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 of 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 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 also 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 also 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.

Another Beautiful Night at Poetic Insight: Mental Health 2018

Wrapping up May’s focus on mental health was Poetic Insight on the 29th.  This was an event I was really looking forward to after last year’s raw, beautiful Poetic Insight: Mental Health, and this year delivered another beautiful night, despite being different to the last one.

Clouds were covering up the shining sun from May 2017 and the night’s line up was smaller than the previous year, but the raw words expressed, emotion conveyed and talent displayed remained the same.

Miss Yankey graced the Poetic Insight stage for the first time at our mental health themed night in 2017, and she was back in 2018 to deliver another powerful performance.  She went in deep as always with a performance of a poem about mental health and domestic violence.

Coming to the Poetic Insight stage for the very first time was Clemmie, who shared a really beautiful poem, filled with wonderful words, about the personal struggles that come with mental issues.

Kris also returned to Poetic Insight, going in with a deep performance of a poem about masculinity, which in itself has ties to mental health.

I began the night by performing a poem entitled Me and Myself, which I wrote especially for the night, about the internal battle attacking my mind.  To end the night, I shared my story of how I had been battling with mental health issues and how I was still battling them, rounding it off with my poem The Beautiful, Brutal Blade, about my struggle with self-harm.

However, what made the night so beautiful for me was watching the different connections forming around the room.  A part of me didn’t even want to start the performances, because I was loving all of the conversations that were happening and relationships starting to develop.  For me, that is the key part of what Young People Insight is all about.  I hope the conversations keep going, the connections strengthen and the relationships continue to grow.

Poetic Insight will be joining with The Kickback when it returns on June 19th for a very special event as part of Croydon’s Festival of Peace.  We’ve got three amazing feature poets, as well as the traditional open mic, so stay tuned for more information.  You are going to love it.

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.

Let’s Talk About Mental Health

It is Mental Health Awareness Week, so on May 15th, the conversation at The Kickback was on Mental Health.  Hosted by South London health service, OASIS, it was brilliant and enlightening conversation.

OASIS’ main focus is psychosis, working on prevention and supporting those who may be going through difficult experiences – “We’re a preventative service rather than a reactive service,” Isaac explained.  Isaac also informed us that 1 in 3 people will hear a voice that other people have not heard.

Isaac’s colleague Sharon began by asking us what we think gets in the way of people asking for help regarding their mental health.  Beverly responded by saying, “They don’t think they need it,” while Gus thinks that it sometimes has to do with ego.  Caroleen from OASIS also added, “It can be scary admitting something is wrong.”

“A huge thing are the stigmas that are concerned… Mental health is just health,” Lee shared.  He also added that when you mention mental health in the BME Community, people automatically think of mental health problems.

Isaac then asked how we could work on that, to which Lee responded that things like The Kickback were a start – “We need to create more spaces for young people to express themselves about what concerns them.”  He also added, “As long as we dis-empower people in our society, we’re going to have problems.”

Isaac also shared the options available at OASIS with us: Key working, medication and psychology.  Sharon then proceeded to ask us what we would say psychology is and how we would describe it.

Gus believes that it is also more of a study of the brain than the mind, because the brain and the mind are different things.  I shared that I think psychology is the science of people, while Lee agrees that it is definitely a social science.

We also spoke about the link between culture and mental health – “Here in Britain, hearing voices is seen as a negative thing, but in many cultures that is very positive,” said Caroleen.  This was in correlation to a point Isaac was making about psychosis, when he said that hearing a voice may not have an impact on someone’s day, but that it might affect the day-to-day of someone else.

The reference to culture led to Lee bringing up the media – “I’ve never seen a positive campaign about schizophrenia.”  Gus added that he thinks TV is a weapon, and he thinks “an issue with mental health is how you’re being fed, whether that’s in TV or the rest of the media.”  Lee also expressed, “We can create the change, because the way the world has developed has enabled us to have a bigger voice.”

I wanted to get a better idea of what psychosis was, so I asked what psychosis was; however, Caroleen first wanted to know how we would describe it.  KB thought that it was hypnotising someone, Gus thought that it was deep thinking of something, and Anil thought it was crazy things in your head.  Anil then went on to share his own experience of dealing with real life psychosis, which was powerful.

Before revealing what psychosis was, Isaac first spoke about unusual experiences, which included hearing a voice other people don’t hear, which some individuals may be quite troubled by and could affect their work or relationships.  He explained that if someone was having an experience of psychosis, the unusual experiences would be more distressing.  “It’s all about severity,” Isaac said, as hearing a voice could be at risk of psychosis or it could be psychosis.

Caroleen went a little deeper, saying that the experiences and voices are different for everyone – “Some people may hear 10 voices, some may hear lots of voices, some may just think people are out to get them.”  Lee also said that some people may see things, and Sharon explained that “when you keep things in, those beliefs can get bigger… It’s related to our stress really.”  It blew my mind to learn how broad psychosis is and that are so many elements involved.

As we spoke about how deterioration in mental health may occur, Isaac said that “maybe there’s something in people not trusting mental health services.”  Lee responded by saying, “It’s hard to trust the system though,” as he sees going for a psychological assessment as a much more revealing process than a physical examination, before going on to share his own personal experience with mental health professionals.

I personally wanted to know why the stigma around mental health seems to be even higher in men.  Gus thinks it may have been exaggerated by “our experiences and existences,” as “guys don’t really talk about their feelings at all.”  Anil believes that “sometimes it’s an ego thing,” while Rosie believes men are not raised to talk about their issues.

“Times have changed, but human beings haven’t.  Women have always been more expressive creatures,” Lee said.  However, Beverly expressed that “lots of women aren’t talking these days,” which Rosie was in some agreement with – “Because we are in a slightly unbalanced society, women are still getting shut out of the conversation.”

Beverly also thinks that it might be society, as “some things are seen as normal and some things are unnormal.”  Gus also believes that “something natural has been perverted,” as it seems like there is a dead spectrum for men – “You only see anger or joy.”

Lee made a very interesting point, saying, “Social media is controlling the narrative.  It’s a self-gravitating world we’re living in and it’s effecting our psyche.”

There were a number of other things covered and touched upon, but I’m going to conclude with a key statement made by Beverly: “There are so many things that make your mental health matter.”

The Kickback returns on June 19th, when it will be joining with Poetic Insight for Croydon’s Festival of Peace.  It’s going to be a very special event, so stay tuned for more information.

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 May?

May is here, the sunshine is back and I’m excited for everything that we’ve got coming up!  This month is going to be a busy one for YPI with lots of great things in the works.  I just need to make sure that I keep up with it all.

First up is The Kickback, when we’ll be talking Mental Health during Mental Health Awareness Week.  The topic of Mental Health led to one of our best conversations in 2017 and I’m looking forward to another great conversation this year.

The Kickback will be hosted by OASIS, a health service for young people aged 14-35, who are experiencing psychological distress.  OASIS’s focus is on Psychosis, which they will be providing a deeper insight into.  Be sure to save the date of May 15th and the time of 6.30-8.30pm.  Register for the event here: bit.ly/letstalkmentalhealth

On the following day, we are joining up with community-led cinema, Screen25, and youth counselling charity, Off The Record, to put on a special event for Mental Health Awareness Week.  We will be screening feature film, It’s Kind of a Funny Story, a 2010 hit comedy that confronts preconceptions about mental health and explores the reality of depression through the eyes of a 16-year-old.

As well as the feature film, you will also be treated to a screening of Behind The Locked Door, a short documentary produced by Brent Mind, about mental health in the black community.  And following on from the films will be a panel discussion on mental health, touching on some of the issues raised in the films.

I am really looking forward to this event, which I think is going to be thought-provoking and a lot of fun.  I don’t want any of you to miss it, so get May 16th, 7.45-10pm, in your diary, and don’t forget to buy your tickets: bit.ly/2r0cQC6

Last year, I put on the TCFT Croydon Pilot on a Sunday in August.  This year, TCFT Croydon is going to be bigger and better, taking place on three Sundays spread across three months.  The first of those Sundays will be May 27th at Turf Projects, getting the ball rolling for TCFT Croydon 2018 with a day of fun conversation and creative activities.

The theme for TCFT Croydon 2018 is Change, encouraging young people to think about how they can spark change through art, culminating in the final sharing of the work they create on July 15th.  There are still a small number of spaces remaining for those of you who are 15-25, so if you would like take part in this special creative process, sign up for your free space now: bit.ly/tcftcroydon2018-signup

Our final event in May will be Poetic Insight, continuing the focus on the theme of Mental Health.  Last year’s Mental Health themed Poetic Insight was a raw, beautiful, moving experience, which will definitely go down as one of our most memorable events.  I’m hoping that this will be another one to remember.

We’ll be at Project B on May 29th from 7-9pm, with performances starting at 7.30pm.  If you’re a young poet or spoken word artist wanting to perform, please email youngpeopleinsight@gmail.com or send a message to 07910092565, and I’ll add your name to the list.  If you’d prefer to simply engage by sitting in the audience, register for your free tickets here: bit.ly/poeticinsight-mentalhealth

I genuinely cannot wait for all of these events and I cannot wait to see your beautiful faces at some of them.  I’ll be waiting with a big smile and a hug.

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.

Poetry Meets Conversation at Poetic Insight

We continued this month’s focus on violence at Poetic Insight on April 24th, which brought together powerful poetry with more compelling conversation.

Mahmoud returned to the Poetic Insight stage, again sharing poetry he wrote after getting inspired on the night.  He dropped some strong, thought-provoking lines with his own style.

Paul Point graced our stage for the first time, leaving us in awe through his powerful delivery and masterful wordplay, taking us through stories in poetic form.

We were also joined by Sarah Jones MP, who spoke about the work she does and engaged in a conversation with us about youth violence.  One of the initial things she touched on was the barriers between young people and the police, with a lot still needing to be done to break these barriers down.

Sarah asked us about what we could possibly do or what we think could be done to address the issue of youth violence.  Renee expressed that people want to be involved in the community, but sometimes they don’t know how.  However, she did share some ways that members of the community could get involved, particularly through an initiative she is developing as part of her organisation, Croydon Community Leaders.

Mahmoud asked, “How will young people like me have a voice?”  Sarah was adamant that young people need to be part of every decision that is made when decisions are being made about young people, referencing panels that take place to discuss young people, but have no young people on the panel.

A number of interesting points were made regarding prisons – “Some young people spoke about how prison was a break for them,” said Sarah – how we interact with young people, the services available to them and how we make information about those services available, as well as some of the root causes – “There are connectors that are much more important than the colour of your skin,” said Sarah.

To end, I shared a poem I wrote especially for the night, comparing the violence in our city to a war zone.  However, I want to leave you with Sarah’s words, “This is the start of tackling a problem that is at a record high.”

Poetic Insight is back on May 29th  when the theme will be ‘Mental Health’.  Last year was really special, so save the date because you will not want to miss it.  We’ll be at Project B of our usual time of 7-9pm.  If you would like to perform, please email youngpeopleinsight@gmail.com or get in contact 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.