In July 2023, we had the pleasure of running part 2 of our ENRGY course: ENRGY RE-UP. Our free weekend course on radical facilitation for young people and youth workers, offered a deeper dive into the principles of inclusive, radical justice-oriented practices of facilitation, radical safeguarding, harm reduction and how to use creative practice to inform our facilitation, in our own communities or contexts.

Photo of Shakers smiling together in a photo outsideIn this blog piece, we’ll be highlighting some of the key sparks of ENRGY and learnings from the workshops and sessions on day one of the course. Later in the month, we’ll be publishing another piece focused on the continued magic and information from the second day.

ENRGY RE-UP built on the foundations of February’s ENRGY course, with a mix of previous and new participants. We focused on the same theme: Rekindling the fyah to keep us warm. 

The two days were filled with activities from our Shake! Guidebook, helping us to be embedded in the traditional roots of Shake! whilst also embodying the theme’s course of ENRGY. 

Photo of a hand writing community principlesThis course was held at Brady Arts Centre, a location of historical significance to Shake! with many previous courses being held there. Annick and tiff had both previously attended Shake! courses at the Centre, whilst Sai had previously facilitated there

As we updated our community principles, Shake! fam discussed how community spaces can often be professionalised and intellectualised. As a group, we discussed how we’re not here to collect or be a part of statistics or conform to institutionalisation, but to do foundational, trauma-informed relational work.

We kickstarted the weekend with an activity focused on affirming our names: what our names mean to us and any story behind them. Shake!rs shared different stories including different names relating to different countries in someone’s heritage; meanings of names, and family lineage. As a group of people from the global majority, this helped us to feel situated in Shake!’s anti-colonial roots.

Photo of Shakers playing rock, paper, scissorsTwo exercises – the ‘Shakespiration Mini Museum’ and the ‘9 Whys’ – focused on situating us in why we do the work we do. There is often a lot of focus on how youth work, organising, and other forms of community care are done but during the course, we wanted to keep coming back to why. 

For the ‘Shakespiration Mini Museum’, Shake!rs had been encouraged to bring in items significant to why they do the work they do, creating a mini museum display. The items varied from books and chapters of books to drawings, cards, photographs and objects from nature relating to our heritage. To the Shake!rs, these objects symbolised their learnings from organising; care they’d given and received; inspirational people and movements; connections to indigenous roots. Photo of Shakers with their hand on their head and another hand on their stomach as part of a movement activity

In pairs, we asked ‘9 Whys’ to each other about why the work we do matters, and to get to the core of our reasoning, which we don’t necessarily think about on a daily basis. Annick explained that considering this helps us to design and change spaces we facilitate in because it also gives meaning to how we might handle conflict in these spaces. Answers included the value of being connected to interpersonal relationships; to spirituality; to nature; a desire to want Black people to live long happy lives and a desire to be alive. 

We then used our guidebook to focus on the Shake! Pillars of Practice. In particular, we focused on: 

  • Radical pedagogy –  Centring Arts, Culture and Play
  • Movement work – Embodying Liberatory Practice 
  • Nourishment – Nourishing Through Nature and Food 
  • Sustaining ourselves – Restorative space and living library 
  • Community care work – Wellness and care pool 

Photo of Sai and Annick eatingWe considered what the pillars are in our own contexts and practices, and what we would add, or modify from Shake!’s pillars. Shakers reflected on their own pillars being grounded in safety; imagination; mutual aid; movement work and nature. 

In the afternoon, we were delighted to have Lafifa Akay return to deliver a part 2 workshop on ‘Radical Safeguarding and Harm Reduction’, centering young people and working in youth spaces. We started by focusing on how we could create ‘cultures of safety’ through Relationships of Trust vs Relationships of Surveillance taken from The Radical Safeguarding workbook by Latifa Akay and Alex Johnston.

Photo of tiff and Latifa looking up at a boardRelationships of Surveillance target marginalised groups and focus on individual harms, while Relationships of Trust focus on young people’s needs and wishes and target structural harm. We discussed how youth centres and work can be pushed into Relationships of Surveillance through needing to comply to secure funding and how we can avoid this. 

Latifa implored us to ask what these two different relationships feel like, as well as wider questions around what the boundaries are in providing care; how we can bring radical safeguarding into organisations that aren’t as radical; how we can provide safe spaces for young people and more. 

Through these questions, we discussed the importance of human connection; moving away from a punitive approach; questioning what ‘anti-social’ behaviour is and other narratives; use of more community principles in spaces; celebrating young people and helping them to explore and express their own needs and boundaries. 

Latifa also highlighted that radical safeguarding is a continuous process, and tools like user manuals can help us to integrate regular opportunities to discuss when we work best, when we’re struggling, what helps us to build safer spaces for each other.

We also spoke about the uncomfortability of sitting in uncertainty, especially in youth work where funding can be low. Shake!rs highlighted how uncertainty highlights the need for trust, and can be aided through collective decision making; and how failure can often happen but it’s about failing well and letting loose of perfectionism so that we can better understand how to respond to failure.

To finish day one, we headed to Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park to meet with Kin Structures to hear about their work. In the Shake! Team, we already loved their work, seeing them at some of Healing Justice London (HJL)’s recent events. Kwame and Arman gave us an intro to their focus on working on infrastructure in a way that moves away from focusing on doing things ‘for’ people but rather allowing people do to things on their own terms that work for them and their communities

This includes asking “how art and culture can sustain itself over time,” especially in a “space which is precarious and meshed in a landscape of scarcity.” 

Photo of Soanes Centre outside areaWe heard about their prioritisation of long term community work and spaces, which includes necessitating relationships and conditions which allow us to take our time. “What is possible is to access space, but what is difficult is to be able to access space and be given time. Everything takes time to grow, and if you haven’t been given that time, then what can you achieve?” Kwame asked. 

We learned more about their Orchard Gardens project in Lewisham, especially in the context of Lewisham’s gentrification and changes in housing, in an area with a high proportion of people of colour. They used this purpose built community centre, being led by what people needed, including struggles with poverty, food and housing. Through making use of the kitchen that had been unused in the 13 years of the centre being there; centering food through a community cookbook; encouraging play and art; documenting memories and producing a community radio show, hosting guerilla Tai Chi sessions with Jalal Afhim and more, Kin Structures’s work in Lewisham was foundational. 

Amar and Sai talkingKwame and Amar shared their wider plans, including the exciting Rehearsing Freedoms Festival, taking place this October-November, with HJL. They resonated with HJL’s approach of building capacity and asking “who are we supporting to use this space and make it their own?” This includes intentional ways to build trust with the community, which includes not doing everything all at once, and working with the rich ecosystems already in place in communities. It also includes synchronising with nature and seasons, in line with our energy and capacity.  

We ended day one with a grounding ritual led by Annick, helping us to feel held and cared for, as well as decompress after an ENRGY-filled day. It was beautiful to see the Shake! fam laugh and joke with each other, exchange contact details and express how they were looking forward to the next day of the course. 

In our upcoming blog piece focused on day two, we’ll focus on how we used sessions such as tai chi, radical and inclusive facilitation, group poetry and movement activities to match Sunday’s energy for the second half of the course. 

Photo of two Shakers hugging

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