Giving Young People A Voice Through Spoken Word Project

Read about the amazing journey of two of our young people Abi and Yassin who during the first lockdown took part in the FBB spoken word challenge ‘Beyond Bars’. The aim of the project was to give young people a voice, a platform and the skills to express how they were feeling. 60 young people spent several weeks working with FBB Practitioners, artists and performers to hone their writing and speaking skills. 

The two winners, Abi Simms (16) with ‘Being Black & 6teen’ and Yassin Slimani-Mendez (14) with ‘It really goes this deep’, won the chance to turn their words into short films, with the help of production company Caviar, lead by director, Lainey Richardson and creative agency, Dark Horses. 

The Beyond Bars project has had a huge impact on the lives of both Abi and Yassin, who as well as writing the pieces, also perform and star in the films.  

Since winning the challenge, Yassin has completely transformed his attitude to life, school and even football. 

Stefan Imeson, FBB's Project Leader, said: “Yassin has matured so much over the past six months. His head of year said his behaviour has been exemplary since school started back up and that he seemed like “a changed man”. 

The whole experience has been transformational for him. It’s opened up doors for him, most importantly, in his own mind. My sense is that he has had an experience of being truly seen as a unique individual with something worth saying and sharing. There were none of the usual issues on the pitch either - just positivity and encouragement for his teammates and a big smile across his face.” 

Abi has gone on to lead a Co-op Christmas campaign ‘Giving Double’, again performing a spoken word piece.

During a recent thought-provoking interview Abi talked about her writing techniques and how important the challenge was to her to alleviate the isolation of lockdown:

“Some days I just wanted to close myself away not speak to a single soul, other days I’d be all for a conversation. But most of my time spent in solitary I was antisocial, my phone remained on DnD, and I kept the conversation minimal. 

 When applying they asked us questions like why do we write...and I simply said I write for a distraction. 

When I write I can get lost in my piece and I think that’s what makes my connection to it so unique, I never know what the outcome is, neither do I know how many pages will get screwed up till I have my final piece but I do know that it will always be hard hitting and a thought bender.  

This programme gave me hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

When I write my inspiration usually comes from musicians, for example I’m Being Black and 6teen there is a shot of different quotes that I have on my wall, and there’s a variety of Tupac, MLK, Rosa Parks, Colin Kaepernick and even Maya name a few. 

They all have different flows and ways of writing/talking and a couple steps before I take pen to paper, I always do my research.”

Abi also talks about the experience of producing the film:

“Day one on the shoot, there were vans parked up outside my house from early morning waiting to unload, there were so many people coming in and out, it was unreal. 

Then I met Yasmin and things were brought back down to reality, that this was really happening. 

Lainey and Tash both poked their head in the door to say hi and that it’ll be great and I was quickly rushed upstairs to change and get my hair done. At least I know what it’s like to be a proper actress for 3 days ;). 

When I saw the BTS shots, it looked like something straight out of TopBoy, and I still think the same. 

I learnt that timing is everything, we could be off by a couple seconds or have missed something so little, but the impact it has on everything else is brutal.”

And finally, let’s get Abi to sum up the powerful message of her winning poem and film:

“The key message that I want people to take from this film is the misconception of what it is to be black and what it is to be 16 too. I labelled a few stereotypes that we hear from a young people and just hoped people would understand what it really feels like.”This week we are launching the two films, so watch out for coverage in the press and social media. In the meantime, enjoy watching our new celebrities here:

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