Some of us had previously met Barry from Outbox theatre when they came along to Fruitbowl to run a theatre session with our young people. I remember thinking how much fun it must be to be part of his crew, and I very much hoped Outbox Theatre would be crossing our paths again! Lucky me then when it transpired that they were doing a call out for creative writing from queer people of all backgrounds. They reached out to us, saying that they would value hearing the voices of our young people, and I was so happy that I had the capacity to take on the project. I had said in my application to SAYiT that I had run poetry-writing workshops before at uni for the Wordsmith’s Union (a university society that I ran with a friend of mine for a few years) and I had been hoping that this would be something I could put into practice again.

 For the Brighter Project, Outbox Theatre have designed 12 free-writing tasks to inspire and ignite creativity, and I was given free rein to adapt these tasks to suit a Zoom afternoon with SAYiT and Cornerhouse (Hull) young people. During our meeting, Barry explained that they would be choosing some of the poems for a final project, perhaps a zine, but that they would base their choices on reaching across a broad demographic of people. I believe this is a positive way to choose, as hopefully it will help to counteract against any unconscious biases around what makes something “well written” or “valuable”. People of marginalised identities may have less chance to express themselves, and so it is important that we uplift these voices in particular. I think our young people have a pretty keen grasp on these sorts of ideas, as I have seen when we have had conversations around racism, and intersectionality for example.

The afternoon we chose to meet was Sunday 29th November, and we had nine young people attend. I was worried that young people would lose their interest, as three hours is a long time to attend something on Zoom, but I was amazed at the levels of concentration I witnessed. There were all kinds of exercises including listening to others describing a journey they do often, and writing down the words that stick out to us in list form, and free-writing off of objects we found in our surroundings. Another exercise involved reacting instinctively to provocations, such as:

I feel bright when I…

My joy is rooted in…

Being part of this community feels…

Self-love looks like…

My freedom depends on…

The young people wrote tirelessly, along to a chill-hop playlist that I compiled for the occasion, and it reminded me of when I was a teenager, and how much solace and excitement I got from writing poetry. You see, I have always loved to write poems, ever since I could write. My mum used to find poems written on sweetie wrappers when I was little, and when I was about 15 I joined a poetry and spoken word group for young people called “The Roundhouse Poets”, at first run by Jacob Sam- La Rose, and later by Polarbear (Steven Camden). This poetry group was a lifeline for me at a time when there was a lot of turmoil and disruption in my life, a way for me to express my feelings of frustration and sadness, a way for me to explore my identity. I look back at that group, where I developed friendships with other young people of all walks of life, and feel a real sense of warmth and thankfulness. It was the Roundhouse Poets that showed me that there is community for me beyond family and beyond school, and I think that is an incredibly important lesson to learn.

After our writing workshop I encouraged young people to send their poetry my way, and I did receive a few emails of some beautiful, raw, funny and honest work. We hope to have a showcase of some of what has been written for other SAYiT and Cornerhouse young people to attend in February, and we will be encouraging the young people to submit their work to Outbox Theatre. Many thanks to Anne for her support, and of course to the young people who committed themselves wholeheartedly to the session.

Rum Samuel, Youth Support Worker
SAYiT

They/them/theirs

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