard-hitting story.  Mhairi then brought us to tears with a poem dedicated to fellow member of the YP Insight family, Samirah, who also sat crying in the audience – that is friendship goals right there.

Then Woodzy came and brought down the house with his spoken word poem, 90s Baby, which got everyone clicking and shouting out in excitement.  The level of nostalgia was unbelievable, and coupled with his amazing delivery, made it one of my favourite moments ever.

Although I didn’t intend to perform, I shared the final poems of the night – I was encouraged by everyone in the audience, because it was my last event in a while.  First, I  shared a poem about three treasured family members who died in the past two years, as it is my goal to get to Heaven and part of the reason is to see them again.  Then I shared a short poem about my transition from darkness to light.

I want to say a huge thank you to the beauties who performed on the night, and all the beauties who came out to support.  I could not do any of this without any of you and it is truly a pleasure to know you amazing people.

As I mentioned earlier, I am going on an extended break to take time to heal, so Poetic Insight will not be back until October.  This is also going to be the last post until October, but please look back on our past posts and get some great insights into what young people are saying and thinking.

If you would like to stay in contact, meet up on a social level, or get updated on when we’re coming back, email shaniquab29@yahoo.co.uk or follow @ShanqMarie on Twitter and DM me, as the YP Insight social media will be inactive as well.  See you beautiful people in October.

Poetic Insight Comes to Thornton Heath Arts Week

Poetic Insight came to Thornton Heath for the first time on July 17th, as part of Thornton Heath Arts Week.  I was really excited for this event, not only because Poetic Insight was branching out, but because it was coming to the place I call home.  I can proudly say that I am born, raised and currently reside in Thornton Heath, so finally putting on an event there meant a lot to me.

What made it even better was being able to host Poetic Insight in Thornton Heath Library, a place that is an important part of my childhood.  I remember attending the Book Trails during the summer, constantly trawling the shelves for new books to read, and making my way through The Baby-Sitters Club series and anything by Enid Blyton or Jacqueline Wilson.  The library was one of my favourite locations and gave me nothing but positive memories.

A library is also directly linked to the literary world, making it an ideal location for a poetry event in my mind, which is why I wanted Poetic Insight to be there.  We were fortunate enough to have the event in a beautiful circular area, filled with light and surrounded by art from Age UK’s Art Club exhibition.  I could not have asked for anything better.

However, it did get a whole lot better with the sharing of poetry from amazing young talent.  Every time I listen to the poets and spoken word artists at Poetic Insight, I am filled with immense pride.

First up was Mhairi, a treasured part of the YPI family who was performing at Poetic Insight for the first time.  She got deep with us by sharing a poem about getting through mental health struggles and breaking her leg, followed by a poem about a guy.

Elisha and Jessica were also taking to the Poetic Insight stage for the first time.  Elisha schooled us all with messages of wisdom and encouragement, while Jessica shared a part of herself with us through her poem Focus, which was about her depression.

Poetic Insight veteran, Sid, performed his veteran poems Terrorist and Prayer for the Oppressed, resulting in everyone clicking away.  First time performer, Emma, amazed us all with her raw and honest poem about living with anxiety.

Antonia took a big step sharing her poetry with others for the first time, letting us know how she learned to love herself through her poem Quiet Beauty, before getting us all in our feelings with a poem dedicated to her mum.

Woodzy returned after his Poetic Insight debut last month, making us all laugh with his bars for days by performing Happy Place.  Ellie followed, taking to our stage for the first time to remind us of how precious time is.

Poetic Insight veterans Aaron and Annotate were up next.  Aaron made us all think by first focusing on fear, performing A Conversation with Fear, then by performing Six Feet Deep, which was a poem about someone whose gift is buried six feet deep.  Annotate brought his usual fire, giving us powerful performances of Anomaly and Writers Block, a crowd favourite.

I was last to perform on the night, letting everyone know how much I hate injustice with my poem, Words Cannot Express, and shining a light on some of the prejudices towards women in basketball through the performance of Sexualized Floor General.

The beautiful venue, inspiring poets and engaged audience made it a perfect event and my joint favourite Poetic Insight ever.  I hope that more community events like this can take place in libraries and that Poetic Insight will be back at Thornton Heath Arts Week next year, because I loved it.

Poetic Insight will be back again this month at our regular home of Project B, at the regular time of 7-9pm.  The theme will be Dreams & Goals, so if you’re a young poet or spoken word artists wanting to share, email youngpeopleinsight@gmail.com or get in touch through social media.

Stay updated with Young People Insight by following @YPInsight on Twitter, following @youngpeopleinsight on Instagram, liking Young People Insight on Facebook and subscribing to the Young People Insight YouTube channel.

What’s Coming Up This July?

Summer is actually here and it is beautiful.  Have you been enjoying this full on dose of sunshine?  I know I have.  It’s not just the sun that is making July beautiful though – the events YPI has in store will be making July beautiful as well.

After two great sessions, TCFT Croydon 2018 comes to an end on July 15th.  I know, I can’t believe the last one is almost here either, it has gone by so fast.  The workshops will be continuing, culminating with a sharing of the work created in a performance open to all members of the community.  I got a taste of the work everyone has started so far and it is gorgeous, so I would definitely recommend coming along.

The performance will be taking place from 5.30-7pm in the XChange Function Room on Lansdowne Road in Croydon Town Centre.  Please come and support if you can.  Look out for more information on the TCFT Croydon Facebook page.

Photo by Peter Ball and used with permission.

For the first time ever, Poetic Insight will be coming to Thornton Heath and I am beyond excited, as Thornton Heath just happens to be the place I call home.  The event will be held during Thornton Heath Arts Week, giving young poets and spoken word artists an opportunity to make their voices heard.

Our evening of poetry will be taking place at Thornton Heath Library on July 17th, with doors opening at 6pm for a 6.30pm start and 8pm finish.  Email youngpeopleinsight@gmail.com if you would like to perform, but if you just want to enjoy some poetry from the audience, you can get your free tickets here: bit.ly/poeticinsight-thaw

The Kickback returns to its usual standalone format on July 24th, a week later due to our event during Thornton Heath Arts Week.  We’re talking ‘Goals’ this month, hearing from young people doing inspiring and positive things.  Come ready to learn, ask questions and think about your own goals.

We’ll be at Project B from 6.30-8.30pm with the snacks and a number of interesting faces.  This edition of The Kickback is always a great one, so you will not want to miss it.  Let us know you’re coming by registering here: bit.ly/lets-talk-goals

Our final event of the month will be the traditional Poetic Insight, at its usual home of Project B on the usual last Tuesday of the month.  Keeping in line with The Kickback, the theme will be ‘Dreams & Goals’, which I think is going to be really interesting and inspiring.

We’re also back to our traditional open mic format after last month’s special event celebrating peace, so if you would like to share your poetry, email youngpeopleinsight@gmail.com or you can sign up on the night.  Be sure to save the date of July 31st, with the time of 7-9pm, because it is a little while away.  You can get your free tickets here: bit.ly/poeticinsight-dreams-goals

Keep enjoying the sunshine (and the football if you’re watching).  I really hope to see your beautiful faces at, at least one, of our events this month, as these are going to be the last YPI events for a little while – I am in need of a serious break.  Remember that a hug and a big smile from me will be there waiting for you.  See you soon.

Stay updated with Young People Insight by following @YPInsight on Twitter, following @youngpeopleinsight on Instagram, liking Young People Insight on Facebook and subscribing to the Young People Insight YouTube channel.

Raising Awareness of Young Carers with I Am More CIC

Young People Insight were collaborating with I Am More CIC on June 26th for a special event to raise awareness of young carers – a topic that is not often discussed.

What became clear on the night is how much awareness needs to be raised about young carers, as a lot is not known and not enough care is shown.  This event really should have had a greater number of attendees.

Lola, the CEO of I Am More, led out on the night and began by telling us how the organisation came into being – “My journey began with my own background of being a young carer and working with young people.”

Lola also raised the point: “Every borough has a young carer’s project, but what are they actually doing to push the awareness of young carers being raised?”  She thought that one of thebest ways to raise awareness of young carers would be through a short film campaign.  We watched the Be Seen campaign, a two-part short film on the night, which I thought very was powerful and insightful.

“I loved the fact it was in black and white, it was so clear,” expressed Aaron.  Lola explained, “I deliberately wanted it in black and white so there wasn’t distractions.  I wanted it to signify that being a carer, you have no colour.”  Lola also revealed to us that she wanted to touch on different aspects of caring through the campaign.

“When it comes to being a young carer, especially hidden young carers, they are often caring for someone with a mental health illness or a terminal illness… Because there is still such a stigma around mental health, they often don’t come forward,” Lola explained.

Aaron then asked why she thinks that there is that stigma, to which Lola replied, “Often a lack of understanding.”  She went a little deeper by saying that in the black community, things are often kept to yourselves and you don’t spread your business, but on a wider scale, it’s not spoken about enough.

Leeman posed the question of whether they find that young people get teased about being carers.  Lola thinks that is often why there is a reluctance to come forward, while her colleague Seema raised the question of, “How do you even express what is going on at home?”

This led on to an interesting point made by Lola, who said, “Sometimes you don’t even see that what you’re doing is beyond your years.  Aaron backed up this up by saying, “It’s the very fact that it can become normal.  It shouldn’t be.”

Joan, who works for the charity Off The Record, shared that Off The Record have a young carers service that is present in most schools in Croydon, and that they also have a support service.

I also shared that I think there needs to be a stronger focus on young carers in schools, in order for young people to become more under understanding and empathetic about the matter. Someone may be the annoying friend who cancels all the time, but what if they are cancelling because they are a carer.  We should think to ask these kind of questions.

“Being a carer can lead to you being isolated, being depressed and developing mental health issues,” Lola shared, which I don’t think is taken into consideration enough.

Lola revealed that the agenda of young carers was being pushed a few years ago, but there are “so many things popping up and taking away from these kind of issues.  Youth violence is popping up now.”

This tied in with Akbar saying: “They only really highlight it [particular issues] when they have their agenda and their purpose, or when there is going to be a revolt and they will lose control of the masses.”

Aaron responded by saying, “I think it could essentially be society’s values.  Instead of seeing what’s wrong, the value is to punish the person.  I think the value in England is making it, making money.”

Akbar backed up what Aaron said by pointing out, “Everything here is based on the capitalistic approach.  Prisons are based on capital rather than rehabilitation.”  He also shared the origins of the NHS and made an incredibly intriguing statement: “The NHS is bursting from the inside out, because it is set out to fail.”

We also spoke about social media and how young people perceive themselves, which can have an effect on their self-esteem and mental health.  Akbar told us that the effects of notifications have the same psychological effects as alcohol and gambling on us, because of the release of dopamine, which blew us all away.

As we spoke more about social media and technological devices, Mike stated, “Young people are so glued to these electronic devices, because it’s what they know.”  Lee believes that it is about balance and also adjusting to whatever works for you.

Lee also went on to make an interesting statement: “We have a generation of young people who don’t have social skills, and it’s not just young people.”

Lola believes that a lot of people are feeling isolated, because there is not that physical interaction, backing up a point that Aaron made: “I feel like not being able to have a conversation and meet up with people, it impacts your mental health.”

“We need to connect, we need that interaction… The epicenter is communication with real people in real-time,” expressed Mike.

To wrap up, I asked Lola to share how we can raise awareness of young carers.  “It’s that communication.  Telling more people about it and speaking about what young carers do… Keep the conversations going,” she said.

So let’s keep the conversations going and do what we can to raise awareness of young carers, because we are all likely to care for someone at some point in our lives.

Please stay updated with the great work I Am More are doing by following @IAmMoreCIC on Twitter and @iammorecic on Instagram.

Celebrating Peace at The Kickback / Poetic Insight

“What will happen if we focus on peace for a week?” was the thinking Katie Rose had that led to her to developing and organising Croydon’s first ever Festival of Peace.  On June 19th, we focused on peace by combining The Kickback with Poetic Insight, as part of the programme for the festival.

“This project is a the result of the amazing collaboration and power that is in Croydon,” said Katie to start off the discussion segment of the event.  “Taking the focus away from war and focus more on peace.  What will come from that?”

The first question I asked linked in with one of the things Katie said, which was, what does peace mean to you?  Eileen was first to answer: “Not having to go out… It’s nice to shut your door and not have people giving you any weird experiences.”  Karen followed up this point by saying, “Sometimes I feel solitary time is not stepping back.  It’s living your life.”

For Sid, peace is more to do with understanding and accepting, while Aaron says that “It’s being one with God, and loving Him, and obeying Him or Her.  Also balance.  It’s important to balance between life.”

Steph thinks that you need to have a sense of inner peace to have a peaceful community, but there will always be friction – “I think it’s important to have tolerance.”  This led on to an interesting point from Katie, who said , “Peace doesn’t mean no conflict.”  Sid then said, “Discussion is what leads to the resolving of all kinds of conflict.”

There was also an interesting point in our conversation when we spoke about the hatred towards vegans, which was validated by Steph and Eileen who are both vegan, which we all found incredibly strange.

Next, I asked why everyone thinks peace isn’t spoken about more in society when we continuously hear about war.  Eileen responded first again, saying, “Peace may come across as giving in.  It may be seen as weak.”  Aaron then posed the question, “Does peace sell?  People often gravitate to what isn’t peaceful,” – “People are attracted to conflict,” said Steph.

“It’s the minority of people who commit the violent acts in society.  It’s the minority who get all the press… It keeps everyone in fear of each other,” Katie expressed.  On a different level, Sid said, “People are naturally very cynical,” as if you’re doing something good or charitable, people question why you’re doing it.”

Si-Ann made the interesting point of peace being played off as the kind of opposite of power – “Peace is pushed as the kind of nerdy thing that nobody really wants.”  Hannah also thinks that peace is synonymous to politics and we’re encouraged to stay away from politics.  Joe linked into Hannah’s point by saying, “Politicians will talk about dropping bombs on someone… but they won’t say what’s coming next.”

Katie thinks it’s about being hooked on drama, “because drama is an adrenaline rush.”  She also made the point about war being “big bucks”.  Karen brought in a health element by saying, “I think a lot of the food we eat is quite inflammatory, and when you eat it, the more you want to fight.”

I then asked people to share what makes them feel peaceful.  “I think that it comes down to self-care.  As people, we forget to look after ourselves… It’s taking care of yourself to be your best person,” said Matu.  Karen B shared that being outside makes her feel peaceful – “As soon as I step outside, that sense of peace comes over me.”

For Karen, having good boundaries in place with whatever she’s doing makes her feel peaceful.  Matu also believes that protecting yourself makes you feel peaceful, and she then went on to reference that the movies we watch expose us to war and can make us desensitized.  Sid also made a beautiful point, stating that “Inner peace is kind of like you’re healing yourself.”

The final question I asked was, how can we bring more peace to our community and society as a whole?  Aaron quickly said, “Get involved,” while Katie said, “Arts activity, which is why I started this festival.”  Katie added, “I think art is really important for our well-being… Arts activities have this capacity to bring us together.”

Si-Ann thinks it is about being very cautious of the way we react to situations – “When situations occur, sometimes we behave in a way society has conditioned us to behave.”  Karen believes that “you have to accept every single person in your community, no matter who they are.”

Sid thinks that it “really does come down to education.  When you’re educated on certain matters, that can work towards peace.”  Aaron responded to Sid’s point by saying, “We shouldn’t just be educated people, we should be people of action… When we really value what we bring to the table, more people will get involved.”

This tied in with what Joe said, which was, “I think a more peaceful world is where people are involved… Doing things, you get more involved in how to make change.”  Finally, Aaron said, “When we all see each other not just as other people, but we’re all family, we will get more involved.”

Following the discussion and a little break, it was on to the poetry segment of the night, which is always beautiful.

We had five wonderful open mic’ers in Aaron, Eileen, Hannah, Samirah and Woodzy, who brought their unique styles to the stage.  Aaron was the only Poetic Insight returnee, with all the rest gracing our stage for the first time.

Another first on the night was having feature poets, which isn’t the Poetic Insight tradition, but this was a special event so we did something different.  We were fortunate enough to enjoy the talents of three amazing features, who were the icing on the cake for the night.

First we had returning poet, AadamSpeaks, who brought his witty words and meaningful messages to the stage.  Next was Joe Duggan, who was taking to the Poetic Insight stage for the first time and championing the inter-generational element of the night, who engaged us with his fun and hard-hitting poetry.  Finally was Poetic Insight veteran, Sid, who came with his usual powerful and hard-hitting spoken word.

If you weren’t there, you definitely missed out on an amazing, beautiful event that did a great job of bringing people together.  The conversations went on long after the event officially finished.  Thank you to everyone who was part of it.  Let’s keep spreading the peace.

The Kickback returns on July 24th when the topic will be Goals, and Poetic Insight returns July 31st when the theme will be Dreams & Goals.  Make sure you get both dates in your diary.

Stay updated with Young People Insight by following @YPInsight on Twitter, following @youngpeopleinsight on Instagram, liking Young People Insight on Facebook and subscribing to the Young People Insight YouTube channel.

Developing Connections Through Young People Insight

Whenever I describe what Young People Insight is, the tagline is always a platform that empowers the voices of young people and encourages community engagement.  However, there is a lot more to it than that.

One of the things at the core of YPI is developing connections, which essentially stems from the community engagement element.  I want young people to build connections that would have been otherwise missing if they did not attend a YPI event, expanding their creative, cultural and personal networks.

It is creating a caring, nurturing environment where friendships are formed and people feel not only loved, but able to be themselves.  That is why I refer to anyone involved in the platform as part of the YPI family.  Once a part of the YPI family, always a part of the YPI family.

I do my best to look out for all of the young people involved and show support in any way I can, whether that is through congratulating them on their achievements, wishing a happy birthday or attending a poetry night where they are a feature.  The personal aspect of YPI is key, and I believe it is one of the ways that makes it stand out.

It also manifests in making young people aware of or providing them with various opportunities, which include job openings, the chance to share their poetry in different settings, and having their voices heard in different forms.  I want to ensure that young people are aware of the opportunities available to them – too often, information is not shared or readily available, meaning that young people miss out.

During the last festive season, it meant a lot to be able to give three young poets who had shared their work at Poetic Insight the chance to be part of Croydon’s Festive Fantasia, with their words projected and heard (I was fortunate enough to read their reads) in Croydon Town Centre.  It is important for me to act as a connector between the young people who engage with YPI and the rest of the world outside of YPI.

However, what I most love is seeing the different connections that form between individuals who attend the events.  Sometimes I worry that I am not making a difference or having enough of an impact, so watching those connections and friendships grow provides me with evidence that YPI is actually making a difference in the lives of others.

I smile when I listen to the great conversations continuing after The Kickback has formally wrapped up.  I am filled with joy when I see personal exchanges taking place at Poetic Insight, which I did not even want to stop last month despite having poetry performances to get on with.  Yet what I love most is hearing about and seeing evidence of friendships being solidified outside of the monthly events.

There are quite a few that have built over the past two years, but I want to highlight the most recent friendship that developed at last month’s Poetic Insight.  Samirah and Mhairi did not know each other, but the both of them were coming to a poetry night for the first time.  They ended up sitting next to each other, eventually started talking and then did not stop.

When I saw Samirah and Mhairi at a poetry night in Croydon on Tuesday (Samirah got up on the open mic and smashed it in her first ever sharing of her poetry, which made me really proud), they were sitting together behind me and told me that they had also been to a poetry night together on the Sunday just gone.

I later learned that they had been in regular contact, which I thought was beautiful – two people who were initially complete strangers became friends because they came to my poetry night.  For me, that is what YPI is all about.  I want people to be able to make friends through meeting new people that would not have come into their orbit without The Kickback, Poetic Insight or even TCFT Croydon.

We live in a technological age where physical human connections and interactions are being lost, which I think is incredibly sad and can also become a danger to well-being.  That is part of the reason why I started YPI and believe that the events are essential to young people in so many ways.  I’m glad that I can play just a small part in connecting others and making meaningful links.

Stay updated with Young People Insight by following @YPInsight on Twitter, following @youngpeopleinsight on Instagram, liking Young People Insight on Facebook and subscribing to the Young People Insight YouTube channel.

What’s Coming Up This June?

It feels just crazy typing it, but we are already halfway through the year.  Can you believe it?  Halfway through 2018!!  Now that I’ve got that off my chest, it’s time to fill you in on all that we’ve got coming up in June.

This month is looking to be a unique one for YPI with our events being non-traditional and quite specialised.  June’s first event will be part of Croydon’s Festival of Peace programme, so we’re doing things a little differently.

The Kickback will be combining with Poetic Insight, for a night of conversation, poetry and munchies, of course.  We’ll be focusing on the theme of Peace, which I think will result in an interesting conversation.

We’re also opening up the Poetic Insight stage to poets and spoken word artists of all ages for the first time, as the event will have an inter-generational focus rather than the usual focus on young people.  As well as the traditional open mic, we are excited to have three amazing feature poets in AadamSpeaks, Joe Duggan and Sid.

This is going to be beautiful, so save the date of June 19th and be at Project B from 6.30-9.30pm for a night of peace, love and good vibes.  Let us know you’re coming here: bit.ly/thekickbackpoeticinsight-peace

After a great start last month, TCFT Croydon 2018 continues on Sunday June 24th, focusing on the theme of Change.  The creative workshops begin this month, giving participants the opportunity to build on discussions and what they would like to change through creative means.

One of the things that the participants said that they would like to change and decided to focus on is bridging the gap between generations.  With that in mind, I have made the decision to extend the age of participants and invite those over 25 to take part in TCFT Croydon 2018 with us, as the inter-generational element seems to work very well in Croydon.  If you are interested in bridging the gap and getting your creative juices flowing, sign up here: bit.ly/tcftcroydon2018-signup

Our final event in June will be a collaboration with local organisation, I Am More CIC, who focus on addressing the needs of young carers aged 11-21 years old, living in and around London.

The aim of the event is to raise awareness of young carers, as well as create a safe space for young carers to express themselves.  We’ll be watching a short film created as part of I Am More’s ‘Be Seen’ campaign, followed by a relaxed discussion.

Come along to Project B on June 26th from 7-9pm to learn more about I Am More and what they do, show support to young carers and meet some new people.  Sign up for the night here: bit.ly/letstalkaboutyoungcarers

It’s gonna be another exciting month at YPI, which I am very much looking forward to and I hope to see some of your lovely faces.  You know there will be a smile and hug waiting for you.

Stay updated with Young People Insight by following @YPInsight on Twitter, following @youngpeopleinsight on Instagram, liking Young People Insight on Facebook and subscribing to the Young People Insight YouTube channel.