What’s Coming Up in January?

Happy New Year beautiful people!  I hope you had a lovely break and lots of fun over the holiday season.  Are you ready for another year of Young People Insight events?

I intend for this year to be bigger and better than ever for YPI, with new things happening and positive changes being made.  I also plan to take steps forward that will allow YPI to transition in 2019, as I begin to hand more of my responsibility over and work more from the background.  We’ll talk more about that in the months to come, but for now, I want to let you know what’s coming up in January.

This month marks three years of YPI running as the physical platform that puts on events for young people and young adults.  I genuinely cannot believe that I have been able to keep it going for this long, but I am beyond happy that I have and I am excited to celebrate this milestone.

On January 15th, The Kickback and Poetic Insight will come together again to ‘Celebrate 3 Years of YP Insight’.  I cannot wait to see what this event will bring, as we look back on three years of special moments and rich events – I really hope that people will be forthcoming in sharing their favourite moments.

As this is a special, celebratory event, I have invited  a select number of poets and spoken word artists who have graced the Poetic Insight stage over the years to share their first or favourite poem read or performed at Poetic Insight.  I’ve chosen them all for a particular reason, which I will reveal on the night.

We’ll be back where it all started, in Project B, from 6.30-9.30pm, so get the date in your diary and come ready to share.  You can sign up for free here: bit.ly/celebrating-3-years-of-ypi

As well as The Kickback x Poetic Insight, we’ll be having a party to celebrate this YPI milestone and all that has been achieved over the years.  This event is invite only, but be sure to look out for the pictures on social media later in the month.

I hope to see as many of your beautiful faces as possible this month, as I would love to have the opportunity to celebrate with you and give you a big new year hug.  I cannot wait to see what else this year has in store for YPI.  Bring on 2019.

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.

Participants Share Their 2017 YP Insight Experience Pt. 2

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, some first time participants and regular attendants share what the YP Insight events have been like for them.

The Kickback was an engaging, insightful, honest evening that left me inspired and hopeful. To hear a plethora of voices, both young & old, was a real pleasure. We spoke of culture, identity, oppression and history; however the uniting thread was the human experience. These varying perspectives were offered a platform through ambient setting & fluid conversation; I look forward to going back.

– Jenniah


Young People Insight is an excellent platform that provides an outlet for young adults to come together and engage in relevant discussions regarding current affairs. In addition to this, it provides a forum for up and coming poets to perform poetry on a wide array of pertinent subjects.

The host and the regular YPI audience are respectful and welcoming, and each performer receives a warm reception, both prior to and after a performance. I hope that 2018 sees the same level of commitment from its founder, Shaniqua Benjamin, as 2017 has been a fantastic year for Young People Insight.

– Liam (Annotate)


YP Insight for me has really been outstanding, the work that has been put in to each event this year is exactly what is missing and definitely needed from local communities and boroughs. Where the government has failed to accommodate for the young people’s voices and opinions, YPI has done more than just pick up the slack. I definitely feel that young people of today haven’t really been given that platform to really speak up on issues that affect their lives and decisions made on their behalf.

Through the monthly forums and poetry nights, YPI is giving people the platform to be heard and feel like someone is listening and taking notice, but not just voice our issues and opinions. YP Insight has also been great for connecting with some great people who you probably might not have met anywhere else. I’ve seen regular guests at the events grow from strength to strength, they have come out of their shell so much and that’s all down to YPI, giving us that stage.

We live in a very social media orientated society so most people usually only post their opinions through online web forums and Facebook/Twitter, so to have that platform where we can all meet face to face has been great.

Unfortunately I haven’t been able to attend all the monthly events throughout the year but the ones I have been to have always been fantastic. You can just see the passion and graft that has been put in from the special guests brought in designated to each specific topic. YP Insight has touched on things that this government has failed to deal with or control, such as mental health and cyber bullying – to be able to really get stuck into such discussions has been a breath of fresh air to say the least.

2017 has been a great year in terms of what’s already been done and I can only expect bigger and greater things ahead from the YP Insight project.

– Hakeem


Young People Insight was a great space to express myself and listen to others within the community. The personal and collective struggles we face are vocalised through general conversations, as well as poetic art forms.

The atmosphere is always warm – I wouldn’t consider myself shy, but the space in which YPI operates in makes me feel very eager to participate in the discussions which covered a broad range of topics.

I don’t really perform my poetry often so the chances I had at the poetry nights alleviated that aspect of myself, as well as hearing other talented poets voice their truths.

Above all else, the platform itself is amazing, to all those that contribute and attend there is a unifying aura which allows me to connect with the others very easily. Very well done to Shaniqua for manifesting such a conducive platform, on a personal level, as well as for the community as a whole.

– Gus


I performed my first poetry piece at Poetic Insight some months ago in the month of July. I saw it as an opportunity for me to share my work with others, work that I was proud of and enjoyed writing. Although I was reasonably nervous about performing, I knew I was going to perform that night and believed it would be healthy progression for my self-development.

From what I had seen of the poetry nights on the Poetic Insight Facebook page prior to my performance, it seemed immensely appealing. I wanted to participate in this gathering of young people within the borough I am from. Not only for poetry based reasons, but also for socialising needs.

I was intentional and proactive in my hope of broadening my social circle, and obtaining opportunities to meet a diverse range of people. This setting proved to be ideal for socialising with various people who also appreciate creative outlets such as poetry. The environment and atmosphere was welcoming, pure, relaxing, safe, and worthwhile. I look forward to future times together.

– Jadi-Ann

Let’s Talk About Life Goals

Life Goals was the theme of our forum on June 20th, with the aim of inspiring young people and getting them thinking about the direction they want to take in life.

We started by revealing some of the goals we had, which included travelling the word, starting a business, keeping a job, embarking on a PhD, owning a house and starting a mental health charity for ethnic individuals.

Then it was time to hear from our first guest speaker, Daniel from Talk 2 Dan, which is an initiative that helps young people believe in themselves and develop the key skills they need to get into media.  He started Talk 2 Dan in January 2017, after being made redundant by Sky in December 2016 – “Everyone has a talent,” he says.

Daniel started out studying Personal Training at college, but then moved on to studying film and media – he won an award for a short film, which he says was “a big achievement for me.”  He then went on to study Broadcast Journalism at university, where his documentary, ‘Is Fast Food Killing Britain’s Youth?’ was singled out by an external examiner and he was asked to speak to the news.

He also had to deal with his mum dying, which “made me stronger.  More of a man.”  Daniel told us that “The best way for me to come to terms with this is speaking to people.”  Despite struggling with public speaking, Daniel overcame it by speaking to young people in schools.

As well as sharing his journey with us, Daniel laid out some steps for us to apply to our lives.  They included:

  • Not talking ourselves out of things
  • Having a positive mindset and visualising our future
  • Overcoming rejection
  • Digging deep
  • Remembering why you started.

Daniel believes that if you dream it, you can do it, and he told us that doing a lot of versatile things has helped him to figure out what he wants to do, which is make documentaries.  However, his main aim is to get young people to believe in themselves.

Our second set of guest speakers were Tatiana and Diego, the marketing manager and platform manager of Toptask.  Toptask is an app that links students to jobs around them, which was launched by a company called Student UK Ltd and I believe is a game-changer.

Not every student will want to commit to part-time work, so Toptask allows them to earn money when they have the time and also build their skills, providing them with experience that will benefit them when applying for jobs in the future.  “What really connected with me was originally looking for a job and remembering how hard it was to get a job without the initial experience,” said Diego.

Toptask is for young people and run by young people – all those hired to run the company are university students and recent graduates.  “We use the app ourselves and bring students in,” says Tatiana.

The app is exclusively for university students and those in further education college, as students applying for the jobs have to be over 18.  Tatiana also hopes that the company will be able to spread, as they are currently based in London.

There also seems to be a great personal element involved in Toptask, with Tatiana mentioning that she hears a number of incredible stories from the students she gets to know through the app.  Diego also told us, “I got to know an amazing group of young people from this job.”

We also had some more impromptu speakers on the day.  First, we heard from Don, who tried to become an MP in this month’s General Election.  Describing himself as being “political for quite a long time” and a former member of the Liberal Democrats – before becoming “quite disillusioned” after the 2010 General Election when the Tories came into power – Don was an estate agent for a year and a half.

He started in mid 2015 and saw how the house prices rose, and how difficult it was for young people to get on the property ladder, which he really didn’t like.  “Things are getting worse.  Property prices are getting higher… Things are getting harder and harder for people,” Don said.  He also touched on the generational divide and the fact that people are spending 50% on their rent.

“The problem I had in Croydon Central, which is the constituency I ran in, is that we didn’t have much chose… I think that’s unfair and that’s not what democracy is about,” Don explained to us about his reason to run in the election.  He wanted to do something now, rather than wait another five years – “If I can advocate for people… [and]… use the platform that I have, I consider it an obligation.”

Finally, we heard from Jamal, who recently got selected to take part in a 12-week performing arts programme called Amy’s Yard, which was set up by Amy Winehouse’s parents.  Jamal takes part in masterclasses, meets professionals in the industry and at end of the 12 weeks, those on the programme will be putting on a showcase in front of industry professionals.

Jamal is also planning to release a book, which is a compilation of short stories and poetry, which he started when he was in prison.  The book is based on everything he’s been through and everything he’s seen, but he first had to overcome his fear of sharing hat he’s been through.

As someone who tries to make a difference when he can, one of Jamal’s final points was, “I believe that if everyone actively gets involved in their community, we can make a big change.”

The ‘Influence of Music’ will be the topic of our forum on July 18th, so come ready for an interesting conversation.  I think this is going to be a lively one.

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.

Empowering Youth Voice Through Writing

I can’t believe that it’s been a year since I held the first Young People Insight forum and determined the basis of Young People Insight, moving the blog forward to a physical youth platform and a developing youth community in Croydon.

Looking back, I feel proud to have held eleven youth forums that have given young people the opportunity to freely speak out and feel listened to, as well as a poetry night that gave young people a platform to speak their mind through poetry.

However, as the first birthday approaches, I feel that I have not spent enough time encouraging young individuals to make their voice heard through writing, which is the initial reason why I started Young People Insight in the first place.

There have been some amazing, inspiring stories shared on the blog, but I feel that there can be more and I would love to see more appearing on the blog over the next year.  As well as more stories being shared, I would also like to see opinion pieces, reviews and news content created for the blog.

A variety of authentic youth voices can be powerful and interesting to read, and I believe that giving young people the opportunity to have their writing published is a necessity.  Everyone has the ability to write and I want young individuals to see that, buying into the potential that they have.

Writing is going to be a key element of empowering youth voice this year, so if there is a piece you would like to write or if you know any young person who would like to write, please email be at shaniquab29@yahoo.co.uk

Photo by Unsplash and used under Creative Commons License.
Photo by Unsplash and used under Creative Commons License.

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


Young People Share Their Dreams at the YP Insight Forum

Passion and goals; something inside of you that you want to fulfill; something you hope to be; an imaginary milestone. These were some of the terms used to describe dreams, the focus point of the Young People Insight forum on May 17th.

It only seemed right for us to start by sharing our dreams, which included:

  • Being a fashion designer
  • Happiness
  • Effecting people in a good way
  • Becoming a counselor, marriage therapist or family therapist
  • Becoming a qualified accountant
  • Getting married.

DSC_0783After sharing our about dreams, it was time to hear from the guest speakers for the evening.  First up was Stephanie Kane, who is pursuing her dream of selling art work internationally and opening her own gallery.

Growing up, Stephanie always knew that she wanted “to be an artist of some sort” and that she had “that sort of entrepreneurial spark” in her.  Knowing that she wanted to go into the creative field, she went to study Fashion Illustration at London College of Fashion, which turned out to be the wrong decision for her.

Rather than stay on a course that she didn’t enjoy, Stephanie left university and decided that she wanted to exhibit every month for a year.  After that year, she began working at RISEgallery and she later found herself taking part in an event at the TATE Britain, which led to a collaboration with Apple, which was later seen by a major global brand, kind of like a “snowball effect”.  She told us that as an artist, “it’s really important to know how to market yourself”.

In July 2015, Stephanie was the south-east winner of Young Start-Up Talent, with her vision of STUDIO14.  She said, “Winning the competition meant you had to learn things you didn’t know before”, but “I now know how to manage a business.”  Stephanie’s key word of advice was: “Don’t turn opportunities down.”

DSC_0786Next was Matthew Don, whose dreams are to serve the Lord, play basketball as long as he can without injury and make the basketball culture in Croydon bigger.  However, this wasn’t always the case for him.  When Matthew was 10 or 11 years old, he didn’t know what he wanted – “I was out on the streets a lot, getting into trouble” – but when was 13, something clicked.

Initially forced into playing basketball, Matthew eventually grew to love it and by the time he was 15 or 16, he wanted to pursue basketball as a career.  Matthew was fortunate enough to get a full scholarship to play basketball in the United States and he also had the opportunity to represent Great Britain as part of their U20 basketball team in the 2013 European Championships.

Despite having people tell him that he wouldn’t be paid to play basketball, Matthew is currently professionally in Spain.  He told us, “At the end of the day, people are going to bring you down, but you’ve got to stay motivated,” which has been his biggest lesson.  Matthew’s words of advice to any aspiring basketball players are: “Don’t watch Stephen Curry highlights… Keep grinding everyday, working on fundamentals …[and]… play with older guys.”

DSC_0795When it comes to her dreams, Frances Acquaah says that it’s about being happy and everything having balance.  When she was younger, Frances really wanted to be on TV, as an actor or a singer.  However, her mum planted the seed of becoming a journalist in her mind, which Frances began to gravitate to more a she got older.

After graduating from university, Frances got an internship working at the youth marketing agency, Livity, which was “a really, really cool place to work as my first professional job out of uni.”  She later went on to become the Deputy Editor and then Editor of Live Mag UK for two years, before it closed down, but she admitted that she may have become complacent, which is a danger.  “When you’re not learning anymore in a job, I think that’s when you need to leave,” she told us.

Frances is currently working as a junior researcher at the BBC, and she’s also written pieces for The Guardian and Red Bull Amaphiko.  Leaving Live Mag also gave Frances the opportunity to start her blog for the third time, which prompted her to tell us, “Don’t give up on your blog if you have one.”  However, a key bit of advice from Frances is, “Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do this or you can’t do that, because it’s not true.”

DSC_0810Last but not least were Kyle Hylton and Jason Simms-Davis, co-founders of the recently launched social enterprise, Justified Kings, which aims to “enrich young adults with the tools to gain control of their lives.”

During secondary school, Kyle felt that he was in a bubble and not prepared for the real world, not fully knowing what we wanted to do with his life.  However, according to Jason, attending Riddlesdown was quite a deciding point in his and Kyle’s lives, as they came to the realisation about the lack of opportunities in Thornton Heath.

Jason believes that a lot of issues come from a lack of knowledge of self, so he and Kyle want to help people, inspire people and give back to the community.  Kyle believes everyone has their inner king and queen inside of them, but some need to have it extracted from them, which is where the name Justified Kings comes from.  “What we’ve been taught, we’re going to give back to the people,” Kyle says.

Kyle and Jason will be hosting their first Justified Kings event on Wednesday 25th May in Project B.  The event is called J.U.I.C.E, which stands for Justified, Understanding, Incorporating Confidence & Energy.  “It’s helping people through the transition,” Kyle says.


The next forum will be on June 21st at Project B, when we’ll be discussing violent crime.  There will guest speakers, as well as a surprise twist.

Follow @YPInsight on Twitter or like Young People Insight on Facebook for any updates.

Info for May’s Young People Insight Forum

Dreams are defined as a cherished aspiration, ambition, or ideal.  This a definition full of powerful words, showing the significance of dreams on our lives.  I think that dreams are incredibly important and so special, as they are our minds beginning to craft what we want from life.

However, it feels that too often, we don’t take the time to chase our dreams or take the necessary steps to make those dreams a reality.  What makes it worse is that we are not encouraged to pursue our dreams on many occasions, instead being pushed into what will be the most secure job or what will make us the most money, which I think is a travesty that needs to be addressed.

Dream Catcher
Photo by Orangefox and used under Creative Commons License.

This is why dreams will be the topic of focus at this month’s forum.  I want us to be able to share our dreams, but also discuss why we are not always encouraged to pursue them by our elders.

My dream is to open a youth centre, have a book published, and get married, which I intend to make it into a reality, in spite of the discouragement I might meet from those around me.

I haven’t reached my dream yet, but there are numerous young individuals who have reached their dreams, or on course to reaching them.  I’ve invited some of those young people to share their story and provide some inspiration.  Those speaking will be:

We’ll also be discussing how we can develop a YouTube channel and further elevate the media element of Young People Insight, in order for us to take it forward.

So if you’re 16-25, don’t miss the Young People Insight forum on Tuesday 17th May.  We’ll be meeting from 6.30-8.30pm in Project B (1 Bell Hill, Croydon CR0 1FB).  Be ready to speak your mind, ask questions and meet new people.

Young People Insight Forum- Project B

Stay updated with Young People Insight by following @YPInsight on Twitter.


Telling My Truth

Truth is one of the main elements at the centre of Young People Insight, with young people being encouraged to tell their truths in their own words.  That is tell their truth without distortion from the media or pressure to say the right thing from others; just raw, unadulterated truth.

Image by geralt and used under Creative Commons License.
Image by geralt and used under Creative Commons License.

As the founder of Young People Insight, I thought it was important to share a little more of my truth with all of you.  I’ve previously shared my experience with self harm and explained why leaving university was one of the best decisions I ever made, but I haven’t shared any recent part of my story with you.

Trying to get Young People Insight off the ground has been a struggle, which I am still battling now.  I didn’t know where to start with the forums, I wondered how I was going to reach people, I found myself worrying about funds and the list goes on.  Countless questions, doubts and worries have been plaguing my mind.

All the while, I’ve had people congratulate me on what I’m doing and encourage me to keep pushing forward, but I found myself feeling like a failure.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of the brave step I’ve taken to even start something like this, but I feel like I’ve failed in the number of people I’ve reached and the time that it’s taken for me to actually start my forums.

You may be saying don’t be so hard on yourself, but that is a difficult feat for me.  I may come across as confident to a lot of individuals and seem like I have it all together, but that is so far from being the truth.


As I strive on in my quest to build Young People Insight, I continue to battle the voices inside that tell me that I’m not good enough, not capable enough and not liked enough.  I fight against the fear of taking the next steps, but most of all, I fight against the desire to simply give up.

Over the past month, I found myself in a depressive state, dealing with grief and doubting who I was, what I was doing and what my purpose was in life.  I couldn’t write, I didn’t want to be around people and I even considered giving up on Young People Insight.  What made it harder was that during this time, my sessions with my counsellor came to an end, when I most needed to speak to her and have that safe presence in my life.

It was the second time in the last year that wanted to isolate myself from everyone, give up entirely and just be taken from this world — the first time was actually the reason why I found myself in counselling.  Nevertheless, I made the decision to battle on, because what I intend to do through Young People Insight is simply too important to simply give up on.

There are young people who need to be heard and feel like they matter.  There are networks that need to be formed and creativity that needs to be tapped into.  There is also a borough that needs to do all it can to reach as many young people as possible, and I intend to be a part of that.

I know that this journey will continue to get tougher, but I just need to take time to remember why I’m doing this.  It’s not about me, but it’s about all of the amazing young people who need to be seen and feel empowered to use their voices.

I want them to know that I genuinely care and that I’m not above them, or any better than them, because I haven’t got it all together myself.  I’m still figuring everything out, just like them, which is why I want us to go on this journey together.

Image by Blanka and used under Creative Commons License.
Image by Blanka and used under Creative Commons License.

To all my young people, just know that you can take the step to drop out of university and overcome struggles with mental health to pave your own way towards greatness.  I believe we all have special potential within us.