Reflecting on The Complete Freedom of Truth Croydon

On August 20th, I finally achieved my goal of bringing The Complete Freedom of Truth (TCFT) to my home town of Croydon.  This is a project that I love and means more to me than I can describe – you properly have to see my eyes brighten and face light up when I speak about it and all that it’s done for me.

Getting the TCFT Croydon pilot to happen was hard work, despite running only for one day, mainly because I began planning for it in June.  I was ready to give up twice, but fortunately I persevered and was able to watch a beautiful day take place.

A group of us gathered on a Sunday to bring something new to Croydon, develop relationships and explore our truths through art. We broke the ice and got our minds ready with a morning warm up led by Daisy.  We were joined by the Mayor of Croydon, Councillor Toni Letts, and her consort, who got involved too, followed by the Mayor saying a few words.

Morning Warm Up by Robert Golden.

The main part of the day was the workshops, which I’m pleased to say were a success.  Music and photography rang out through Matthews Yard and beyond, poetry and theatre brought life to Project B, while art flowed through Turf Projects.  As I floated between each venue, I observed how enthused and engaged everyone was in their workshops, which calmed me down and made me smile.

Art Workshop by Robert Golden.

We also had a mini discussion, led by the brilliantly dynamic and inspiring Geraldine Sharpe-Newton, who empowered those in attendance and provided us with plenty of food for thought.  I hope that the young participants left the day with encouragement to become change-makers and not remain stagnant in society.

Discussion by Robert Golden.

One of my favourite parts of the pilot was watching the work created throughout the day come together in the final sharing of work at Braithwaite Hall.  Considering the short space of time each group had to create their pieces, I was extremely impressed with the quality and overwhelmed by what had been produced.  There was true talent in the room and I would love to have seen what they could have created in an extended length of time.

Considering my worries and anticipation, the day went really well and better than I could have imagined, although there is plenty of room for improvement.  I know I need to have some better time keeping, have a list of tasks to assign to volunteers and properly layout how the final sharing of work will run.  I also need to promote more and go into other organisations, telling them about TCFT.

Most of all, I need more time to plan and put everything together, which should be a lot easier next time, considering everything I’ve learnt and the various skills I’ve gained.  Going forward, I know that I’ll need some training for certain aspects and a bigger team of people to work with, who will definitely be able to commit their time to carrying out tasks.

Theatre Workshop by Robert Golden.

The main point of the TCFT Croydon pilot was to see if it would work and if there was a want for TCFT in Croydon.  Looking back on the day, I saw that it does work and there is definitely a want for it in Croydon, but more people need to know about TCFT and understand what the project is.  I can see that it has the ability to grow, host more regular projects in Croydon and contribute towards a more united, democratic society.

The Mayor of Croydon’s Hands by Rachel Dunford.

 

To finish, I want to say a big thank you to my co-facilitator Naomi, who created all of the gorgeous graphics and marketing imagery for the day, and also facilitated the photography workshop.  A big thank you as well goes out to the truly amazing workshop facilitators for the day, who got the best out of our participants: Nikki, Liberty, Chimaine, Daisy, Humi and Cedoux.  The day could not have happened without you.

Big thanks goes out Robert and Skye for taking photos and capturing the day, ensuring that it would not be forgotten.  Big thanks also to my dad for preparing the food, my sister for registering everyone and holding down the information desk, and my mum for all of the help she gave throughout the day.

Thank you so much to Opera Circus for partnering with us on this project, helping with many of the legal aspects, and to Tina from Opera Circus for supporting me throughout the whole process.  I don’t think I could have done this without you mentoring me.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart to all of the volunteers who gave up their time on a Sunday to support, all of the participants who got so brilliantly involved in the day and also everyone else who helped me along the way in the organisation process.

Last but not least, a huge thank you to Matthews Yard and Turf Projects for supporting us by providing your beautiful spaces without asking me to pay a penny, and thank you to Project B for the use of your venue yet again.  And finally, a huge thank you to Croydon Council for your supporting and sponsoring us through the use of Braithwate Hall, and to FAB Croydon for sponsoring us through donation.  You were all a part of this day.

Poetry Workshop by Robert Golden.

The Complete Freedom of Truth Landing in Croydon

As you may remember from previous posts, I have participated in the international youth project, The Complete Freedom of Truth (TCFT), by attending three residencies in the past two years.

I’ve been fortunate enough to immerse myself in creativity and meet the most amazing group of people from around Europe and beyond, in the towns of Srebrenica (Bosnia & Herzegovina), Bournemouth (UK) and Sarteano (Italy).  Each residency was different, but always special and a truly rewarding experience.

Image by Robert Golden and used with permission.

TCFT changed my life in a number ways.  Most significantly, it gave me the final spurt of courage I needed to launch Young People Insight as a physical platform and also influenced the way that it has evolved, particularly in the creative sense.  However, just having an influence or bringing an essence of TCFT to Croydon isn’t enough – I actually want young people to gain the TCFT experience that I did.

This is why I’m excited to be bringing TCFT to Croydon!  

On Sunday 20th August, myself and another Croydon based participant, Naomi, will be facilitating TCFT Croydon, a one day pilot project, giving young people a taste of TCFT.  It will also allow us to see if there is a wider want for TCFT in Croydon, and if it all works out, more and longer length TCFT projects, workshops and residencies will be coming to the borough.

The theme for the day will be Unity, and young people, aged 15-26, will be able to participate in a  creative workshop of their choice in either Matthews Yard, Project B or Turf Projects.  They can choose from Art, Drama, Music, Photography or Poetry, which will give them the chance to let their creative juices flow and develop skills along the way.

An important element of TCFT is creating change and encouraging “a vision of an equal, inclusive and truly democratic society”, which is why a discussion element will also take place.  And to conclude the day, any work created by the young participants will be shared at Braithwaite Hall (Croydon Clock tower) in the evening, which members of the community are invited to attend.

Photo by Robert Golden and used with permission.

This is going to be a fun-filled, inclusive day, which could be the start of something truly great for Croydon and even South London as a whole.  It is also a day of opportunities for young people, as they never know where participating in this project may lead.  I can honestly say that I would not be the same person without TCFT.

If you would like to be part of the first ever TCFT Croydon – don’t worry, you don’t have to be from Croydon – sign up here: http://thecompletefreedomoftruth.com/croydon

Bringing The Complete Freedom of Truth to Croydon

Last month, I took part in the European youth project, The Complete Freedom of Truth (TCFT) for the third time.  This year we were in the town of Sarteano, Italy, where we took part in the usual assortment of workshops, discussions and showcases.

A project centred on inclusiveness, tolerance and equality, TFCT is the perfect example of what Europe and the extended world could be if we were more accepting of each other and worked together, rather than fight against each other.

Most of all, it shows the importance of art – how it can bring people together and begin to create change.  This has been a great inspiration to me and an element that I’ve taken forward in developing Young People Insight – in fact, YP Insight probably would not be what it is now without TCFT.

This year I brought a bit of YP Insight to Sarteano by holding a poetry night as part of TCFT.  As always, it was filled with varying talent and amazing poetry on a variety of different themes.  However, unlike Poetic Insight, all of the performers were not young people, but TCFT is all about transcending age.

Poems were presented in different languages, which brought different levels and beautiful cultural diversity to the night.  Francesco’s poems were read in Italian, and also translated into English and Romanian.  Maya and Sandra performed poems in Bosnian, while Saša delivered a poem in Serbian.

Image by Irina Ganescu.

There were themes about love, self, fitting in and dance.  Some poems were more personal than others, giving us a deeper insight into the individual which is always beautiful.  Hopefully there will be some footage up online soon so you will be able to experience what was an amazing night.

Thank you to Francesco, Sandra, Julia, Sylvia, Luka, Ellie, Izzy, Maya, Molly, Ricky, Liviu, Raul and Saša – the night would not have been what it was without you.  I also want to thank everyone else who was behind the scenes and helped me to get the night organised I could not have pulled this off on my own in a country that was foreign to me.

TCFT is a truly special experience, which words cannot do enough justice for.  You cannot fully comprehend it unless you live it yourself, which is why I intend to bring more of TCFT to Croydon over time.  I’ve seen the change and effect it has had on the lives of the young people involved, including myself.  I can genuinely say that it has changed my life and I would not be the leader that I am now without it.

Just watch this space.

Being Inspired by Young Talent

Young people are regularly villainized by the media and it sickens me.  You can be sure that the wrongs committed by youth will be reported, but the good things they are doing are often kept under the radar.  Don’t you find yourself asking why that is?

I feel privileged to know some truly amazing and talented young people, who are doing great things and inspire me.  Unfortunately, not enough noise is being made about them, when everyone should know their names, because they are going to play a part in changing the world and taking it by storm.

dsc_1074On Wednesday 26th October, I was fortunate enough to be one of the people invited to attend 140 BPM, an exhibition celebrating grime music and culture through fine art.  The exhibition was organised and created by 19-year-old Sophia Tassew, an art director at FCB Inferno.

I was lucky enough to meet Sophia last year, when we were contributors to Live Mag UK, and I could see the sparks of brilliance in her then. It’s no wonder that she became the youngest art director for FCB Inferno and then went on to put on an exhibition after she received acclaim for her artwork – she’s a determined, hard-grafting young woman who goes out and gets things done.

Putting out a message for help on landing an exhibition space, Sophia ended up being sponsored by Converse, who allowed her to hold the exhibition in their London headquarters.  Sophia exhibited some of her artwork alongside Tom Fitch, Raman Aso, Simon Wheatley and Jasmin Sehra, who are all incredibly talented and shone a light on the world of grime in different ways.

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Sophia is going to keep on ascending, with more exhibitions already set to be in the works after the success of 140 BPM.  Only this time, she plans to open her exhibitions to the public, which I know is necessary after an overflowing guest list.

dsc_0775As I traveled to and from 140 BPM, I happened to be reading a book of poetry by 20-year-old Ismael Musoke.  The Lost Essays is a stunning read, with Ismael telling his story of growing up in South London through a collection of poetry.

Each poem is thought-provoking, touching on real life situations and emotions that many of us go through.  I found myself relating to a lot of what he had written, especially as a young black individual who has grown up in South London myself.

I found myself all up in my feelings, as I sat on the Tube reading the pages and taking in what each line had to say. I felt a connection to Poetruth, as my heart was struck by the first stanza: “He sits there in fear, / Constantly doubting himself / Doubting his own intentions / self-doubt is the cousin of fear / And fear is the son of failure.”

My ultimate favourite poem though, was D.R.E.A.M.S, which brought a tear to my eye and took my breath away.  As someone who is striving to reach my dreams, this poem resonated with me more than any other.  “Someone told me black people don’t do poetry / So I picked up that pen and told my story so they know it’s me”, Ismael writes.

I can’t tell you how glad I was when Ismael performed D.R.E.A.M.S at our first poetry event on November 1st.  He brought the poem to life with a captivating, powerful performance that made me fall in love with it all over again.

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Ismael was just one of the eight amazing poets and spoken word artists who performed at our first poetry event, Poetic Insight.  It was an inspiring night bursting with young talent, which made me incredibly proud of my generation, as well as the borough of Croydon.  It also gave me the opportunity to share some of my poetry and speak out on something that is very important to me – showing women in sports the same level of respect as men after the WNBA Finals wasn’t shown again in the UK.

On the night, we heard about relationships, perception, life experiences, grief and real-life events.  Usually personal to her, Josephine honoured us with one of her poems, and 15-year-old Original Shai blew us all away with his dynamic delivery and wonderful way with words.

Every single poet and performer brought something different, which made the night all the more special.  I cannot wait for the regular monthly Poetic Insight events to start in January, when we’ll hear even more from young people speaking their mind through poetry.

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Young people are doing going from strength to strength, and that needs to be acknowledged.  The good needs to be reported to balance out the bad, which will immediately change the perception of young people in society.  For now, remember these names, because you’re going to be hearing a lot more from them.

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.”

Reece Thompson

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.”

Reece Thompson 2

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.”

Reece Thompson 3

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).