I Am Festival 2023 Highlights - Week One

Lynne Brackley shares the highlights from the first week of I Am Festival 2023.

19 May 2023

Monday morning. We are cutting, sorting and ooh-aahing over materials for the sensory banner goody bags our teachers will take away with them later this afternoon. 20 of these bags somehow make it on the Overground to the Roundhouse; host venue for the launch of the I Am Festival 2023.

Known as the coolest music venue (maybe in the world) and for its work with young creatives, it invites the network to a sensory jam. In the atmospheric underground space, we play with glow balls, water beads, sound pads, Fybogel (honestly!) and a great big gong in a free-flow, come-and-go kind of way. Lucy Nicholls is Education Programmes Manager. She and her colleagues at the Roundhouse are committed to developing their offer for young people with access needs. The take-away message is to get in touch and see what’s possible. Be part of the revolution. And big thanks to Lucy and the team for hosting.

I Am Network Meeting at Roundhouse - May 2023 - 7.jpg
I Am Network Meeting at Roundhouse (2023)

Moving around London, you may see art work by Ben Wilson. In vivid colour and extraordinary detail, he documents the stories and passions of Londoners from all walks of life. And he paints on chewing gum.

Ben listens. That’s the first thing I notice when I go to his workshop on Tuesday at Treehouse School in North London. Following a morning art trail, looking out for work in spots like the old railway line - the Parkland Walk - students create their own designs to be realised by Ben in their locality. What does activism look like here? Students explore what they like and don’t like, what they’d like more of. Dogs, pizza, swinging, bin trucks! Or less of. Rubbish, bad stuff. I work with a student whose drawing is spontaneous, accurate, full of movement. Slowly, all the designs take shape with gentle prompts, a sharing of techniques, suggestions for colour and lettering.

Find out more about Ben, and do say hello if you come across him in action!

Thursday already. Rainbow Room at Watergate School in Lewisham is dressed with fabrics, textures, bells, feathers and ribbons, ready for making sensory banners with artist Mimi Soan. Our theme is ‘See Me, Hear Me’ and we’re cutting out shapes that suggest eyes, ears and mouths ready for the students to make their choices and create elements for the banners. Of the ten young people, three have a parent with them and there are some very happy collaborations. Together with the staff team, we shake, stroke, jingle, stuff and crackle our way through the afternoon and end by laying out all our work and thinking of the messages we will add to the banners. ‘Come and say hello’ seems to resonate. One of the parents talks about the right for all to be admitted and included; the intelligence and talents of the young people with us deserve to be recognised. We are missing out if we don’t understand this.

I Am Network Meeting at Roundhouse - May 2023 - 1I Am Network Meeting at Roundhouse - May 2023 - 9.jpg
I Am Network Meeting at Roundhouse (2023)

So, what’s next? As we come to the end of week one, here are some fun things you can do.

  • Create your own sensory jam using whatever objects you have to hand. Take it outside.
  • What would you put on a chewing gum art work? Can you use Ben’s work to inspire you?
  • Make a start on your sensory banner. Use the I Am resource for ideas. Get some parents involved.
  • Send in your pictures, ideas and, of course, your chorus lyrics for the I Am 2023 song. Deadline for this is Thursday 25th May.

Upcoming Events:

Visit the I Am Festival 2023 Gallery to see a selection of photos of the festival so far, and young people's creative work!

See you next week!