Last November we rounded off the Hackney Young Lecturers Programme – a youth activism and skills development project for Key Stage 5 students in the borough of Hackney. Four students spent the month participating in various workshops to enable them to design, develop and deliver a mini university-style lecture on an issue important to young people in the borough.
We wanted young people to become agents of positive societal change and to make sure young people’s voices are heard. By creating these lectures, participants were creating a tool for engaging the Council in a conversation for change and helping to put young people’s views on local issues on the agenda.
Weeks one and four focused on developing the participants’ communication and presentation skills. Expert coaches from Push, a charity supporting young people with their future choices and educational journeys, showed the students how to project their voice and address their audience. A favourite exercise involved each one of us standing at the front of the room in silence for one minute, getting us to think about how we can interact with the audience through our body.
Developing the lectures was as much about presenting the facts as creatively telling a story. In week two, Donna from Future Hackney, a participatory arts project, showed us around their exhibition under Hackney Central bridge that documents social change in East London. We then took shelter from the rain in Costa where Donna showed us how to take photographs and we spoke about how the students could capture their own topic through photos. Each participant left armed with a disposable camera, ready to go out in their own time and snap some pictures.
Week 3 saw us make a visit to London Metropolitan University to meet with their Youth Studies lecturer Dr Julius Elster – who better to tell us how to create a lecture than an academic? After some essential top tips, and a little practice standing on the stage, the conversation turned to research. Using Julius’ wealth of knowledge and some desk research, we started reading research papers and articles to ensure our arguments were backed up by facts.
By week five the lectures were ready, and it was all about ironing out last-minute nerves. We had a final run through at the Tomlinson Centre to familiarize the students with speaking into the microphone and being on stage. The final week approached, we set up the photo installation (which you can see above), put out the tea and biscuits and started welcoming the audience into the Tomlinson Centre. One by one the students took to the stage.
Chanel kicked us off with a beautifully told lecture on gentrification in the borough. Who are the people most impacted by gentrification? Her use of emotive language coupled with qualitative research and pictures bought the stories of those on Ridley Road to life. Maria went up next with a witty presentation on the use of social media amongst young people and the impact it’s having on our lives. It was hard not to listen when she told us eleven years of our life can be spent browsing our phones. Jess rounded off the performances with an astutely researched and well-argued lecture on academic success in Hackney. Gentrification has bought with it academic success but at what cost to the young people?
Working with the young people was a fantastic experience, as was watching their confidence grow and seeing their commitment and creativity to developing the lectures. We want to run outreach programmes that help young people develop the necessary skills to succeed in higher education and give them access to unique opportunities.
We’re now looking to tun the programme in further boroughs, so if you’re interested in working with us (schools in particular) please email firstname.lastname@example.org.