Blackhorse Responders 2.0

Written by Jordan Abankwah, Creative Facilitator

For all of us, it’s been a long year but something that has stood out are the actions of everyday people trying their best to improve their communities. In the news, the youth of London’s grit and determination to make positive change isn’t often highlighted but working with the Blackhorse Responders as they discover creative activism has been a great eye opener.

Since September, I have worked as a Creative Facilitator for Blackhorse Responders within Blackhorse Workshop, during that time with our cohort of ten young people (aged 16 – 25) – through weekly creative workshops that vary between woodworking, printmaking, photography, videography and public speaking – the Blackhorse Responders has shown itself to be a programme built to empower to respond creatively to the issues faced in their community.

Xenia, my project manager and I, have placed a heavy focus on taking specific steps in creative activist process to motivate our groups project development: Making (practicing different creative forms), Messaging (breaking down issues and how to best communicate solutions) and Mobilising (focusing on how deliver change to our targeted audiences and communities).

During this time we’ve had a whole host of activists and creatives along the way, there to inspire the projects that our Responders focus on, the first of which were the decentralised, international movement against climate change – Extinction Rebellion and William Morris Design Line (with London Design Festival), who gave us an introduction in to how to make a powerful message with a placard and the art of protest.

Our next step in building on our Responders making skills, we had the fortune of having our in house technicians, Enrique and Toby, to teach our cohort how to make a soapbox through woodworking, educating us on the proper use of several tools and techniques. It was great for me to also develop my own DIY skills and acted as an induction to Blackhorse Workshop as a whole.

Filmmaker Tee Byford gave us a masterclass on filming and editing, in this session we took our Responders out on a field trip with their screen print designed soapboxes in tow to Stoneydown Park’s Speakers Corner in the heart of Walthamstow, where they practiced their speechwriting skills, filming their talks from atop their soapboxes.

Going back in to a second national lockdown, the way we conduct our workshops has had to change to being virtual, this has seen an evolution in the way that we connect with our Responders and how we get them to create and engage.

The first among our virtual guests was Karen Jelenje from Activate the City!, a youth-led social enterprise that empowers young individuals by helping them activate unoccupied and underused spaces to motivate social change in the communities.

In Karen’s session we explored elements of how each of the Responders can use spaces in their community to amplify their chosen creative forms.

Last week we had a masterclass from Lu Williams, Founder of Grrrl Zine Fair, on zine making where we were fortunate enough to have personalised zine making kits – long in depth at the cultural and political history of zines.

Speaking to one of our Responders, Madinah, she remarks:

“My favourite part of being part of Blackhorse Responders this year has been being allowed to be as free and as loud as I want while expressing my concerns about the issues that I feel passionate about. Talking to a group of people that not only appreciate making changes for the better, but also listen to and appreciate your experiences. Responders has given me an opportunity to learn new skills and make new friends. I feel as if I am part of something bigger.”

“I was never very good at Public speaking and speech writing. Whenever I’d have to present and idea, a thought or project -whether that’s in University or generally-I’d freeze, or stutter. Something that I used to dread. Doing the public speaking at speakers corner in front of all the Responders helped me with my communication skills. Completing my speech gave me a sense of accomplishment and made me ready to do it again. Public speaking and speech writing is something I now enjoy.”

Quite a big part of Blackhorse Responders initiative has been about equipping young people with the skills that they can take on to strengthen their future prospective so it’s been really encouraging receiving feedback from participants like Madinah saying :

“During Blackhorse Responders I have learnt a lot of skills and techniques, giving me plenty of experience and knowledge. One particular thing I see me using in the future is the induction I had to the big machinery at the workshop. This will come to use, particularly during my Architecture course at University.”

As for me, I’m loving being a part of workshop and look forward to seeing the Responders in person again, so we can get a start on making a final product to take the local community by storm, this week we meet Will Rose, Led by Donkeys and artist Jerome Ince-Mitchell.

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