Celebrating 3 Years of Young People Insight

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.


Being The Change I Want to See Through 3 Years of YP Insight

When people learn about or get involved with Young People Insight, the question I am most commonly asked is: “Why did you decide to start something like this?”  No matter how many times I am asked this question, it still throws me a little, as I know that I will take a full story to explain.

I started YPI, because I wanted to empower the voices of young people and ensure they knew their voices mattered, as I often felt that mine didn’t.  I started YPI, because I wanted all young people to feel they belonged somewhere and never feel as lonely as I felt.  I started YPI, because I wanted to create a space where young people expanded their mindset by stepping out of their comfort zones, which was the case for me.

All in all, I started YPI, because I knew young people and young adults needed it.  Leaving the teenage years and entering into adulthood can be an awkward time, which we are left to navigate on our own.  I set up YPI to be a bridge that eases the transition, which is why it is aimed at 16-26 year olds.

However, if I was going to answer with one sentence, I would say that I started YPI because I wanted to be the change I wanted to see.

Before starting the YPI blog in 2014, making change was something I regularly spoke about, but not really doing anything about.  Once I started the blog and spent more time interacting with young people at a charity in Croydon, I knew that I wanted to create a platform for young people to make their raw, authentic voices heard, come together from behind a screen in the process.

I had ideas upon ideas written down in notebooks from 2014, but if you knew me at that time, you would know that my confidence was basically shot and I continuously doubted my abilities.  Once I finally developed that confidence and began believing I could do more than I thought, YPI was ready to be launched as the physical platform you know in 2016.

Since launching YPI in 2016, I believe that I have been the change I want to see, despite always wanting to be a greater change in society as a whole.  I especially want to reach more young people, because I know there are more out there who will benefit greatly from being part of the YP Insight family and building the confidence they need to be the change themselves.

It has been a struggle to keep YPI going over the past three years, but it is the young people involved in the platform who keep me going (partnered with the resilience and will God gives me).  They inspire and uplift me at events, especially with the bravery shown when sharing their poetry.  I want to continue sustaining and developing this platform not only for them, but for every young person who is yet to be a part of our family.

I cannot stress how much I have learnt and grown, through building up YPI and the various events that have been put on.  I’ve developed skills as a host, facilitator, events manager, poet and so much more.  I’ve also gained knowledge on a variety of topics – which I can honestly say rarely crossed my mind before – including modern slavery, young carers and psychosis.  The more I know, the more I want to know.

Starting YPI has made me a better, stronger and even more understanding person.  It’s taken me out of my comfort zone, and continues to do so, which is not so terrifying anymore.  I’ve come to embrace it, which is why I finally got it registered as a Community Interest Company this year.

Making YPI official was something I have wrestled with continuously, especially when there were so many moments when I wanted to walk away and put an end to it altogether.  I’m so glad I persevered though, as I can finally say that I’m the Director of my own company, which is something I always wanted.

Three years is a short space of time in the grand scheme of things, but to keep YPI going for this long feels like a great achievement to me, especially when I have seen a number of initiatives in Croydon come to an end during this time.

So to everyone who has supported Young People Insight over the past three years, and to everyone who supported my journey even before that, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart.  I could not have kept this platform standing without you.  And to every member of the YP Insight family, I love you all so much.

Here’s to many years more.

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.