This October, we had the pleasure of running two workshops where a radical approach to working with young people was central. 

Tending the Fiyah was a one day course supporting Shakers! from our ENRGY courses this year to run their own workshops for young people during the half term. Building Caring and Creative Futures was a two hour workshop at Healing Justice London’s Rehearsing Freedoms festival where we used our three publications as an anchor for exploring a radical approach to youth work. 

On Monday 23rd, we ran Tending the Fiyah in partnership with Numbi Arts and with the support of Sai Murray, our Facilitation and Partnerships Lead. This course had youth-led creative workshops on Black activism from Tania Aubeelack,  creative storytelling and subvertising with Zo Daniels, Climate justice from Samia Dumbuya, and soundscape as medicine from Lauriem Mompelat. Young producers, aged 16-18, from Numbi Arts, took part in this course. 

The course began with the usual Shake! tradition of talking about our names, led by Samia. Lauriem led a grounding exercise and Zo led us through co-creating community principles together. Through these community principles, there was an emphasis on the space being welcoming and one where we could look after and encourage each other, meet people where they are, be authentic, show respect, compassion and trust. 

Tania’s session on the legacies of black activism covered John La Rose’s life, New Beacon, Carnival and the Caribbean Artists Movement and other radical movements to emphasise the roots of youth movements, education movements and shared solidarity between groups. Tania highlighted that we are taught a lot of American civil rights but less about Britain’s own radical movements, including the context of carnival. 

Tania used a range of methods to engage participants including movement and poetry such as using Shake!’s A-Z exercise; analysing book covers and old photographs; creating timelines and freeze frames. We created a mind map of what words resonated with what we’d learned about New Beacon Books, with words such as “Motivation” “Resistance” “Community” and “Hope” coming out. We created a collective poem focused on the importance of history, love in the community and our strength as a collective. 

Zo’s workshop on creative storytelling and subvertising began with discussing what Tending to the Fiyah meant to the young participants; what is the fiyah inside of them and how do they want to tend to that? Answers focused on joyful elements, such as nature, travelling, dancing, sharing skills and writing. We then wrote a letter to our future self, focused on not only ourselves but what we’d want the world to look like. The young people’s letters were linked to feeling safe; staying aligned to the sources you trust; career and decent finances; more green spaces and stepping out of the comfort zone. 

We took part in a dancing exercise, where we all came up with one move, then had to collectively dance the moves that everyone came up with, which was fun and a great way to get us moving our bodies, injecting some energy into us. We discussed different types of creative storytelling – oral, written, visual and digital – and how creative subvertising challenges the status quo. The young producers created their own subvertising ads using art materials, which focused on football; Rishi Sunak’s treatment of poor people; colonisation and boycotting McDonalds. 

Samia’s climate justice session started with statements for people to agree or disagree with and talk about why. Statements included ‘I feel strongly connected to nature,’ ‘I like going to the countryside’ and ‘I understand what the climate crisis is.’ Reasons for agreeing or disagreeing were connected to alienation from whiteness of spaces; lack of knowledge; organisations focused on people from the global majority like Peaks of Colour and Black Girls Hike. Answers also focused on the peace and wisdom of nature – Lauriem said “Nature doesn’t judge you.”

Samia explained some context of the climate crisis and how it impacts all of us, such as air pollution killing almost 10,000 Londoners a year. We talked about nature, healing, capitalism and global warming. In groups, Numbi’s Young Producers then collaged and created art focused on “What parts of nature do we want to experience in the future?” The beautiful designs centred on having gardens and land to grow food; no wars; space to swim; health and feeling good; less prisons and more green spaces filled with trees and flowers; more rest and less fear; DIY/nature based skills being more widely taught; community centred living and communities with everyone having access to safe housing and shelter. 

Lauriem’s medicine sounds workshop helped us to end the day at a chilled pace, coming back to our body via our senses. The workshop also started with agree/disagree statements such as “I like music,” “I am comfortable using my voice,” and “I like singing.” We discussed the importance of music from a cultural perspective such as from our parents, what we’d hear at weddings and places of worship, and shared experiences like ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.” Lauriem talked us through the different ways to use your voice, such as celebration, grieving and claiming space. They shared their experience of how singing can soothe the nervous system. 

The course participants  then took part in a freewrite session focusing “What do we need to hear to get us to where we want to be?” with Lauriem’s soundscapes playing in the background. We created a collective poem, which focused on healing; resilience like Palestine; freedom and being powerful together. As a group, we then created a soundscape together, led by Lauriem helping groups to create the sounds and beats, with several sounds emerging. Part of the beauty of the soundscape is that each group’s sounds were lovely on their own but collectively, it sounded even better.

It was really wonderful to see how workshop facilitators Tania, Zoe, Samia and Lauriem leaned on and supported each other throughout the day. It was also wonderful to experience the range of topics and methods they used in their workshops. We’re looking forward to working more with our Shakers! and supporting people with radical youth work in 2024 and beyond. 

On Saturday 28th October, our Building Caring and Creative Futures workshop took place for people involved or interested in youth and community work, led by Annick Météfia, our Legacy Programme Manager. This workshop explored: What does radical care in youth work mean? What are the challenges – and the solutions – to an embodied, trauma-informed, art-centred and justice-based approach to youth work in the UK? How can we make these solutions a reality to better the lives of young people around the UK?

The workshop began with a discussion around the existing institutional approach to youth work, research and funding, acknowledging the challenges when workshop participants were trying to do more radical work. This included competitive and scarcity mindsets in workplaces; ideas from people of the global majority being co-opted by white people with little recognition; the gendered element of work; burnout and the emotional toil radical work can have and neurodiversity. The discussion also highlighted the importance of solidarity and of feeling hopeful, which is something that we know is important in Shake!’s spaces. 

We then discussed what working in a ‘white majority space’ looks and feels like. Even if there are a lot of people of the global majority working there, there can still be a culture of ‘good, efficient, normal’ in the context and lens of white supremacy. Workplaces can hire a lot of women from the global majority without a desire to change the workplace culture, but instead try to incorporate them into workplace culture as a means of control. 

For example, workplaces may focus on the importance of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) but then senior leadership may resist any radical approaches to work, resist pay raises and still display microaggressions. Annick highlighted that women and marginalised genders from the global majority may then face hostility for the same attributes they were valued for before (ie having a different point of view, recognising your worth). 

Our discussion also included how silence can be weaponised through people refusing to engage in difficult conversations around race and gender which can lead to us feeling unseen, unheard and invisible. The discussion also touched on how white women specifically can contribute to this culture through being invalidating without realising it. We moved onto talking about the importance of spaces where we can be ourselves, and where information shared is confidential and trusted. 

Annick spoke about the 9 Whys exercise which helps us get to the root reason of the work we’re doing. We may feel a constant sense of urgency work, and understanding the root cause may help us understand why. Understanding the root reason is also important because the ‘whys’ can impact others. For example, youth workers may impact young people in a way that comes from the root of why they’re involved in youth work. 

Workshop participants then took part in a writing exercise, which included prompts around safety, agency and dignity. The writing that came out linked to whiteness, our communities and who is around us, growing seeds planted with friends, care, integrity and humanity. We closed the space sharing some exciting ideas we have for next year, and with a grounding ritual. 

We loved running Tending the Fiyah and Building Caring and Creative Futures. We learned a lot from workshop facilitators and participants alike, and enjoyed the opportunity to continue centering young people in our work and practice. It was a beautiful way to close a year packed with workshops on radical youth work, and we look forward to building on this! 


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