ftwork x We Rise: Discovering Empowerment
young Brixton residents investigate what empowerment means to them, for the London Festival of Architecture Symposium 2020
Because of lockdown, the initial intention – to present the finished film during the LFA2020 Symposium at the Royal Academy of Arts – wasn’t possible. The production of the film is taking place right now and Vanessa, a key participant, takes up the story:
“We wanted to make a short film for the London Festival of Architecture exploring what POWER – their 2020 theme – means to young people (aged 16-20) living in Brixton, but then along came Covid-19 and the lockdown made it impossible for us to meet and have a group discussion as we had planned for the film.
But being given the chance to have our voices heard by an audience on a platform that we don’t easily get access to was an opportunity that we didn’t want to lose, so we decided to adapt how we filmed in order to create something that would provide a taster of our thoughts on the topic. Instead of filming the group of contributors together we filmed each contributor individually either outside or they self filmed in their homes and I interviewed them by phone – all just as the Covid lockdown restrictions were starting to be eased.
We have edited the content we filmed into a trailer which gives an insight into the common themes that we will explore in more detail when we eventually make the ‘Discovering Empowerment’ short film”.
You can see the film below.
So who has power? For young people living in communities like Brixton, the imbalance of power is all too evident. They perceive many aspects of their lives in terms of ‘them’ and ‘us’ and, while such divisions exist, not only are their own options severely restricted, the chances of creating inclusive communities are also limited. As a group they have also been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. So what if we focused instead on empowerment? We routinely underestimate the ability of young people to articulate their own opinions, yet it is imperative that we hear what they have to say. So what would it take, in their view, to give them greater power over their own destiny? And if they were to achieve it, what would they do with it?
We Rise is an award winning community business whose mission is to empower young people to create successful futures. However, We Rise may be better understood not as working for young people, but with them. It is precisely this collaborative working that empowers, as it gives young people the sense of responsibility that is often denied to them.
ftwork has been a Patron and contributor to the London Festival of Architecture for the past 5 years, especially driving the social aspirations of the festival through collaborations around each year’s theme.
This year we approached We Rise to make a film produced by young people who are active in their community, concerning the challenges they face. ftwork saw the opportunity to give these young people a platform by including the film in the high profile LFA symposium, a partnership with the Royal Academy of Arts. Once accepted, ftwork Trust funded the project and worked with We Rise and their young participants to explore the theme of ‘power’. We were all keen to turn the theme into a positive and Discovering Empowerment was the result.
“being given the chance to have our voices heard by an audience on a platform that we don’t easily get access to was an opportunity that we didn’t want to lose”
— Vanessa (aged 16), young Brixton resident
For both ftwork and We Rise, collaboration is an essential part of creating inclusive and thriving communities, in which everyone has a potential role and a voice.
We Rise was itself established collaboratively by a group of parents with a shared passion to tackle disadvantage, by helping young people make the difficult transition from school to work. One of the key things they do as a social enterprise is to leverage the assets of their community and London by working with commercial and other partners, supporters and volunteers. Moreover, they work collaboratively with schools, creating and delivering tailored and targeted programmes for schools to support particular groups of young people who face disadvantage and require additional support.
In this case, the resulting film project and film are an excellent demonstration of the value of such collaborative endeavours and the benefits they can bring to all those involved.