Looking Back on 2018 as we Move Forward to 2019

It was our final event of the year on December 18th, as we came together in Urban XChange Bar & Grill to look back at 2018, and make plans for moving forward in 2019.  As it was the final event of the year, we of course had poetry and spoken word as well, bringing The Kickback and Poetic Insight together.

As always, I started by asking everyone what their thing about YPI was this year and what they think worked well.  Responses included:

  • “Positive vibes.” – Elisha
  • The mix of different venues, being in Thornton Heath worked well. – Joan
  • A lot of people were inspired by hearing other people’s work. – Jess

I then wanted to know if they had preferred The Kickback or Poetic Insight.  Mhairi preferred Poetic Insight, saying that it was nice to have people sharing poetry and socialising, as “The Kickback is very heavy.”  On the other hand, Elisha said that he liked YPI as a whole, not preferring one event over the other.

The next question was, which topic at The Kickback did you gain and learn the most from?  Elisha said that Healthy Relationships was deep and that there was a lot to learn – “[It’s] good to teach other people out there where you’ve been.”  Mhairi’s was Goals, as she gained a lot of perspective and advice, and also met some people she could relate to.

Following on from that was the question of which Poetic Insight they enjoyed the most or had the greatest effect on them.  Dreams & Goals really stood out in Mhairi’s mind, while Elisha thought that Poetic Insight during Thornton Heath Arts Week was a really good one.

I then asked, what I feel, is the most important question: What can be improved?

  • “Everyone should bring a friend.” – Mhairi
  • Spread the word a bit more through social media.  Maybe do live videos. – Jess
  • Live-stream The Kickback and get people to send in questions.  That will increase engagement. – Kris
  • Get info in schools and colleges. – Vanessa
  • Do The Kickback in schools and colleges. – Kris

In preparation for 2019, I asked what topics they would like to see discussed at The Kickback.  Topics suggested were:

  • Depression – Jess
  • Social Expectations – Vanessa
  • Gender/Identity – Kris
  • Sexual orientation – Jess

And of course, I asked what themes they would like to see at Poetic Insight.  Themes suggested were:

  • Family & Friends – Mhairi
  • Responsibilities – Elisha
  • Equal Rights – Jess
  • Happiness – Mhairi

When asked what other events they would like to see put on, Mhairi said a bigger and better festival (we were one of the partner organisations who brought the Living in Poetry Festival to life), while Kris said, “Try doing a cypher.”

I also asked if there were any individuals or organisations they would like to speak at or host our events.  Joan said that she would love for us to get Temi Mwale down if we were speaking about Youth Violence, which I am really going to try and do next year, as I tried to get her to both The Kickback and Poetic Insight this year, but her super busy schedule sadly prevented it.

After The Kickback segment, it was time for Poetic Insight to see out YPI in 2018 in true inspirational fashion.  First to the stage was Elisha, who spoke about responsibilities and having confidence in yourself.

Following on from him was his best friend Jessica, who debuted a beautiful poem called My Light in the Dark, which was about her daughter, who happened to be sitting right in front of her.  It was a really special moment.

Friends, Adora and Vanessa, came to Poetic Insight together for the first time last month, and were so inspired that they made the decision to go home, write some poetry and share it this month.  In the first half, Adora shared a powerful poem about isms, particularly colourism, and cultural appropriation.  In the second half, Vanessa opened up to us with a deep and real poem about growing up raised by a single mother.

Henry graced the Poetic Insight stage for the first time, getting us all up in our feelings with two poems about the inability to stop thinking about someone you’ve fallen for.  It was a very different energy to fellow first timer, Fatima, who got political with a powerful poem about Theresa May.

Returning to the Poetic Insight stage was Script Index, who made us all smile with his performance of Remind Me.  He was followed by Mhairi, who shared a very honest poem coming to terms with a 2018 that had been tough for her.

Runner up of our logo competition, Vinicia, not only received her cheque on the night, but took to the Poetic Insight stage for the first time, sharing a strong poem about colourism and Black Lives Matter.

Kris brought his rhythmical style back to Poetic Insight, performing a poem about people who inspire him.  Then it was time for Tiarn to make his Poetic Insight debut, showing us that he has a beautiful way with words through his poem about the hurt that can occur in relationships.

As it was the last Poetic Insight of the year, I decided to perform, making me the final poet onstage.  I performed War Zone, as youth violence has been one of the things that has plagued my heart most this year and it needs to be continually addressed.

So that’s a wrap for 2018.  This will be the last blog post of this year, but we’ll be back the first week in January.  A heartfelt thank you to everyone who has read and shared any of the posts, interacted with YPI on social media or come out to any of the events – I really appreciate you.

Have a lovely festive break and a very happy new year.  I look forward to seeing you in 2019 for another full year of Young People Insight activities.


Looking Back on 2018: A Year of Two Parts

For me, its been a year of two parts at Young People Insight.  Part of it was on a downer and the other part was on the up, which I think had more to do with me than the platform itself.

I struggled a lot with YPI at the early stages of this year and was ready to pack it in, shut the whole thing down once the end of July came around.  I questioned how much difference I was actually making and what the point of the platform was anymore.  I felt I had plateaued.

The saddest thing of all was that I had fallen out of love with YPI.  I didn’t want to be at my own events, I wasn’t enjoying organising them and I questioned the point of putting in work when numbers were dwindling.  It was like I was failing and carrying tirelessly on with something that was not wanted.

However, I eventually came to the realisation that this had a lot to do with me and my fragile mental state, rather than YPI itself.  Once I saw how broken I was, I decided to take some time out (particularly from YPI) to heal and make time for me.  After making that decision, it was like a weight had been lifted and I suddenly felt a lot better.

I began to enjoy my events again and found a revitalised energy, ready to put in work to take YPI to another level.  Most importantly, I found my love for it all over again.

What’s funny is that once I got a new-found energy, the events seemed to gain a lease of new-found energy as well.  The conversations at The Kickback have gotten richer and richer, which  is brilliant to witness, although it has been hellish for my hands to keep up with everything said.

There were was stand out after stand out conversation this year, delivering some stellar gems, but if I was going to choose a favourite for 2018, it would be the conversation on Peace in June.  I was slightly concerned about how a conversation on the topic of peace would go, but it ended up being amazing.  The perspectives of peace were mind-blowing and thought-provoking, definitely making me look at peace in a new light.

Poetic Insight has continued to be inspiring in 2018, with the different poets who have taken to the stage bringing a different feeling to the event each month.  I’ve already made it known that my favourite for 2018 was last month’s event, when some beautiful young people blew me away with their bravery and honesty.

I already cannot wait to see what will come from The Kickback and Poetic Insight next year, especially as the YP Insight Family continues to expand and strengthen.  I think that the conversations are going to get even deeper and richer, and I know that more inspiring, brave young people will bring their poetic talents to the stage.

I also love that we’ll have a brand new logo, designed by a young person, going into the new year, revamping the YPI brand, which I have been wanting to do for so long.  This is definitely a major step in moving YPI forward, which you all have been a part of.  I can’t wait to announce the winner next week.

But what I am really, really excited about is how YPI is going to develop as a whole in 2019.  The team is finally going to expand, beyond little me.  I’m going to have even more great support behind me, advising me along the way.  I’ve also started planning from now and have some fresh ideas in mind that I cannot wait to start executing, as it is going to take this platform to new heights and do even more to empower young people.

It’s going to be great for young people, it’s going to be great for creatives and it’s going to be great for Croydon.  Watch this space.

Looking Back at Two Years of Young People Insight

I can’t believe it has been two years already; time has flown by ridiculously fast.  Thinking back to my first forum (as it was known then) in January 2016, when I had finally thrown myself into the deep end and was getting an idea of what people wanted for the platform, I never imagined how far it would come.

Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to start a platform that genuinely impact the lives of young people not just for a season, but for years to come.  Too often, initiatives start and then disappear into the ether – I did not want Young People Insight to be one of them.

This has required a great level of commitment and strength over the past two years, as it is easy to become inconsistent and not take a voluntary role seriously.  However, I am deeply serious about YP Insight, which I hope shines through, and I determined to make a real difference in my community through this platform.

Nevertheless, there have been countless occasions when I have wanted to give up entirely.  Some times it was due to getting caught up in the numbers game, believing that there was no point of carrying on if barely anyone was there.  On other occasions, I questioned if I was making any difference at all.  And then there were the times when life had gotten too much, as I battled with grief, believing in myself and being burnt out.

Through it all, I prayed though and was continuously reminded of why I was doing this in the first place.  I wanted to reach out to young people, empower them and gave them a space to not only make their voices heard, but actually feel that they were being heard in a safe environment where they would be welcomed, loved and accepted.

From what others have told me, I have succeeded in creating this type of environment, which makes me feel touched and extremely happy.  I always feel great inside when individuals feel comfortable enough to open up and share their personal stories – that is what YP Insight is all about.

For me, some of the most special moments at our events have been when people have opened up unexpectedly.  One particular occasion was when Angela took to the stage at our Mental Health themed Poetic Insight to share her experience with mental health problems, which had the room entranced and members of the audience in tears.  I don’t think I’ll ever forget that.

I guess that leads on to some of my favourite memories over the past two years.  I always love having guest speakers at The Kickback, and I especially loved when Stephanie, Matthew, Frances, Kyle and Jason shared their dreams and inspirational stories so far when we focused on the topic of Dreams in May 2015.  Everyone was incredibly engaged and each of their stories was inspiring – that event felt like a real turning point for me.

Stephen leading out on the Online Dating edition of The Kickback was also one of my favourites, as the conversation was so much fun and Stephen did a brilliant job on leading out on a session for the first time.  I’m looking forward to seeing more of that this year.

One of my funniest memories was at our first games night in December 2016.  We were playing charades and Darnell acted out one of the most intense, hilarious sequences I’d ever seen when he was given the song, Hit Me Baby One More Time.  Words cannot describe it, you needed to have been there to see it.

Some of my most stand out YP Insight memories have come from the poetry nights.  There was of course, Poetic Insight: Mental Health in May 2017, which resulted in a level of raw emotion in the room that I had never seen before.  Celebrating our first birthday at Poetic Insight was a truly special occasion, with a full room of support and some ridiculously talented poets.

April’s Poetic Insight will forever be a stand out for me as well, because it was pure fire, which included Annotate’s poem about young people that perfectly sums up YP Insight and our first ever wheel up for first-time performer, Tania.

I’ve loved watching first-time performers take to the stage, sharing a bit of themselves with us and growing in confidence.  One of my proudest moments last year was watching Jack, a first-time performer at Poetic Insight in January, as a feature at Well Versed Ink‘s poetry night.  Occasions like that make YP Insight worth it.

It’s also been a joy to watch young people grow in confidence and feel able to make their voices heard, or lead out on events for the first time.  It’s meant a lot to be able to watch friendships form and new connections develop.  Most of all, I’ve cherished being a part of the journeys of these individuals and observing the great things the continue to do in their lives.

I’ve learnt and gained a lot over the past two years, and I’m continuing to learn more all the time.  There is still a lot of work to do in order for me to take YP Insight to new heights and I intend to get even more happening this year – I wanted to have implemented workshops from last year, but unfortunately that did not happen.

One major factor is that I cannot do all of this all myself, so building the right team is going to be one of the priorities for 2018.  If you’re interested in joining the team, get in touch at youngpeopleinsight@gmail.com

I want to finish by saying a huge thank you to all of you who have supported and been involved in YP Insight over the past two years – none of this would be possible without you.  I hope that this platform continues for many years to come and that it will empower a number of young leaders for our present and future.

Participants Share Their 2017 YP Insight Experience

As we approach our final event of 2017, when we’ll be looking back at another year of Young People Insight, some of the individuals who have been involved in the platform this year will be sharing their YP Insight experience in 2017.  Today, a number of the poets who performed at our celebratory Poetic Insight back in January share the impact YP Insight has had on them.

First of all I felt it was a privilege for Shaniqua and the Young People Insight team to grant me the opportunity to celebrate the 1st birthday of YPI, especially as it’s fulfilling a wonderful purpose in so many people’s lives.

But secondly, I am also grateful as it was my first spoken word performance outside of university and it was perfect. The audience was amazing; the team was not also helpful but made me feel welcome to also participate in other projects such as writing a poem for the crowdfunding campaign that raised awareness for young people.

It’s propelled me into believing I can do anything I set my mind upon and made me look back on the year with a sense of accomplishment; ’til this day I still perform that poem.

I wish nothing but the best for Young People Insight .

YPI to the world and back!

– Daniel Johnson (DanielWrites)


My year with YP Insight has been an experience that I’ll never forget. It has allowed me to be a part of a creative community that have been really supportive of and key to my growth. Without their encouragement and advice, I wouldn’t be so confident in myself and my abilities.

Many of the young people I have met have become more than just those who I only meet at YP Insight’s events. Their reoccurring faces at events where I perform has allowed me to realise the importance of YP insight. This journey has been an amazing one and everywhere I go, every time I perform, I remember why I am able to do what I am doing today.

It is because of organisations such has as YP Insight who have enabled me to clearly articulate myself in a creative way, be comfortable with who I am and carry myself courageously whenever I am nervous or in a state of self-doubt. Not only have I been given the opportunity to perform at their open mic nights, but I have also performed at their other events, been a part of their crowdfunding campaign and participated in their forums.

– Jamal


My YPI experience began at the beginning of this year, when I attended a poetry event at Matthews Yard in January. I was unaware that the founder of YPI and the host of the event was Shaniqua Benjamin; and was pleasantly surprised to find it was, as we attended the same secondary school.

It was not planned for me to go, it was pretty much spur of the moment.
I was very nervous, and it was awesome that there was familiar faces there. I was not down on the list to perform that evening, but Shaniqua kindly managed to allow time for me to share, which was greatly appreciated.

My first ever performance was at a Young People Insight event, the audience was warm and receptive and it was a very lovely evening; filled with effortless talent.

Since this YPI has been nothing but supportive and encouraging, during their crowd-funding campaign I contributed a poem titled ‘Blessings’ and I was also involved in the Festive Fantasia projection project, highlighting the positives of Croydon, combining three poems and read beautifully by Shaniqua. I would not have had these opportunities had it not been for YPI, it is a brilliant youth platform which strives to allow freedom of expression.

– Ashan


Young People Insight. The name that means the world to me. And quite literally. The place that birthed me. The people that nurtured me. The movement that exerts itself to me. To you. To everyone.

Young People Insight singlehandedly created the performer that I am today. I’d started writing some pieces and I was honoured and overwhelmed to be invited by the founder of Young People Insight, Shaniqua Benjamin, to perform. I was invited into an environment where I finally felt at home. I finally felt that sense of belonging, the sense of having a family; of people who looked nothing like me, a vast amount of differences, yet we all had something in common. The love for the poetry, the love for the spoken word, the love for the rhymes, the love for the emotions. The love.

We all loved something about what we was hearing, and in a time like this love is all you need. And because of the likes of Young People Insight, we all, especially younger people, get to experience this beautiful sensation of life. Whenever someone asks me about how I got into spoken word, without a split second of hesitation, Young People Insight rolls of my tongue straight away.

The creatives behind the movement are nothing but genuine, caring, supportive and loving and I genuinely cannot thank them enough for everything they’ve done for me. They started my journey and God willing they see me throughout the entirety of my walk.

– Jack

Guest Post: My Review of Young People Insight in 2017

As we approach our final event of 2017, when we’ll be looking back at another year of Young People Insight, some of the individuals who have been involved in the platform this year will be sharing their YP Insight experience in 2017.  First up is regular attendee, Alana Monet-Telfer, who looks back on how much she has grown since getting involved in the platform.

I found being at Young People Insight this year one of the most inspirational, fun, and insightful experiences I have been too for a long time.

What I first like about this group is that you’re not just a person attending and listening – you become involved in the conversations, people want to hear your opinion, and the people do respect your opinion there; even if it does not match up with their own beliefs and opinions.

A difference of opinion or view at Young People Insight does not mean separation, or that people can’t get along. It means we can learn to understand each other, and even learn something new in the process.

It was not only my views that got me involved within the group. It was also being given the opportunity to lead a discussion topic out, with my own questions. For one night I was doing what the founder of the group does every month, which is to lead the conversation (the topic being Synthetic Beauty vs Natural Beauty), ask questions, and take down notes of a variety of answers from the people who attended to discuss this topic.

For me this would have been very difficult to do a few years ago, since I was not confident, and didn’t talk a lot when I first came to the group.  This has all changed since attending this group for nearly two years. My confidence has grown immensely thanks to their natural desire to hear my voice; and what I can offer to the others in that group.

I was encouraged to contribute as well, by writing my own spoken word poetry, to perform at their events. I have written spoken word poetry before, but never performed them, until I was offered to by Young People Insight.  This helped me get out of my comfort zone, improve my performance skills, and share a unique bond with every person who heard my poems, who could also relate to them in some way.

My spoken word skills were required also to help with a special project in Croydon called Festive Fantasia.  It felt great to write a poem, which had a huge and positive impact on the town of Croydon. It showed me that my words, the way I write them, and what I can give to the world, is vital and very significant.

I feel happy knowing that with the help of Young People Insight, I can help others find their importance, and share their gifts in their own way.

To conclude, I found Young People Insight a place I needed to be, to gain confidence, express myself as I am, and become the confident, creative, and continually succeeding person I am now.

Thank you, Young People Insight.

What’s Coming Up in December?

The year of 2017 is drawing to a close, which means that another year of YP Insight is coming to a close as well.  After celebrating our first birthday in January with Poetic Insight, crowdfunding during April and May, putting on TCFT Croydon in August and changing the name of our forums to The Kickback in October, we are coming to our final event of the year.

On December 19th, The Kickback will join with Poetic Insight for the first time for ‘Looking Back, Moving Forward’.

This the time of the year when we look back at everything that has taken place and give insight into what we liked, what worked well and what we think could have gone better.  We’ll also be looking into how we will be moving forward next, deciding on topics for The Kickback and Poetic Insight, as well what improvements need to be made.

Poetry and spoken word will also be added into the mix to break up the conversation and get you inspired throughout the night.  Performance slots are filling up fast, so if you would like to share some poetry or spoken word on the day, please email shaniquab29@yahoo.co.uk or send a message to 07910092565.

We’ll be at Project B from 6.30-9pm this time, enjoying good conversation, amazing poetry and tasty snacks.  Make sure you’ve got the correct time in your notes or diaries, because you won’t want to miss any of it.  Let us know you’re coming by registering here: http://bit.ly/lookingback-movingforward

Also, if you haven’t managed to see the amazing poem written by Alana, Ashan and Jennelle yet for ‘Croydon’s Festive Fantasia’, don’t miss the chance to see the giant animation on North End or the Croydon High Street before it stops showing on December 23rd.

We’re also making plans for our second birthday celebrations next year, so if you would like to be involved somehow, please please email shaniquab29@yahoo.co.uk or get in touch through social media.  YP Insight is all about collaborating and coming together to make change.  I look forward to seeing 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.

Moving Forward into 2017

On December 20th, we had our last Young People Insight forum of the year, and it was all about moving forward.  We discussed how YP Insight would develop and move forward in 2017, as we took a look back on YP Insight in 2016.

It was important for me to hear from the young people involved in the platform and understand what they want, because they are at the center of it and it is their voices that are being heard.  I’m simply the instigator, who ensures that they feel valued and listened to.


I started by asking what their favourite things about the forums this year were and what they think worked best.  The responses I got were:

  • Good topics
  • Stuff people can relate to and get off their chest
  • Acceptance – “I feel comfortable here,” said Alana
  • Laughter
  • Making connections with new and like-minded people
  • Openness of discussions
  • Intimacy
  • Good environment
  • Snacks.

I also wanted to know which forum was the favourite of each individual or had the greatest effect on them.  Personally, mine was the forum on dreams in May, when I had some great young guest speakers.  Other favourites included:

On the flip side, I then asked what they thought could be improved upon.  Suggestions included:

  • Perhaps having games or doing different things along with the forums
  • More socialising and bonding as a group
  • Varying the crisp selection
  • Having debate nights on really serious topics
  • Asking people what they want to talk about and what they want to become more confident talking about
  • More professionals coming and talking, giving a different perspective.


In preparation for 2017, I asked the question, what you would like to see discussed next year?  What was brilliant about this question, was that it generated interesting, dynamic discussions, simply from us bringing up the topics that we wanted to see talked about next year.  Topics we wanted to see discussed included:

  • Online dating
  • The rise of virtual reality
  • Are women in control
  • Space in relationships
  • The black community
  • Music
  • Cultural appropriation
  • Mental disorders
  • Romance.

With the forums already a regular occurrence and monthly poetry nights starting in January, I wanted to know what other events the young people wanted to see take place.  Responses included fun days out, open mic nights and an art exhibition.

I also wanted to know how everyone wanted to get more involved with YP Insight, as I really want all of the young people around me to take greater ownership of the platform and genuinely feel that it is theirs as much as mine.

We ended off a year of YP Insight with our games night, which was a lot of fun – I’m looking forward to more social events like it in the future.


I’m excited to see everyone again in 2017, when we’ll be celebrating the 1st birthday of Young People Insight on January 17th.  We’ll be holding our first poetry night of the year in the new location of Hoodoo’s in Matthews Yard, when the theme will be Celebration and Moving Forward.  For now though, have a very merry Christmas and a happy new year.

Stay updated with Young People Insight by following @YPInsight on Twitter, following@youngpeopleinsight on Instagram, and liking Young People Insight on Facebook.