Monday 16th sees 14 participants aged between 16 and 25 meet with artists DJ Eric Soul, poets Zena Edwards from cV:iD and Simon Murray from African Writers Abroad, and Ana Tovey from Chocolate Films at the Stephen Lawrence Centre in Deptford, for SHAKE! Ben Amunwa, Jane Trowell and Ed Lewis from Platform are the  coordinators  of Shake!

This week-long course is a central part of our year-long residency with SLC called “Shaping the Future”. Click to go to the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust to see more of the work they do.

Lots of unknowns – we’d registered a big group of participants but who would turn up? Would our collaboration between the artists work? Would we get the balance right between serious politics, art, and hope: our case studies are heavy. We are focusing on the Ogoni struggle for environmental justice in Nigeria through the life and execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa, and considering it alongside the conditions that led to the murder of Stephen Lawrence at a bus stop in Eltham in 1993, and all the wider ramifications.

So all of us were pretty happy to meet the group and hear from them…quiet-seeming, very switched on and thoughtful participants who know why they were doing the course and what their stake in it is. 9 women and 5 men, the majority describing themselves as of African-Caribbean descent, with some young people of Kurdish, Chinese, Sri Lankan, and white English backgrounds. London in all her glory.

They brought up a range of political concerns coming out of the themes, from sex-trafficking to youth crime to unemployment to racism to capitalism to combatting apathy. There was a lot to take in on day 1 and by the end I hoped we hadn’t asked too much.

Day 2… had it been too much? who would return?
But… everyone from day 1 showed up on time and we were off again. The vibe was keen, looser, and good. For this morning session, the group brought examples of something in culture which they found powerful and political. Music from K’Naan, Lowkey, Bashy, Within Temptation, Jill Scott, personal photos, photographs of life in Somalia, Anansi stories, a book by Gemma Malley… This built on what we had done yesterday where the artists had presented some work they had been influenced by, followed by discussion on how it works, why it works, for whom it works (or not)…

Then into artform groups – video documentary, music/DJ, writing/performance poetry. This was the moment we’d all been champing for – an outlet for all the talk, all the politics, and all the feelings that had been aroused… I participated in the first writing workshop. Free-writing which led to an outpouring of responses. Really powerful to be witness to it. Some tears, lots of applause. Cool calm encouraging comment from Zena and Simon and others in the group. Kernals of ideas that would be worked on, worked up. Me, I’d written a splurge about skinheads… got me going…

This post was written by Jane Trowell of PLATFORM
Images by Zena Edwards