January 2018 Means Two Years of Young People Insight

Happy New Year beautiful people!  I hope the start of 2018 has been good for you and that great things will be in store for you this year.  Unfortunately, I’ve started of this year with the flu, combined with feelings of stress and self-doubt, but I’m fighting to believe in myself and put plans in place to make this the best year for Young People Insight yet.

January 2018 means that we have come to two years of YP Insight, which honestly blows my mind.  I cannot believe that YP Insight has been going for two years as a physical platform after the foundations of the blog were set.  We’ve been able to enjoy a whole host of thought-provoking conversations, plenty of powerful poetry and some fun-filled socialising.  I just know that 2018 is going to bring a whole lot more of that.

We’ll be starting off the year with The Kickback on January 16th, when we’ll be celebrating two years of YP Insight.  As this is a special occasion, this will be no ordinary edition of The Kickback.

Not only will the event be longer, running from 6.30-9pm, but we’ll be welcoming a number of special guests who have played a part in my journey of setting up YP Insight and helping it to become what it is now.  They’ll also be telling you a little bit about the work they do, making this an event that you do not want to miss.  You can register for the event here: http://bit.ly/kickback-celebrating2years

The celebrations don’t stop there though.  We’ll be celebrating our second birthday at Poetic Insight as well, which I am especially excited about after the amazing celebration of our first birthday at Poetic Insight in 2017.

This won’t be an ordinary edition of Poetic Insight either, as rappers and singers are invited to take to the stage, as well as poets and spoken word artists.  If you would like to perform, please email youngpeopleinsight@gmail.com or send a message to 07910092565.  But if you would just like to watch or are still thinking about performing, you can get for your free tickets here: http://bit.ly/poeticinsight-celebrating2years

I’m really happy that YP Insight has reached two years and I would love for you all to come and celebrate, so you can share the happiness with me.  I hope to see you at The Kickback, Poetic Insight or both.  Have a great 2018.

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.

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

What influence does music have?

We sat down in Project B on July 18th to talk all about the influence of music, which was a conversation that took off into numerous directions that I was never expecting.  Nevertheless, it made the night incredibly interesting.

To get everyone warmed up, I asked them to share what music means to them.  Responses included:

  • “An inspiration.”  You can be inspired by the career of others in music. – Andrae
  • “Music is parallel universes.  I can see other versions of myself in music.” – Alana
  • “Music is my pain, and then my happiness.”  All the bad from the past influences the happiness that I have.” – Unorthodox
  • “Music is a lot.” – Hakeem
  • “The point where you can appreciate music and you’re in the zone.  Music can take you to a happy place and a sad place.” – Pekz

Pekz also added a personal anecdote to his explanation, telling us that he’s been doing music for a very long time – “Music’s like that one woman I keep going back to.”

Pekz later delved right into the influence of music, saying that “there are people that influence it in the wrong way” and that music influences our younger generation.  He also expressed that music has a lot of power in decisions that we make in life, but as human beings we have some common sense to recognise the good from the bad.

Unorthodox backed up this point, saying, “The music is the problem…There’s people under 16 doing things they’ve seen in the videos and heard in the songs.”

I then posed the question, what effects have music had on you?  Hakeem said that music helps him when he’s stressed out, and Alana told us that the music she listens to that relaxes her is Disney and Barbie – “I feel I can jump into them and in a different world.”

Pekz made the point that a lot of music is for the female base – “I can go to a bashment rave and see 70% females.”  He also added, “Women support music more than mandem” and that women buy into music more.

Women would be a recurring theme during our conversation, as we spent time speaking about interacting and dancing with women in clubs.  We also spoke about general interactions between males and females – “Everything that’s good looking is not always the good thing,” said Pekz.

As you know, we love individuals sharing their stories and personal experiences at YPI.  One of the most special moments of the night was Pekz and Unorthodox sharing how music was the base of their friendship.  “Music can bring people together,” said Pekz.

I later asked: What are your thoughts on the link between music and misogyny towards women?  Andrae thinks that music’s behind it, while Unorthodox told us, “This is why I respect old music, because they were bigging up women.”

Pekz went a little deeper, using another personal experience – “I said something in one of my songs, because a lot of women are referring to themselves in that way.”  He later added that “a lot of women today are idolising 67.”

This also led on to us talking about the differences between hip hop, rap and grime, as well as how hip hop has changed over the years.  “Back in the day, people had something to say,” expressed Andrae.

My final question of the night was, what would you say to someone who is living out negative stereotypes that stem from music?

  • “I’m doing it now through my music.” – Unorthodox
  • “We can still appreciate music without listening to all the negative stuff.  You shouldn’t be afraid to hear new stuff.” – Pekz
  • “Explore many different types of lyrics… Research into what you listen to and don’t just listen to it.” – Alana

I’ll leave you with a final point from Pekz, who said, “Everything is a live and learn situation… Music can influence you to do positive things, because it depends on the types of lyrics.”

Our next forum won’t be until October, as we’re bringing The Complete Freedom of Truth to Croydon on August 20th and in September we’re taking a well-earned break.  You can ‘Get Together’ with us at our next social event on August 6th, but for now, save the date of October 17th when we’ll be talking Culture.

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.

Info for July’s YP Insight Forum & Poetic Insight

We’re now very much into the month of July, so I apologise for being late with this blog post, but I’ve been crazy busy with the exciting things we’ve got coming up in August!!  Hopefully you’ve seen some of the information about the events we’ve got coming in July already.

At the request of Kyle, we are going to be talking music at the forum on July 18th.  However, since music is such a broad subject, we decided to focus on ‘The Influence of Music’ this time round.

What are some of the effects of music on the ears of the listener?  Do you think it has a negative influence on young individuals, particularly young black individuals?  What are your thoughts on the link between music and misogyny towards women?

There are so many more questions that could come into play, so come chill with us, join the conversation and bring any questions of your own.  We’ll be meeting at the usual time of 6.30-8.30pm in Project B and of course, there will be snacks to munch on.  Let me know you’re coming by registering here: http://bit.ly/ypiinfluenceofmusic

Poetic Insight returns on July 25th.  Like previous months, there is no theme, so feel free to make your voice heard on whatever subject you choose.  If you’re a young poet wanting to speak your mind on the Poetic Insight stage, send an email to shaniquab29@yahoo.co.uk or message me at 07910092565.

Doors open at 7pm with performances starting at about 7.20pm and the event concluding at 9pm. You can also register for the event at Eventbrite: http://bit.ly/poeticinsight-july17

It’s set to be another good month of events, building up to the excitement of August.  Keep looking out for more information about what we’ve got coming up for you.  You’re gonna 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.

Taking Part in The Complete Freedom of Truth

From the 11th to the 23rd of August, I was fortunate enough to be in the gorgeous town of Srebrenica in Bosnia & Herzegovina with over 100 other young people.  We had come together from seven countries across Europe for the first stage of The Complete Freedom of Truth.P1140439

The Complete Freedom of Truth (TCFT) is a five-year project which aims to “develop global youth citizenship through culture and the arts”.  The website goes further to say: “The project aims to raise consciousness and encourage a vision of an equal, inclusive and truly democratic society.  The project is led through a process of non formal learning, combining the highest quality of cultural and arts practice, inspired and facilitated by highly gifted and experienced partners, practitioners and artists.”

During the first week, we were able to take part in a number of taster workshops, which enabled us to choose the workshop we would stick with the following week. I decided to get a taste of poetry, making choices, ensemble theatre and music, which were enjoyable and insightful in different ways.  They also allowed me to explore various aspects of who I am.

The music workshop provided some truly beautiful, emotional moments that I will treasure forever, but it was the poetry workshop that had the biggest effect on me.  Our workshop co-ordinator, Amy, emphasised that “the power of words is really important” — which I think is very true — and we discussed the possibility of our words making a change.

I’m all about words making a change, so this was a perfect fit for me, but it was amazing at how much I learned about myself in those few hours.  The main thing I realised is that I’m actually better at writing poetry than I think and that poetry, particularly spoken word, has the ability to say a lot and possibly influence change.

After the tasters, everyone had the opportunity to choose between music, ensemble theatre, dance, street theatre and Parkour.  There was also the option to take part in a workshop to help people get a better understanding of the world we live in, and what we can do as politicals and artists to relate who and what we are to the world we live in.

Each of these workshops resulted in a showcase of performances on the final Friday, which allowed everyone to display their creativity and the skills they had developed.  However, we had also been treated to various performances and presentations throughout the two weeks, including a film night, a finger puppet show and a stunning collaborative dance performance.

‘Collaboration’ was the key term during our time in Srebrenica, with numerous individuals using their teamwork skills and collaborating to create special pieces.  Amy, Eilis, Dave, Zoe, Izzy and Emma, six young individuals from the UK, came together to create a beautiful short film — they also took their collaboration further by bringing in some extra help from others.  I also enjoyed collaborating on a poetry and imagery piece with my two roommates, Naomi and Ellie, who are also from the UK.

My favourite moment though, was a musical spoken word collaboration by eight individuals with differing creative talents.  The whole performance gave me chills, as they recited emotive spoken word verses and sang a stunning chorus with the words: “There is light at the end of the tunnel, I will rise and take my place”.

There were a number of things that made TCFT an incredibly special experience, but for me, the best thing was watching all of the young people get fully involved in the process.  Everyone wanted to be doing something and have some sort of purpose, which is not always the case when it comes to youth.

It was evident that each individual wants to make some sort of difference and progress forward in their life, which was great to see.  Time spent working with each young person was a good experience and I want to be able to bring this spirit to Croydon.

Being a part of TCFT was like being part of a big family with a common goal and a common purpose.  It was amazing to be around so many inspiring, talented young people and watch them grow throughout such a short space of time.  I know that I grew and gained a whole lot, which I will be taking forward in all that I aim to do here in the UK.

Photo by Naomi Gabriel.
Photo by Naomi Gabriel and used with permission.

All I can say now is bring on next year.

Becoming the PR Whizz that is Sian Anderson

Yesterday I had the privilege of hearing the inspirational story of journalist, radio host, PR whizz, presenter and grime music go-to girl, Sian Anderson.  Sian shared her journey so far with myself and a number of other young people at the Livity / Live Mag UK headquarters.

Photo from mn2s.com.
Photo from mn2s.com.

Sian is a former editor of Live Mag UK, who came in at 15 saying that she simply wanted to be a “celebrity interviewer”.  However, as a contributor, she wrote a piece about girls from “ends” with some references to girl gangs, which attracted the attention of the newspaper, South London Press.

This particular story was translated in a way that got Sian into some trouble, but she was able to rectify it and respond to the backlash, while making a good sum of money for a 15-year-old in the process.  Being put in this situation taught Sian a lesson in journalism, which she wasn’t really interested before.  Yet,  she grew as a journalist and progressed up the ranks to become editor of Live Mag UK, under the mentorship of then senior editorial mentor, Chantelle Fiddy.

At 17, Sian and her friend Julie were given the opportunity to present a radio show on Rinse FM.  They were thrown in at the deep end, not knowing how to use the equipment, and Sian told us that everything that could go wrong went wrong on that show.  Nonetheless, Sian continued to learn on the job and she found herself mixing different tracks together, which was started off as a joke but turned into success that eventually led to requests from listeners.

During this time, Sian became the go-between that connected South London MCs, like P Money and Blacks, to the journalists who wanted to get in touch with them, as they didn’t have email addresses and you “couldn’t just hand out [their] number”.  In some ways, this was one of Sian’s stepping-stones into PR.

Another stepping stone was when Sian saw a then unknown Ed Sheeran perform and she thought he was amazing.  She was able to get him on to the set list of the live music night, ILUVLIVE, which was the very next day, where he went down a storm with the urban crowd.  In fact, Ed went down so well that he was asked to collaborate with a number of grime artists.

Photo by Man Alive! and used under Creative Commons License.
Photo by Man Alive! and used under Creative Commons License.

This led to Ed Sheeran being signed by Atlantic Records and also having a No. 2 single on iTunes, which was a collaboration with grime artist JME.  Sian had a hand in orchestrating Ed’s record deal, which she was again paid big money for, and she was later approached by Warner Bros Records to give two upcoming artists the “Ed Sheeran treatment”.

While Sian continued to work with Warner and present on Rinse FM, she also set up SighTracked, her PR, Consultancy and Project Management company, with some friends.  In the company’s initial stages, Sian made some mistakes, because she wasn’t “feeling” all  of the logistical stuff.  However, this would later come back to bite her.

A couple of years down the line, Sian decided to have a professional look into the financial side of her business.  Due to skirting over certain logistical aspects, it turned out that she owed tens of thousands of pounds (her figure had actually been cut down, because she had listened to advice from Chantelle and kept all her receipts over the years).

Although she had been making a whole lot of money, Sian admitted that she had not been wise in spending or saving (apparently, the amount of money she spent on Nando’s was ridiculous).  Sian had to make some changes within her business and also work crazy hard in order to make her repayments.

With her business running efficiently, Sian made another change in her life and left Rinse FM in 2o13.  Shortly after leaving Rinse FM, she was again approached by the BBC, which she eventually went on to work for, telling them “I want to be the black Fearne Cotton”.

After appearing on a daytime show, which did not work at all for Sian, she realised that she needed to be on a specialist show, enabling her to select the music she wanted to play.  This was another learning experience for Sian, as it forced her to study radio, because she could see that there was a lot she didn’t know.

Eventually, Sian got her own regular slot on Radio 1 Xtra, after covering a number of radio shows prior to that.  However, she realised that she no longer wanted to be the “black Fearne Cotton”, as the long process of TV was not for her.

Photo from bbc.co.uk.
Photo from bbc.co.uk.

After being the promotions co-ordinator for numerous artists at Warner, Sian eventually became a Marketing Manager at Atlantic, despite not having a lot of the knowledge and expertise.  However, the label supported her, as she managed the campaigns for a number of UK and US artists.

This became too much for her though, especially with her radio show and a business to run, resulting in Sian leaving the role of marketing manager behind in late 2014.  She said that she’d probably get back to that line of work when she was in her 40s though.

At just 24, Sian is a radio host, business owner, presenter and DJ, and she has been a reporter, editor, freelance promotions co-ordinator and marketing manager.  Not to mention she has played a big part in furthering the careers of some of the top names in British music.  Yet, what stuck with me most is that she continuously learnt from her mistakes and gained valuable life lessons, after constantly saying “I wasn’t taking it seriously”.

To succeed and juggle so much work, Sian says that your mindset needs to be, “what else am I going to do”?  After all, there’s no point of sitting on a wall doing nothing when there’s a whole world out there to conquer.

Keep updated on Sian’s progress by following her on Twitter: @SianAnderson