Our Voices, Our Choices!

On Thursday 12th March, we held a borough-wide social action competition event across our eight Estate-based Youth Theatre (EbYT) groups.

The ‘Our Voices, Our Choices’ Social Action Event was the culmination of our social action project in our EbYT groups this term.

It’s hard to believe it’s already been more than two weeks since our big EbYT event at the Wally Foster Community Centre - but with so much going on right now we haven’t been able to properly celebrate our brilliant young people and all the work they put into their projects across the term. This is a difficult and uncertain time for a lot of us and the news is pretty bleak, so we want to take this time to share something positive. So here it is, a full roundup of the ‘Our Voices, Our Choices’ Social Action Event.

Following the success of last year’s social action event, #itmakesme, we decided to develop an annual event, with all of our Youth Theatres coming together to share their projects for social action causes.

Itmakesme (Small)

This year, the groups chose their own topics, identifying a social issue they felt passionately about, and an art form they enjoyed to express their ideas. The topics included climate change, ocean pollution, bullying, racism, and sexism, expressed through art forms including photography, drama and dance. The groups received help from experts running specialised workshops, including a climate change workshop with local resident Les Moore of Nightingale Community Garden, and an anti-bullying workshop with Young Hackney.

We were proud to present the culmination of this work at the ‘Our Voices Our Choices’ Social Action Event on Thursday 12th March at the Wally Foster Community Centre. The event was a great success, with all of our groups putting so much effort and hard work into their final pieces.

The groups each presented their final pieces to a panel of judges for the chance to place in the top 3 and win prize money to be spent on a group activity of their choice.

We kicked off the evening’s performances with Nightingale Youth Theatre (ages 6-11), who shared a presentation of their photography exhibition, explaining their motivations for each photo, as well as a short role play. Nightingale have been looking at the issue of climate change, and working closely with local residents Les Moore and David Stokes, with special workshops and visits to the Nightingale Community Garden.

This was followed by Huddleston Youth Theatre (ages 13-25), who performed a series of scenes about employability and explored breaking through their personal barriers to employment as young people with SEND.

Nightingale photo presentation   credit Sean Pollock (Custom) Huddleston performance1   credit Sean Pollock (Small)

The next group to share their project was Kingsmead Youngers Youth Theatre (ages 6-9), with a collections of scenes and a group chant exploring the impact of bullying and promoting kindness and friendship. The young people chose to explore this theme as it was something many of them had experienced personally, either as a victim or as a perpetrator. As some of our youngest participants, we were really proud of this group for performing so confidently to a big audience.

Kingsmead youngers performance   credit Sean Pollock (Custom)

Next to take the stage were Kingsmead Olders (ages 9-13), presenting a dance performance which explored the theme of status and took inspiration from Tik Tok. Their aim was to express their views on female status in today’s society.

Our next group, Wally Foster Youth Theatre (ages 12-25), presented a series of role play scenes and a poignant piece of spoken word, written by a group member, based on their personal experiences of racism and discrimination. The group had also created a photography exhibition, featuring a series of striking black and white portrait photos, holding placards with anti-racism slogans.

Wally Foster performance1   credit Sean Pollock (Custom)

Woodberry Down Youth Theatre (ages 7-10) were next up, with a series of role plays and a protest scene using placards they had made in sessions. The performance explored gender stereotypes in society and how these can be challenged so that boys and girls are treated equally.

Closing the night were our Forest Road Youth Theatres. First up were Forest Road Youngers (ages 5-12) with their performance focusing on the theme of ocean pollution. The young people had put a lot of work into creating a display to get their message across, making art out of used plastic bottles, and gave a great performance about human impact on sea life.

Forest Road Olders (ages 12-25) then performed a piece exploring the impact of negative judgement. The performance was based on various pieces of creative writing which they had devised in sessions.

Forest rd olders (Custom)

With the performances done and dusted, the judges went off to deliberate and choose their winners - a task we definitely did not envy!

Before announcing their winners, Chair of the panel Dr Melissa Butcher gave a short speech, praising the hard work of the young people.

Sean feedback for Wally Foster   credit Lola Carter (Custom)

The panel’s photography expert, Sean Pollock, also gave feedback to the two groups who had submitted photography exhibitions, Nightingale and Wally Foster Youth Theatres.

It was then time to announce the winners of the ‘Our Voices, Our Choices’ Social Action Competition.

And the winner is…

In third place, winning £50 to be spent on a group activity, was Woodberry Down Youth Theatre!!

In second place and receiving the £100 prize for their inspiring performance, Huddleston Youth Theatre!!

And finally, in first place and the winners of £150 prize, Wally Foster Youth Theatre!!

IMG 0870 (Custom) Huddleston with cheque   credit Sean Pollock (Custom) Wally Foster with cheque   credit Sean Pollock (Custom)

Congratulations to the winning groups!

All of our groups worked so hard and showed so much commitment to the project throughout the entire term and we are so proud of all the young people. It was a truly great evening with the young people coming together from across the borough, along with their families and members of the Hackney community, to share their passions and support each other. We now know this is something we won’t be able to do for a while, making the event that bit more special as we look back on it.

We’d like to say a special thanks to the team at the Wally Foster Centre for hosting and supporting the event. We’re also incredibly grateful to our amazing panel of judges for giving their time and putting so much thought into the process. We look forward to doing it all again next year!

You can view more photos from the event here.

*Note: unfortunately, we are unable to share photos of the performances from Kingsmead Olders, Woodberry Down and Forest Road Youngers Youth Theatres, as we do not have photo permissions for some of the young people within these groups.