It was time to celebrate 3 years of Young People Insight on January 15th, looking back on how the platform had come into being and all the memories shared. It was a special night in a room filled with warmth and love.
Although The Kickback and Poetic Insight were not combining for the first time, I tried out a new format for the first time, which I will be using again in future. Rather than doing half and half, I interspersed the poetry between the conversation, which I think kept everyone’s brains engaged.
As we were a larger number than usual, I decided to do something that I had gotten from Charles Handy at an away weekend last year, which he called ‘The Empty Chair’. There is an empty chair on either side of you and when someone feels inclined to speak, they sit in one of the chairs to share a thought, and if someone wants to respond or share their own thought, they wait in the other empty chair.
I sat in the middle chair, speaking about all things YPI, but coaxing others to sit in the chairs was tough. Sid was brave enough to take to the empty chair first, responding to me talking about The Kickback.
“I came to my first Kickback and we were talking about something along the lines of change and why people don’t see change as a good thing… We, as a collective group, had many different opinions,” Sid told us. He emphasised the importance of people going that extra step to ask questions, as “it would put them at ease rather than them making assumptions in their own head… Getting into conversations is a very healthy thing.”
Si-Ann also spoke about The Kickback, letting us know, “Coming to The Kickback about Peace was really kind of therapeutic. At the end, I kind of felt at peace… These sessions are a kind of therapy.”
Adam (also known as AadamSpeaks) later came forward to speak about Poetic Insight, which he attended for the first time early last year – “It was about my fourth or fifth performance.” Adam let us know that he always says to his friends, “We have to go to YPI,” as “these kind of environments are the places where you can grow.”
Liam (better known as Annotate) also spoke about Poetic Insight – “My first time coming to Poetic Insight was two years ago. I was a very nervous poet and read off my phone.” He told us that he remembered being so moved by Sid’s performance that he decided to step up his game and start memorizing his poems, as “I felt to get to that next level, I needed to drop the phone.” However, it was his last phrase that touched my heart: “It’s a pleasure to be part of this, as you call it, family.”
Elisha brought up speaking at Poetic Insight during Thornton Heath Arts Week and learning that “I had so many things to share.” And Demi told us that she performed poetry she had been writing for 10 years for the first time at Poetic Insight two years ago – “I saw Annotate perform and I was bewildered… but it gave me a lot more confidence.”
I later asked everyone what they think makes YPI special, which led to many beautiful, heartwarming words being shared that are almost making me tear up now. Darren expressing he felt like a proud dad, as he’s watched me grow since meeting him in Bosnia in 2015. Si-Ann saying she felt like a proud sister and referencing my journey from childhood. Jason saying, “You wanted to be the person you didn’t have when you were younger, and create the platform you didn’t have when you were younger.”
Then there was Stephen, who was closest to bringing me to tears – I was genuinely taken aback by what he said. He expressed that from the beginning, I wanted to know about who he was as a person, rather than him as an American. However, he got me when he said: “I started my own label, I have my own producers, and that’s because of what I saw her [Shaniqua] doing… Young People Insight is the reason why I’m doing this.”
We also had a first time attendee in the empty chair. Klavel introduced himself by saying, “I’m a creative plug. I’m an artrepreneur, not an entrepreneur.” He then spoke about how he had heard about the event and was drawn to stay by one of the poet’s performances – “It’s so insightful that people need to come and see it… I saw one person’s art and it touched me.”
Those words are the perfect way to lead into talking about the poets and spoken word artists, who were amazing as always. I am blessed to be surrounded by so much awesome talent, who are only going to continue to grow and get better with time and experience.
We were fortunate enough to have not only Poetic Insight and YPI, veterans Sid, Kris, Annotate and Stephen drop their fire poetry on us. Then from the veterans, we transitioned to newer Poetic Insight faces, Jessica, Elisha, Antonia, AadamSpeaks and Zhanai, taking to the stage.
Ashan returned to share her poetry for the first time since our 1st birthday celebrations. And it wouldn’t be Poetic Insight without someone taking to our stage for the first time, coming from Sense’s powerful poetry.
There were a number of other beautiful faces in Project B, who are a much valued part of the YP Insight family as well. I want to thank them and everyone who was a part of the night for making it so special, especially as it will be the last birthday celebration for a little while – I think we’re just gonna celebrate major milestones from now on.
See you at our events throughout the year.