On July 12 and 13, Football Beyond Borders (FBB) hosted the hugely successful City of Nations Exhibition which showcased a series of photos and videos co-created by FBB school’s participants and industry professionals. In the build-up to the 2018 World Cup, FBB teamed-up with Nike for the ‘City of Nation’s project, which interrogated notions of identity and multiculturalism while celebrating and championing the diversity and inclusivity of London. The exhibition was an ode to the creativity, talent and perceptive insights of the young.
Held as part of the GOLASO – UNION ‘Festival of Football’, the public exhibition showcased the stories and experiences of FBB’s young people growing up in London, arguably the most diverse city in the world.
The City of Nations project was not only conceived to present an alternative narrative. It was an opportunity to empower the youth to get their stories and voices heard. As FBB’s Co-Director Jasper Kain notes, “Young people’s stories are often seen but never really heard, or told by young people themselves”. He added, “part of our motivation for this exhibition was the opportunity to give young people a platform to give voice to their experiences, to shape the narrative, to tell their story.”
The World Cup is all about representation. And for many, seeing their national teams, the culture and identity it represents is a significant moment. Yet too often young people are not given the chance to express their views, perceptions and experiences of these momentous occasions.
Over the course of the City of Nations project, however, FBB’s young people explored and interrogated these questions in depth. Using a variety of mediums – photography, video and text – the young people examined the power of football to represent, whilst challenging seemingly fixed notions of identity.
The result was the production of a collection of pieces focused on the aforementioned questions, including a specially-made magazine which was comprised of articles written by the young people. In those articles, they detailed their experience of the City of Nations project, as well as their exploration of questions like identity, multiculturalism and the experience of growing up in London.
The exhibition also showcased PARKSSC x FBB ‘Pass-A-Ball’ project, which celebrates football as a force for social good and inclusion. FBB developed a learning module around the concepts of this initiative and produced a final product: a collection of footballs designed by FBB participants from primary schools, celebrating football’s capacity to challenge socio-cultural issues. There was also a short movie produced about the development of the project, with some of the youngest FBB participants as well as staff members reflecting on these concepts and the development of this joint initiative.
Weird World Cup also made an appearance in the exhibition: Gordon Reid and Callum Stephenson paid a special visit to Old Street, bringing along the infamous beer mats, created by 20 designers and illustrators with artworks inspired by some of the most memorable and often humorous moments from World Cup history lane. All of the money raised from selling the Weird World Cup beer mats across pubs and online has gone towards our Fund The Future campaign, which will allow us to develop a transformative Youth Centre in Brixton.
On the first day of the exhibition, guests were invited to a private event which included a film screening and a Q&A with some of the young people involved in the project. In those interviews the young people reflected on questions of what being a young Londoner meant, what it meant to live in a City of Nations and what messages they had for the older generation.
Reflecting on the project, 14 year old Cerny said, “For me, living in the City of Nations is all about accepting one another actually taking in each others beliefs and opinions on modern day society and not turning our differences into weaknesses and negatives. Actually, it is better to embrace each others differences and create a big, new community. “
“It was an incredible event, and we are so proud that so many people – our wider FBB family – came out in force to hear young people’s stories as told by young people themselves” reflected Jasper Kain. Adding, “And a fantastic occasion was made even more special as we were able to celebrate reaching our crowdfunding campaign target on the day with our supporters, partners and most importantly our young people”.
A special thanks to everyone that attended the event, and all of our friends and partners for their continued support.