Tag Archives: young people

#BrixtonFund: Local Group of the Month – Hero’s Journey

Over the last nine months, Ciaran Thapar and Rory Bradshaw have been volunteering at their local community centre in Loughborough Junction. Backed by the Brixton Fund, the Brixton Pound’s micro-grants scheme, they have established Hero’s Journey – a weekly discussion group for teenage boys. Here, they explain the story so far.

How did Hero’s Journey start?

Our involvement at Marcus Lipton Community Centre (MLCC) began in September 2015, when we were first buzzed through the front door. It is a single-floor building next to the weathered railway arches in Loughborough Junction, resting in the shadows of Loughborough Estate’s huge white tower blocks, whose lights are visible from our living room window at night.

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Ira, Ciaran and Rory outside Marcus Lipton Community Centre. Photo credit: Tristan Bejawn

We spoke at length with Ira, the warm, pragmatic man in charge. Over a series of visits, he told us stories about growing up in Brixton, from the 1970s to the present day – the gangs, police, raves and racism.

That month, the Evening Standard launched their regeneration initiative, ‘The Estate We’re In’, aiming to drive attention towards London’s housing estates. The first article was written by a journalist who had spent a week living in Angell Town estate, and the consensus at MLCC was that the voices of the people interviewed had been misrepresented. It was seen as another case of the British media perpetuating negative stereotypes about black young men in the inner city.

Tragically, in the same few weeks, a 16-year-old boy, Jarrell (who we unfortunately never had the chance to meet), was killed on the road outside the centre. The flowers arranged on the pavement in commemoration, weathered and untouched, are still there today.

It was a sensitive time, and whilst welcoming our interest in volunteering, Ira warned us that we would not become embedded overnight. Sure enough, the first few months mainly involved just hanging out at the centre, building trust, reassuring everyone that we were neither journalists (the Evening Standard had made people paranoid), nor undercover policemen.

In November, with help from Jacqueline Gomes-Neves, the former youth mayor for Lambeth, we won £1000 from the Brixton Fund to develop the ‘Brixton Youth Forum’. This is an umbrella term for all youth activity at MLCC (including the pre-existing girls’ group), within which Hero’s Journey functions.

What is Hero’s Journey?

Every Friday evening we hold an hour-long session (a ‘journey’), each time sparking a conversation about a selected topic. Our simple aim is to get the boys (‘heroes’) to talk regularly, openly and critically about things that relate to their lives. We frame each discussion around a cultural resource – such as a book, item of food, photograph or newspaper article.

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In one journey, we brought Asian snacks – pakora, sushi and a bright selection of Indian sweets – and discussed London’s cultural diversity, challenging the heroes to compare and contrast their own respective eating norms at home (most the boys are from Jamaican households, some West or East African).

During others, we used photography books Don’t Call Me Urban (Simon Wheatley’s documentation of the roots of grime music amidst London’s council estates between 1998-2010) and the Great Brixton Photobook (a collection of images depicting moments of local history), to spark discussions about topics such as stereotyping, ‘stop-and-search’ and gentrification.

In our most recent journey, we held a debate about the EU referendum, which inspired some insightful commentary on the pros and cons of immigration, as well as some less concrete reasoning – “apparently if we leave the EU it’s gonna cost £35 for a trim!”, one of the boys claimed.

Week after week, we encounter new, curious faces, eager to participate and voice their thoughts. The group is always different (it’s size ranges from 3 to 12); most heroes attend different schools, some claim not to attend at all. Some come from stable homes, others from more challenging circumstances. Although the sparse room the group occupies each week might not have the sheen of polished oak and the comfort of green leather seats, the debates that unfold offer a more acute window into the perspectives of ordinary young people than those in the Commons Chamber ever could.

We are using the bulk of our £1000 funding to run a three-day programme in August (we have already used some of it for refreshments and attendance rewards at each journey). Our plan is to visit different places across London, enabling the heroes to engage in new experiences around the city. As part of the programme, we are also working with the Black Cultural Archives on Windrush Square to develop a journey about local history.

What problem are we trying to solve?

On top of giving the heroes space to discuss their ideas, Hero’s Journey also allows us, as newcomers to the area, to learn from, and become part of, our local community. In other words: it’s as much about our own learning curve – our own journey – as it is the boys’.

Our view is that some of the current unease with gentrification stems from the way that gentrified areas become split across the fault-lines of class and race. If you walk along Coldharbour Lane, from the backstreets of Loughborough Junction towards central Brixton, you will notice an obvious shift in atmosphere as the feeling of neglect evaporates. The various eateries in Brixton Village and Pop Brixton now appear to exist for a particular type of customer: (predominantly) white, monied twenty-and-thirty-somethings – not those who are likely to ever set foot in MLCC, even though it is just up the road.

The reality is that many of our fellow newcomers to Brixton are leading detached lives from the longstanding communities around them. They socialise at different bars and restaurants. They buy their fish, meat and vegetables at Sainsbury’s instead of the market. And in the week, they commute to and from jobs across the city, barely engaging with the civic space they live in. Through Hero’s Journey, we have been trying to disturb this status quo.

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Ira, Ciaran and Rory outside Marcus Lipton Community Centre. Photo credit: Tristan Bejawn

Since our initial contact with Ira, we have formed strong, organic relationships with other staff members and many of the young men and women, boys and girls, who treat MLCC as their second home. To them, the centre is a safe haven: they know they can spend their Friday nights there, under the wing of Ira and his staff. For the Hero’s Journey boys in particular, they also now know that both of us will be there each week to hear them out.

We believe that our achievements so far, more than anything else, demonstrate that with the right approach it is possible for people like us – young adult graduates, moving into an evolving urban area – to become part of our local community. The bonus is that each journey is the most enjoyable part of our week.

Ciaran and Rory

Please get in touch with Ciaran and Rory at herosjourneyml[at]gmail[dot]com if you would like to support Hero’s Journey in any way  (e.g. with ideas for the summer programme, to tag along for a session, or host a session!) or if you just want to meet up locally to discuss it in greater detail. 

Hero’s Journey’s logo was designed by Benjy Nugent, who kindly did it for free. It’s inspired by a tribal mask using the aesthetic of inner-city life. The photos were taken by Tristan Bejawn who will be tagging along to the next few journeys and on the summer programme to get portraits of the participants – so watch this space for more visuals from Hero’s Journey!

Ciaran talking about Hero's Journey at the Brixton Fund event in June. Photo credit: Mike Urban / Brixton Buzz

Ciaran talking about Hero’s Journey at the Brixton Fund event in June. Photo credit: Mike Urban / Brixton Buzz

In November 2015, Brixton Youth Forum / Hero’s Journey received £1000 from the Brixton Fund, the Brixton Pound’s local micro-grants scheme. The Brixton Fund is funded by Brixton Bonus ticket sales, sale of B£ merchandise in the Brixton Pound Shop, and a 1.5% business transaction fee on pay-by-text B£ payments. So – whenever you play to win B£1000, grab yourself a snazzy B£ T-shirt or simply do your weekly shop in B£s, you’re helping to fund local groups like Hero’s Journey.

Brixton Fund: Local Group of the Month – AGT social

Located in Loughborough Junction, AGT Social was set up by Karl and Vicki after running a computer repair clinic at the Lambeth Country Show. They aim to provide much-needed affordable/free IT services to lower income communities as well as offering training, with the aim of increasing social, employment and educational opportunities.

In November 2015, AGT Social received £250 from the Brixton Fund, the Brixton Pound’s local micro-grants scheme. The Brixton Fund is funded by Brixton Bonus ticket sales (our monthly community lottery), sale of B£ merchandise in the Brixton Pound Shop, and a 1.5% business transaction fee on pay-by-text B£ payments. So – whenever you play to win B£1000, grab yourself a snazzy B£ T-shirt or simply do your weekly shop in B£s, you’re helping fund local groups like AGT Social!

Vicki: AGT Social has been incorporated as a social enterprise for nearly three years alongside AGT UK which is our commercial company.

Karl: We are like the one stop shop for people looking to cover their IT requirements. We host websites, run off-site back ups, host cloud conscriptions, all kinds of stuff as well as repairing broken screens installing servers and so forth.

Vicki: Our ethos is that we don’t want to chuck things away. We want to reuse.

Karl: We are very conscious of consumerism and the impact it can have on the planet the economy and the community.

Vicki: And we have a big community we can tap into here. The Lougborough Junction community is crying out for new things, for people to fix their computers and opportunities for apprenticeships and training.

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Vicki: The idea behind AGT Social came about in the first year you (Karl) were running AGT.

Karl: So I had already set up AGT and I had an idea to promote the business based on a free bike repair clinic I saw one year at Lambeth Country Show. In fact I got my bike repaired there and had to queue up for a long time. I thought: OK, this is a good idea, and wondered, could this work for computer repairs? So the following year I decided to get a pitch at the Country Show.

Vicki: The idea was to set up a free laptop repair clinic for people to be like, oh, who is AGT, maybe if I can’t get my laptop repaired there this time I can phone them up and this would bring business in for us. Purely commercial.

But it was soon apparent that people started to anticipate we would be there for the following year and people that couldn’t afford to get their computers fixed were waiting for the next year to bring them along for something as simple as removing a virus.

That inspired us to turn it into something bigger than an annual laptop repair clinic. It led to us turning it into a social enterprise (AGT Social).

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Karl: The whole point of AGT Social really, as Vicki said, is to provide trustworthy and affordable services to communities and individuals who may not otherwise be able to access these services. Not everyone has the luxury of being able to go down to the Apple Store and part with £300 to get their computer repaired. Also what you realize is that those who do not have much disposable income are the ones that need their computers most in the first place. To look for jobs, manage finances and communicate with family aboard.

Everything we have done in the arch has been self-funded so far. And that’s been really difficult. We approached Lambeth Council to get some support but didn’t get much and submitted some applications for a few local grants and again we didn’t get anything from that.

Vicki: Even with the Brixton Fund money, we are going to have to raise some more, but it does show that we can be successful in applying for funding. It boosts our own confidence in applying for funding and shows that there are people out there that recognize the value of what we are doing. It means we can now go to other people and get them to help us out in building our training room.

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Karl: We feel a sense of obligation of pride to not let B£ down and show that their investment, no matter how big or small, was entirely justified. We want to prove that we know what we are talking about and provide solutions.

We have already run some training courses with a few local charities. One of the courses we put on was called IT essentials and it basically was a course designed to give anyone and everyone the confidence to be able to repair a machine. So right from the basics to switching between operating systems, removing viruses and how to diagnose and fault find. Really, we are teaching the logic, not the solution to every problem out there, because that’s impossible. As soon as that student grasps that knowledge, their confidence and ability multiplies. So that’s what we are going to be doing here, running courses for professionals and for people that are looking to improve their skillsets. 

Contact 

For more information on apprenticeships, training and repairs head to over to AGTsocial.uk.net

And for business and personal IT support, AGT.uk.net have got you covered.

 

#BrixtonFund – Local Group of the month: Young People Matter

Young People Matter (YPM) are a charity based in Stockwell Gardens. They create and run programs based around the needs of youth and the community. Aiming to provide a variety of different programs from after school clubs and summer camps to helping with employment and skills training.

In November 2015, YPM received £400 from the Brixton Fund, the Brixton Pound’s local micro-grants scheme. The Brixton Fund is funded by Brixton Bonus ticket sales (our monthly community lottery), sale of B£ merchandise in the Brixton Pound Shop, and a 1.5% business transaction fee on pay-by-text B£ payments. So – whenever you play to win B£1000, grab yourself a snazzy B£ T-shirt or simply do your weekly shop in B£s, you’re helping fund local groups like the Young People Matter.

We spoke with two members of YPM: Kemi, the group’s founder, who started YPM in 2007 through setting up and running a 4 week summer program for kids, and Marcus, who has been part of YPM from the beginning, first as a director and then stepping down to have a more hands on role.

Kemi
Whilst I was at university studying psychology and sociology, I was doing some work with a youth club in Kingston, and later in Thornton Heath. At the time I used to put together booklets of things I wanted to do when I was older, for example activities for young people, basically things that where missing from what I was doing. But I had always wanted to wait till I was older to put on something myself.

However at the time there were a lot of things going on in my estate, five young people had been killed in the space of a week. And so it was like, do I wait or do I do something about it now. We applied for some money from the youth opportunity fund and found out two weeks before that we had got it. We had to rush around a bit to get it together but we had a really good turnout with about 50 people signing up for the first session. Eventually I decided to leave my job and pursue YPM full time as I saw there was a real need for something like this.

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Marcus
At the time in 2007 when YPM started a lot of gun violence was happening and it was still big in the news. We weren’t as desensitized to it then as we are now. We take it for granted even though we hear about it so much. But back then in 2007 it was still shock news. So Kemi applied for funding to do something with the kids on her estate because the kids just said: we don’t have anything to do. And from there it just grew.

More people heard about it, more programs came from it, and eventually it turned into this. With a premises on Stockwell Garden estate, seven full time employed staff, and moving on to maybe twenty staff when we are busier.

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Kemi
What we do has always depended on what the needs were within the community at the time. So when we first moved here we came to do a youth club and a drama program. From there, there were a lot of people who couldn’t speak English as their first language and wanted a homework club for their kids to support them. It started out as homework club, and then it developed into an after school club and to include different schools and areas. Another example – some girls who wanted to do a youth club for just females, and that’s how girls night and boys night developed. So it all comes from things people have said or what was needed.

Marcus
All of our programs go hand in hand and help to service the other programs. For example our employment program helps to move people from long term unemployment to employment, but some of the barriers in the way of this were: if I do get a full time job, what do I do with my children?

So our after school clubs came about because there are working parents that wouldn’t be able to work without it, and it benefits the children themselves by providing them activities. Another example is the summer camps that we run. We had one and it was very successful, from there it spread from school to school and we are at four now. Everything we do just grows organically.

It’s hard to monetize it and grow when you do this kind of social work – it doesn’t work like that. The community tells us their needs and if it fits into our ethos, then we will work together. We have been going for nine years now, and even in a time when there are big budget cuts we are still here now and are grateful for that.

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Kemi
The Brixton Fund money is going to be used to offer young children free space and access to the after school club. For parents who don’t work, their children wouldn’t usually be able to access the after school club, so this allows for them to do so. Just because their parents don’t work it doesn’t mean their children don’t need to use it. Kids need to have something to do, and their parents might not be able to afford this for their kids normally. Parents themselves need some spare time and a break from childcare.

Marcus
We have three different after school clubs however; I was thinking, what about the kids who I see after school with their parents that don’t get to attend the after clubs. They are kids that we might not to be able to engage with because they don’t get this opportunity. So I looked at the barriers to this and the possibility of funding to see how they could get the opportunity to do this. It was great to be successful in this funding application, its going to have a big impact.

Click here to support Young People Matter, or check out their website for more information.

Whenever you buy a Brixton Bonus ticket, spend electronic Brixton Pounds, or buy from the B£ Shop, you are contributing to the Brixton Fund which supports groups like Young People Matter. One more reason to get involved!

This post was researched and written by B£ volunteer Fabien Piesakowski-O’Neill.

 

#BrixtonBonus – Featured group of the month: Media Community Network Limited

Every month the Brixton Bonus provides revenue for the Brixton Fund, our new micro-grants scheme in Brixton for projects looking to create employment, challenge injustice and create community benefit.

Media Community Network Limited, a charity that lets young people speak through film about the issues they face, is the sort of group that would be eligible to apply for funds. Click here to donate to MCNL.

According to founder Laverne Hunt, Media Community Network Limited gives a voice to those who would not otherwise be heard, attracting groups in schools or communities by the excitement of using film as a tool for learning. Using documentary film projects, they aim to engage young people of all types, helping them to explore matters that are of concern to them in a constructive way. Each project facilitates dialogue between peer groups who would be unlikely otherwise to talk openly to each other. The exposure generates an overall positive influence due to the shared nature of the film product – leading to increased self-esteem and improved ‘citizenship’ within a school or community and dispelling prejudices. Comedy adds humour and sets the tone of engagement for both the audience and participants. Valuable skills are acquired: communication, working as part of a team, carrying out research, executing instructions, understanding different people, cultures, viewpoints, making a difference in the community through personal contribution.

B£ caught up with Laverne to hear more about MCNL and the work they do.

“I set MCLN up 10 years ago. I have degrees in sociology and psychology & media, and after graduation completed a Raindance infamous Producer’s Course.  I was inspired by Steven Goodman’s articles on teaching youth media literacy and the ability to change challenged children’s lives through film  – so much so I flew to the EVC head office in New York and did his summer course for teachers. I had two small children at the time and if it wasn’t for the support of my parents none of this would have been possible. Films just bring people together by default. So I took up the challenge to trial this unique model using documentary and comedy – I set it up as a charity, put an ad in The Times, and it went from there…”

“In our programmes, young people contribute from the beginning. We want to empower, not objectify them, so we don’t want to use them as examples or film subjects – they are the filmmakers. We do encourage them to use comedy. Documentaries are so often very serious, and seem to only be directed at “documentary people”, they’re not exciting for people outside of that circle. We also don’t want to make films that are stacked against anyone, but rather ones that bring people together. They are usually short, researched films about issues that matter to the young people involved in the filmmaking.”

One of the films we did was with a special needs school in Kent. The school got in touch because they felt like their students were not represented enough in the community. We did a brilliant film with them called “Butt Out” about the smoking ban, where they were interviewing their teachers about smoking and health. But they also wanted to include this surreal sequence in which an alien is landing on school grounds, smoking a cigarette. So effectively there was a film within a film! It was really hard work for the participants, but everybody was useful in some way, there are so many things to do around the film – music, design… And they absolutely loved the final product and wanted to show it to everyone. And it’s not just them – NHS wanted to use the film in colleges. It’s really amazing to be able to show just how much you can learn from children, particularly those with special needs who might not be given as many opportunities as they deserve.”


Another film we did was with the Latin community on the Aylesbury Estate. We did a film about regeneration, but also a mini film inspired by Charlie Chaplin and his quote: “All I need to make a comedy is a park, a policeman and a pretty girl.” Another one was about peace and cohesion we did with Peckham youth. The best part of it all is to see how these experiences change the young people’s lives. If I was growing up in London now, I’d be scared and intimidated. And so much can be gained from digging around culture. We’ve had so many other ideas, but lacked funding to get them off the ground. We wanted to make a film with young Muslim men telling their stories, another one with deaf children about their lives and challenges, or a project on faith and identity in Tower Hamlets against the backdrop of the Olympics. It’s all different from the stuff you’d see on TV. And all of films we do are about a resolution of some kind.”

Helen Lederere and professor George

Helen Lederere and professor George

“The film we’re promoting right now is called “Cool To Be Kind”. It tackles low-level bullying in primary schools. There aren’t any bullying prevention or detection programs, so we want to look at that, but also change the culture in the classrooms. As an antidote to bullying, we want to actively promote five acts of kindness per day, all chosen by participants and achievable, and for which they get non-monetary rewards, like a school trip or plain clothes day. We hope it will help us explore issues of friendship and conflict, particularly between girls. We’re forging support from lots of people, including comedian Jo Brand, former Labour cabinet member Tessa Jowell, Prof. Rosalyn George, who researched bullying at Goldsmith’s university, as well as a Harvard medical sociologist Nicholas Christakis who believes that kindness is contagious. I’m meeting him in November to develop a toolkit to measure the outcomes of this project.”

Bullying V4 export smaller (1).mp4 from Laverne Hunt on Vimeo.

“The video of the experiences of the girls at Brunswick Primary School is available to watch online now, and I would like to use it as part of an awareness campaign in schools. Comedian Helen Lederere participated in the film for free, whilst Ninder Billing, Executive Producer at the BBC organised music and music editing for free too. The film is founded upon my original methodology and directed by Marshall Corwin (Award winning Panorama Director). It was partly inspired by Bernadette Russell’s book Do Nice, Be Kind, Spread Happy and her project 366 Days of Kindness where she pledged to be kind to strangers every day for a year, as a response to the 2011 riots. If we’re successful this could be huge! We’re raising funds to turn it into an app to promote the five a day acts of kindness in other schools. But we need a solid prototype to get the kids excited about it. That’s our biggest challenge – to make it something interesting, something the kids will want to use. Part of the funds would go to focus groups for young people so we can get it right.”

“This project is important for MCNL, and could be a turning point for our credibility if all goes to plan. We are about local projects of national interest, but like so many small charities we suffer because infrastructure is weak as the charity is reliant on donations and volunteers, the big organisations take up all the resources while they could be brilliant mentors for small charities, particularly where there is synergy.”

“We have a big fundraising event coming up – so watch this space! – but even before that I’m trying to do as much fundraising as possible: I’m running a half marathon in October, and will be doing a fundraiser quiz at work. In my day job I am a secretary in an investment bank – I have two teenagers, and I was funding MCNL films myself, I needed a proper job. So I somehow manage to run the charity in my spare time – it’s a miracle. I grew up in Stockwell, but we live in Sydenham now. My daughters are 14 and 17. The older wants to be a human rights lawyer, and she’s already rocking the boat at school, always advocating for those who need support.”

MCNL is much more than just making films, what we do is about the human condition and human rights, and about integration and integrity. We’re not “film people” who treat people as subjects and don’t give anything back – we want to build communities of like-minded people, increase representation, have young people tell their own stories. The reason we’re using film is because it’s a way of seeing yourself in everyone and anyone.”

To support Media Community Network Limited, go to https://www.justgiving.com/Laverne-Hunt1/ or get in touch with Laverne via Laverne@mcnltd.org.

Whenever you buy a Brixton Bonus ticket, you will be contributing to the Fund, which will then support groups like Media Community Network Limited. One more reason to get involved!