Portsmouth’s young people have spoken. Throughout July, we have been publishing Young People’s Voices – a series of articles from young people living in Portsmouth talking about the issues that matter most to them. Maddie Wallace, Young People’s Voices Project Coordinator looks back over the project and announces the shortlisted writers who swept us away.
Although this project was initially for one year, it is clear from the work we have done with young people in our schools and colleges that they have a lot to say on the issues that are important to them. And they are saying it with aplomb.
Young People’s Voices was born during a conversation between myself and Star & Crescent’s Editor in Chief, Sarah Cheverton. We realised that despite increasing numbers of young people engaging in politics – particularly since 2015 when Jeremy Corbyn was elected as leader of the opposition – the national media gives scant attention to what young people actually think. They are merely statistics discussed in the 2017 General Election turnout figures, or dismissed as fanatical socialist supporters without much knowledge.
This is a huge mistake.
The project, which was supported by Victorious Festival and the University of Portsmouth’s Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries, has demonstrated to us just how passionately the young people in our community feel about local and national issues. In the classroom, students debated topics, learnt how to fact check and how to select reputable sources. Far from them having nothing to say, we learnt Portsmouth’s young people are articulate, caring, angry with how politicians treat them, and definitely capable of spotting manipulation and bias in the media when they see it.
The schools and colleges we approached were overwhelmingly supportive of the project, and were happy to allow us to talk to their students about fact checking, reliable sources, investigating stories, and how to write for publication. Both myself and Lauren Jones, who ran the project with me, are post-graduate students at the university and experienced teachers. We were blown away by the enthusiasm and knowledge of the students. The animated debates in every classroom we visited around knife crime, Brexit, climate change, Trump, mental health issues, homelessness, LGBQT issues, body image, local services and Portsmouth itself showed that any politician who dismisses the views of young people as irrelevant or naive belongs in the neolithic past.
As an added incentive, Victorious Festival offered free tickets to this year’s festival for the winning article, but it was very difficult to choose one from such a powerful collection of writing.
James Ralls, owner of the festival, was as impressed as the S&C team by the quality of the articles submitted.
‘I was keen to support this project as I feel we have a wealth of untapped creative potential in Portsmouth, and the younger generation are vital in helping to raise the cultural profile of the city,’ he said. ‘It’s clear that our young people are intelligent, bright and keen to have their voices heard. We’ve enjoyed reading all the articles and choosing a winner amongst such high quality writing was very difficult.’
After much deliberation the winner’s pile was whittled down to a shortlist of 5 stand out pieces:
The Dark Waters of Portsmouth, by Zoe Ingram
Portsmouth City and the Coven of Chavs, by Evie West
A Day In The Life – Being Homeless in Portsmouth, by Madison Bowley
The Passion That Brings Portsmouth Together, by Michael Christou
Public Transport for Under 18s Gets Me Down, by Alana Green & Jamie McCauley-Lawton
All these pieces show an exceptional authorial voice and confidence and maturity in writing.
It was a hard choice, as the pieces were so different in tone and focus. However, the winner of the Victorious tickets is Madison Bowley for her brave and uncompromising creative piece on homelessness in the city. Madison spent an afternoon with the homeless community talking to them about their lives and giving them question cards to fill out. She then wove the real words of homeless people into a fictional narrative to produce a moving story about life on the city’s streets. Madison showed real authority in her writing, and also significant confidence in her research method: using authentic voices from the homeless community to support the veracity of her narrative, and adding weight to the emotional punch her story pulls. Congratulations, Madison!
Want to get involved?
We hope to repeat the project next year, so if you are a teacher of year 10 or 12 children in a Portsmouth school, we’d love to arrange to work with your students in the new year. We are also aiming to expand the project to include other under-represented voices in the community, so if you are a service provider and think we may be able to work with your clients, please do let us know at email@example.com
It has been an honour to work with the young people of our city and to read their work on the issues that matter to them. We would like to thank the teachers who made time for us to work with their students, and both Victorious Festival and staff at the Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries for their support in helping us to make this project a success.
Most of all, we’d like to thank every young person who contributed finished pieces, and also those who didn’t, but took part in lively class discussions. We hear you. Your voice matters.
The Young People’s Voices project aims to provide young people with a platform to share their opinions, report on topics that affect them and advance standards of literacy. We worked with students from St Edmunds School and Havant and South Downs College to investigate and write their own stories, in a variety of styles and mediums – from creative memoir and opinion pieces to their own investigations. You will find all the Young People’s Voices stories here as we publish them.
This project is supported by the University of Portsmouth, with thanks to the teams in Creative and Cultural Industries (CCI). It was delivered by University of Portsmouth MSc and PhD researchers Maddie Wallace and Lauren Jones.