Since I joined Platform in July, I have seen the high-spirited Farzana passionately preparing for the “Shake! – Young Voices in Arts, Media, Race & Power course”, organising its different activities and coordinating with other facilitators (Ed, Zena and Sai) in order to make it even better than the previous sessions. The third course was held in August at the landmark Bernie Grants Art Centre in Tottenham and the theme was Power, Propaganda and Perceptions. What the bright young people (16-25 years old) produced from poetry, music and film was showcased at the Free Word Centre in Farringdon on the night of October 29th. And what an amazing show and a stimulating experience it was. Talent at its purest and most engaging way with injustice and global issues!
The young people vividly proved that art is not just there to be an abstract form or simply for the sake of entertainment but can also be a powerful tool to face up urgent issues of our time in a creative manner. If you thought for one second that these young people have been dictated to what to write, compose or film, then you need to realise that the shake! course rejects the top-bottom approach of traditional educational forms and rather encourages the youth to develop their own ideas, express themselves through the medium of art and tackle issues they feel strongly about.
Performers succeeded each other and displayed their brilliant poetry, music and filming skills. The spoken words were particularly eloquent and moving and touched on different subjects such as war, racism, celebrity culture, social injustice and addiction. Christianah, Onysha, Annie, Lucas, Lateef and Umaru were full of energy, fieriness, passion and dissent, a dissent that is much needed in these challenging times. These young poets’ spoken words were so gripping, penetrating and carefully chosen. They were words that embodied situations we –grown-up- have been confronting for a long time; Energetic Apathy is definitely one of them. For her turn, Anna gave an incredible singing performance with a beautiful voice that added poignancy and a sense of urgency to the song.
Because Shake! is not only a youth project for young people but a platform for activists, artists and educators from older generations too, we were indulged by further poetic and musical performances by some of the facilitators; Zena and Sai.
The short film “Reach” that was produced in only three days with limited logistics was of excellent quality. The filmmakers wanted to depict the contrast between wealth and poverty in communities around London and how affluence and power are concentrated in corporations. The images that were accompanied by sparse narration were powerful and showed how these communities are affected by gentrification and how they are alienated from the wealth they produce themselves. This was obvious in the “irritating” presence of Barclays and HSBC’s buildings behind the estates and the frustration at the out of reach higher education in universities. When asked to summarise the film in one word, the young directors used the words: capitalism, reach, aspirations and motivational to break obstacles.
Obviously, there is an innate difficulty of summing up such rich initiatives in one or two sentences, let alone in one word. This difficulty was addressed by Farzana in a compelling speech, where she articulately spoke about what Shake! meant for her. She pointed out that Shake! should not be seen as empowering but rather emboldening, especially that the course is seeking to challenge power and privilege and to reject compartmentalisation imposed by the society we live in. Shake! is a space whose dynamics are organic, fluid, and egalitarian and where everyone learns. For Farzana, Shake! evokes the word And because it suggests richness, diversity, scope, interconnectedness and ability to do more to challenge the status quo.
The showcase was truly an exhilarating experience and instilled in me the belief that these young people can be a force for change. Shakers, you emboldened my optimism and surely you will find me, in solidarity with you, struggling against the Energetic-Apathy around us.