Meet the team: Naomi Gahie

Meet Naomi Gahie who hopes to be in Brussels for the June workshops. This Q&A was done by Charlie Tshibangu, Rahim Amin and Favour Ekengwu.

Naomi Gahie (c) Hugh Gary Photography

NAOMI GAHIE, 23
Q: Where are you from?

I was born here. But my parents are Iverian (Ivory Coast) so I speak French. I was brought up in Bolton (from the age six). I’m 23 now and work in customer service.

Q: What are your interests?
Main interest is singing and reading. I’m reading Kill Me Again by Rachel Abbot – the last back in the DCI Douglas series.

Q: Who influences you the most?
I love Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s writing style. My favourites are her books Americana and Purple Hibiscus. She’s also very famous for her Ted talk We should all be feminists and also the Danger of the single story)  When it comes to singing my influences are neo soul artists like Lianne La Havas and Solange.

Here’s a link to Chimanada Ngozi Adichie’s Ted talk. https://www.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_ngozi_adichie_we_should_all_be_feminists?utm_campaign=tedspread&utm_medium=referral&utm_source=tedcomshare

Q: What’s wrong with London at the moment?
I hear a lot about knife crime being on the rise and all these negatives on social media, but I can only sympathise from observational perspective. It’s hard finding jobs. The main barrier I had was not that they weren’t available, it was because there is so much opportunity in London but I had mental health issues. Now my sister wants to come to London and nurse here for the opportunities.

  • Naomi is a fab writer. You can read her account of the Women’s Procession across London on our blog here. (to be posted w/c 18/6/18)

 

 

June: behind the scenes

To help all the Engage London team keep up their media-making knowledge after City students’ exams had ended and Pilion Trust young people had moved out of their winter Crashpad accommodation, we arranged a weekly drop-in blogging masterclass at Ringcross Community Centre. Report back from Nicola Baird

Workshop 1: Romeo, Favour and Brandon get blogging. (c) Engage London

Blog workshop 1 – Favour and Brandon, who both hope to go to Brussels, with Romeo discovered basic blog writing conventions including SEO (search engine optimisation) tips or headline choice, why write standfirsts, and the usefulness of the Q&A interview.

  • Favour Ekengwu started an accounting course. She also used her new media skills to write a food review of Blackstock Kitchen on Blackstock Road. This was her first trip to an independently owned cafe.  Favour: “It was a bit awkward coming into a cafe as it looked expensive. The food was amazing: I had a chicken wrap and it was really seasoned beautifully. You can taste the love. The homemade lemonade drink was smooth and sweet. It was so good. And the cookie was so soft, easy to chew! I want to go again and film it next time.” Total bill for Favour’s lunch (chicken wrap, cookie and lemonade) plus Nicola’s falafel wrap and coconut brownie was £12. If you want to try this cafe, go to Blackstock Kitchen, 136 Blackstock Road, N4.

Workshop 2: Blogging masterclass at Ringcross community centre. Nicola on the laptop the clockwise Matt, Diana, Meagan, Rahim, Romeo and Rihana Senay and her sister. (c) Savvas Panas for Engage London.

Blog workshop 2 – was held out in the sunshine. It led to three City students – Meagan Walker, Diana Serenli and Matt Hardy – running Q&A interviews with current and former Pilion Trust members and

  • Romeo Nanub wrote up the first Q&A with Meagan Walker, see here.
  • Romeo had a go writing a theatre review after attending most of a four hour immersive theatre show of George Orwell’s book about poverty and homelessness Down & Out in Paris and London at the UCL Festival (which you can also listen to here). Romeo: “The scrabbling around trying to get any work and the rough sleeping – these things are timeless. It was really relatable and sad, especially the boredom. You have nothing to do, so do useless things (in George Orwell’s book Boris and George just drank together) until the next time when you are busy working again. I’d love to read the book.”
  • An interview with Brandon was published on Islington Faces and he set up a Just Giving Crowdfunder page so he can get the right equipment to improve his animation skills.

After the Women’s Procession celebration of (some) women getting the vote in 1918. Engage London members Naomi Gahie (2nd from left in green sash) and Fadz Ali (far right in violet sash). (c) Pilion Trust

  • Naomi Gahie was kept busy by starting a job and getting banners ready for the Women’s Procession on Sunday  10 June which saw tens of thousands of women march across London (Cardiff, Belfast and Edinburgh) to celebrate the centenary of (some) women getting the vote in 1918 (see Guardian story here). This project has highlighted the importance of Green, White and Violet to the Suffragettes, it was a branding code that also meant Give Women Votes. Naomi loved the event, and plans to write about these events on the Engage London blog.
  • The first year City university journalism students – Matt, Meagan and Diana – finished off their end of year exams including a language paper.

Workshop 3 on blogging and interviewing was attended by (From left, clockwise around the table) Favour, Nicola, Charlie, Jahbery, Savvas, Naomi and Rahim. ((c) Engage London

Blog workshop 3
We ran a third blog masterclass on June 12. This time it was a twilight session from 5.30-7pm so the young people with jobs, or on courses, found it easier to reach. Big thanks to them for getting across London on time.  This session saw Favour, Charlie and Naomi – who are all going to Brussels for the Engage Europe meet up – develop their Q&A interviewing (soon to be blog posts). We also discussed the upcoming workshops in Brussels and what we already know about Belgium. It’s count down time…

Brussels summer school preparation: Standing: Savas Panas, CEO Pilion Trust, Nicola Baird, journalist. Sitting: Rahim Amin, Favour Ekengwu, Naomi Gahie. (c) Engage London

Workshop 4
We discussed a code of conduct which the young people wrote up. Basically going to the summer school in Brussels needs to be treated as professional work time, and not a holiday. In addition to the workshops we’re all looking forward to frites and mayonnaise, seeing the Grand Place and the famous Manikin Pis, spotting the Art Nouveau buildings and looking for street art and graffiti.

  • City journalism student Meagan Walker wrote a guest post on Islington Faces (a website similar to Humans of New York but restricted to Islington, London) with an interview she’d written about Antonagis Andreou who grew up in Islington in the 1950s/60s. Read it here 
  • STOP PRESS: Rahim Amin will also be going to the Brussels summer school.

MILESTONE: The Engage London blog had 2000+ views by 20 June. Thank you readers.

For Brussels summer school see posts HERE

Meet the Engage London team: Rahim & Rihana

Rahim Amin and Rihana Senay both know Islington well as they have made the Pilion Trust’s Crashpad their temporary home when they needed somewhere to live. Here they introduce themselves to the #HearMeSpeak project by talking about their teenage years and current ambitions. Interviews by Diana Serenli and Matt Hardy

Rahim Amin from Engage London. (c) Engage London/DS

>RAHIM AMIN, 18 interview by Diana Serenli

Q: Where are you from?
I am from Sudan.

Q: Why did you come to London?
I am a refugee, from the war in Sudan.

Q: Tell me more about that. How did you get to London?
 My uncle organised my trip here. From Libya, I took a boat to Italy, where I stayed for a while. After I had to take a train to the airport where I then took a plane to Heathrow.

Q: How long was the whole process?
Two months.

Q: Where do you live?
Right now, I live with my friend. I used to live at the homeless shelter Crashpad during the winter. During warm weather I would sleep in the park for five maybe four nights but then I always go back to a shelter.  Crashpad, were the ones who helped me find a place with my friend.

  • Stop press! Rahim has just been given a place of his own to live.

Q: How long have you been a refugee in London?
Two years.

Q: What is your dream?
My dream is to get a place and to bring my family here. Also, I want to study mechanics.

Q: Do you make any contact with your family?
Yes, I have a mobile phone that I brought myself.

Q: Do you study now?
Yes. Right now, I am studying English in College.

  • Stop press 2! Rahim is due to join us at the summer school in Brussels.

Q: Have you got a job?
No not yet, but Job Centre is helping me find a job.

Q: How do you get money?
When I arrived, I was given a bank account, and it helps me a lot to buy food.

Q: Do you like London?
Yes. It’s safer than Sudan. People in London are nice, and it is a country full of experiences.

Q: Where in London do you like the best?
Camden and King’s Cross.

>>RIHANA SENAY, 21 interview by Matt Hardy
Q: So, growing up, what was it like?
I grew up in Kirkos in Ethiopia, it’s the most central area of the country. The crime was high and it was mostly a bad place for kids to grow up. Apparently, there were lots of prostitutes but I didn’t see much of that.

Q: What was Kirkos to you?
It was beautiful to me, lots of mixed lifestyles and everyone grew up together. We were all family; the social life was the best – everyone was your parents. I love it and I wouldn’t change a thing about it.

Q: How did you end up in Islington and what’s it like?
I was in Ethiopia until I was 12, my mum was in the USA and my dad was already in London. I lived with my grandmother and I moved with my sister for a better life. London’s culture is the same as Ethiopia’s, there are loads of religions and lifestyles but people see your background more here. What tribe are you from? Which community are you from? People point out differences here.

Q: So, what is Crashpad and how did you get there?
Crashpad is like my second home, I’ve been in and out for three years. I was homeless before going to New Horizon and then Crashpad. I then went to a hostel which was eventually shut down – it was violent and it closed because a lack of funding – and I was homeless again. I then spent a year in Crashpad before going to a hostel. It was £285 per week and I was homeless again because I couldn’t afford it. I went to Crashpad for a third time and now I’m in shared accommodation. Crashpad is home, at Crashpad the past is the past and everyone comes together with respect.

Q: What next?
I would like to go back to Ethiopia, but not without the money. I would want to make a difference once I graduate from University. I’m planning to build a shelter or day centre. Its Pillion trust and Crashpad – Ethiopia style!

Q: Would you relive your life experience again?
Yes! It’s been the greatest experience, it’s taught me a lot and it’s taught me that blood isn’t everything. I’ve learnt who to rely on and who to trust. But I would choose to do it all again in a heartbeat.

  • Interviewer Matt Hardy’s twitter is @thepoliticosu
  • Follow his personal twitter on @matthardyjourno

 

Meet the Brussels team: City students

Three First Year students studying at journalism at City have joined the Engage London team and look set to travel to Brussels for the workshops in June. Here’s some info about the City students. Questions by Pilion’s Rhiana Senay with edits by Nicola Baird

Matt, Diana and Meagan from City will be attending the Engage Europe workshops in Brussels. (c) Engage London/BR

MATT HARDY, 18
“Our course leader at City, Barbara Schofield, asked if we could help out in the project with the Pilion Trust. It’s been great, we made a TV question time and a podcast together. There are about 100 in the first year so maybe most people don’t check their university emails! Barbara invited me as I’d orignally gone to interview MEPs at the European Parliament in Brussels for our podcast.  We set a date, but found that the only people willing to talk to us were UKIP people, like the MEP from Thurrock, Essex so we got strong views. They were and very anti Europe. We were a little bit shocked. We asked strangers. Our political podcast, we call it the @politicosuk aims to give people a kick up the bum because young people don’t vote too much.”

  • Matt Hardy’s twitter blog is @thepoliticosu
  • Follow his personal twitter on @matthardyjourno

DIANA SERENLI, 18
“I’m Ukrainian from the Russian side of Ukraine, there’s always been a split in Ukraine – and Kiev used to be the capital city of Russia. My mum is from Russian side which we usually visit every year – although I haven’t been there for two years. I’ve got family in Russia where the 2018 world cup is happening but my dad can’t go because he’s got a new job.

I’m quite sporty – I support Chelsea. I used to play football but when I was three years old I started doing artistic gymnastics on the bars, beam, vault, floor. I was going to be Olympic level but I decided to stop when I was 9. Olga Korbut [the first gymnast to get all 10s] was my inspiration. I thought my coach was her because she looked like her. I’m not sure what journalism I want to go into. I love travel journalism and want to travel the world. At City they’re teaching you everything. Next year we are doing sports journalism and I love photography too.

My dream is to live in another country. I’m the first person in my family to be born in England (I was born in Greenwich hospital, then we moved to Lewisham) and also schooled here, but my dream is to live in another country.

MEAGAN WALKER, 19
I’m from Worcester in the Midlands studying journalism at City. She wanted to be a marine biologist but was scared of sharks. Working for Worcestershire FA over the summer.

May: behind the scenes

We’ve run three workshops for Engage London at City during May, and four of the team went to Romania. It seems that getting media savvy has inspired some of our @hearmespeak group to use cameras and commentary in new ways. And we’ve learnt some things too…

The slide Brandon was due to present in Romania – until stopped from leaving the country by a visa glitch. Well done to Engage London’s two other team members going to Cluj-Napoca, Surelle Stevens and Pandora Khody, for professionally stepping into their missing team member’s shoes. (c) Engage London

>>1 Doing something for mental health awareness
Brandon Richards was unlucky to miss the Romania trip owing to a visa glitch. We’re all proud at the way he saw this as a hiccup not a setback and we hope he’ll be able to be part of the team at the Brussels workshop in June. This is a shout out he’s done for design services, P R OTO N E Phenomenon, and mental health awareness. Follow on his insta  @the_phencrew You can also read an interview with Brandon here.

Brandon’s just made a crowdfunding page, here’s why: “My problem is equipment. I need a computer, and a camera. My equipment would cost £500 and I’d be able to do things on it. I want to make videos. That video below is from an app. It’s just 40 seconds but it took four hours to make.”

Action: many homeless young people struggle to have the right documentation. For the purposes of Engage London we have now tried to get all the Pilion Trust team to apply for passports. For media trainers this was an unexpected discovery about what needed to be done.

>>2 Film a place we volunteer

Misgana Asefa, is a keen footballer, part of the Pilion Trust and Engage London, who is working hard to improve his English. He enjoyed working on the TV Question Time at City for #HearMeSpeak, showing real skill on the sound equipment. Misgana volunteers at a unique cafe and urban growing centre, the Skip Garden, every Friday. The Skip Garden is in King’s Cross, not far from the station where you catch the Eurostar.

King’s Cross is much more than a station. It’s also a place to hang out and has amazing restaurants and cafes. Even so the Skip Garden is really special. Not only does it serve up fantastic food from local ingredients, the Skip Garden is a moveable growing centre. Skips (normally used for builder’s rubble and rubbish) are filled with soil and planted with herbs, vegetables and even espalier fruit trees. The skips are located on a site that’s not being built on at the rapidly changing King’s Cross. When building gets the green light the whole garden – skips and buildings – are picked up (or dismantled) and moved to a new spot. All this Misgana conveys as he shows us round the Skip Garden, while being filmed by Rahim Amin, who is also a Pilion Trust and #hearmespeak team member.

Action: to build on this we hope that the City students  will work in pairs with some of the Pilion Trust to help develop their projects – once the summer exams are over. One of the problems the Pilion Trust members have found is that they want to keep working on media projects but sometimes find it hard to access the right equipment. That’s the reason Misghana’s film can’t be downloaded – and it’s why Brandon is having to crowdfund.

Engage London’s team in Romania – Barbara Schofield from City journalism, then from the Pilion Trust, Surelle Stevens, Savas Panas and Pandora Khody. (c) Engage London

>>3 Workshop in Romania
Savvas Panas, CEO of the Pilion Trust, Barbara Schofield who heads City’s journalism department plus Pandora Khody and Surelle Stevens went to Romania. City journalism students couldn’t attend this time because they all had exams. The team carefully prepared a presentation to showcase all the good things Engage London has been doing.

Engage London also joined digital reporting workshops, run by trainers Loredana Bertișan, a journalist at Biziday, and Cătălin Nunu, introduced participants to digital media in all of its forms, including social media channels, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube. Surelle had a go at sports reporting. Pandora did outside broadcasting for TV.

Action: we’re getting ready for the Brussels workshop in June, and preparing for our London event in October.

>>4 Enjoying the new Engage EuropeFacebook page
Find it at https://www.facebook.com/EngageForEurope/?modal=admin_todo_tour

All Engage Europe are invited to meet the whole Engage London team and join our #HearMeSpeak events in London at City university and the Pilion Centre’s base in Islington from Thursday, 11 October – Saturday 13 October.

 

 

Meet the Brussels team: Meagan Walker

Meagan Walker, 19-year-old journalism student from Worcestershire reflects on her move from the Midlands to study journalism at City. Interview by Romeo Nanub

Front: Meagan Walker, from City uni, with her interviewer, Romeo Nanub at Ringcross Community Centre during a recent Engage London blogging masterclass. (c) Engage London

Where are you from?
I’m from the Midlands, the middle of nowhere. It’s quiet, boring, old. There’s freedom and safety though.

What did you do in the countryside?
Horse riding, walks and bike rides down old railway tracks. I moved away from Worcestershire for the first time to go to uni to study journalism. I feel more at home in London because it’s more inclusive of people and diverse. It’s also the perfect place for my course.

What are your plans after graduating?
Now I work to live in London. But I want to feel more balanced because the living cost in London is too high, so after university I’m hoping to move to Australia to work.

Tell us a secret
I used to want to be a marine biologist, but I was scared of sharks. But now I’m a shark lover and advocate of shark conservation.

How did you find out about #hearmespeak?
A friend spoke about #hearmespeak at university. It made me realise I was privileged and wanted to share my skills and experience with others. I have a responsibility to give back because I’m lucky to be in this position.

  • Meagan Walker is one of the eight students Engage London hopes will go to Brussels for the Engage Europe workshops during June 2018.
  • Read Meagan’s blog at https://meaganhonour.wordpress.com/
  • This is Romeo Nanub’s first interview for Engage London – he was introduced to the project via the Pilion Trust and has been joining the blogging masterclasses. Sadly he’s not available for the Brussels trip. We all loved this interview so much that Romeo was then invited to write a feature/review for the Pavement – a bimonthly magazine for homeless Londoners.

On the Romania team: Surelle Stevens

Engage London’s Surelle Stevens always has the longest eyelashes, stylish wigs and the best soundbites. Here’s her story. Interview by Nicola Baird

Surelle Stevens talks to camera (c) Engage LONDON

Q: What’s your connection with Islington?
I was born in Pretoria, South Africa. Then I moved to the UK – Waltham Forest – when I was 11 years old (Year 7). At 16 I went to City and Islington College, at Angel and did Media, English literature and Drama. That’s how I got introduced to Islington and fell in love with Angel. It’s one of my favourite places. It’s where it’s happening.

I used to be homeless and stay at Pilion Trust in 2014. Then when I was working I’d go back and help once a week, just drop in. I’d go and speak to people, see how they’re doing. Like an emotional sister. I’m an outreach worker! One day Savaas told us about this idea Hear Me Speak and said if I was interested come and do it. We fell in love with the project. It’s on a bigger scale.

Q: How did you become homeless?
I went to Central School of Speech and Drama in Swiss Cottage, studying performing arts and acting for screen. I was this 18-year-old with aspirations to become a super star. Then I met somebody who changed my life dramatically. It was like a movie. My mum was working nights all the time – we had nothing.

He was 28. He said move into his house in Hampstead. We lived really well. I had things I never thought I’d have. First year it was magic.

Eventually it turned into an abuse situation. I was a battered woman. I stayed because I wanted to finish university and I was ashamed to tell my mum – I was afraid to fail. Everyone knew he’d changed my life and given me what I wanted. I felt like I owed him.

It’s a tough story for me: be careful what you wish for. Me and my friends would take the 38 and go to the bars in King’s Cross and Park Lane to bump into a man. But I bumped into a man who doesn’t just change your life, he takes your life. That’s what rich, messy people do, they take drugs and leave you dependent.

One day in December, when it was really cold, he just came home and said I should take my fur coat off and I should leave. He took everything he bought me. Nothing I had on me I owned. I didn’t know what to do. I was like what? He took the key back and I was out. I just got on a bus. I heard someone speak about the Pilion Trust on that bus, the 394. I googled it and I spoke to Savvas (CEO of the Pilion Trust). I was meant to move in. I was so distraught though, I didn’t.

I was thinking how can I go from mega mansion and flying first class? I’d lived with him for three years. I loved him. I was 21 but it was a bad time for me. He just left me with a fur coat and a duffle bag. I’ve still got them.

A week later I called Savvas again.

Q: How did Pilion Trust help you?
At Pilion they do an assessment to see what your needs are. They gave me a key worker. Savvas and Sam are really nurturing. I wasn’t allowed friends when I was with him. I had no money. I really believe the Pilion Trust saved my life. I was broken. There were so many shattered bones in my body you couldn’t even fix just one part.

They helped me get benefits and an address. I was there for one whole season. After that got housed at the YMCA. Then I fell ill and had major surgery. Then I got a house to stay and a job working for Amazon, the biggest company in the world. Just left a month ago.

I’ve been sober, no drugs, for five years. Didn’t go to rehab. I was so dumb. I was 18. It

It was the xmas I woke up. For three years I felt like I was asleep.

I live in Hackney with my mum now. I moved back home in August. I felt like I left my mum because I wanted to make it. I just dreamt about me and my dreams. Now I’m having to learn my mum again.

She’s confident, strong and a survivor. She was born to a white father and a black mother in the 1970s in apartheid South Africa. I was born in Nelson Mandela’s South Africa. Our aspirations are just so different. For many years I don’t think she understood me, and I was so blind to the love at home that I went to look for it outside.

Q: How are you finding Engage London?
This project is allowing me and my peers to showcase on an international scale. We’re taking it to higher grounds and putting Islington on the map! We’re going to Romania. It’s been a learning experience. It’s new for all of us. Get to see different sides to people and see real raw talents.

This project exposes our strengths and lets us work on our weaknesses. It’s great for communication and sharing our thoughts around the world. I would never have spoken about knife crime and how to get around London safely. I was in my own conceited box.

I’ve learned media skills take more than meets the eye. There’s so much editing and planning, and it’s important to have knowledge and facts about the things that you speak on.

  • See Surelle on the TV panel live Question Time show here. She’s also presented on our podcast/radio show and joined all the workshops.

Surelle Stevens (right) with #HearMeSpeak colleague, Marcus, in City’s TV studio. (c) SS for Engage London

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5 places Surelle likes in Islington

  • I used to work near Angel. It’s close to central London and east London where I’m from. The 56 and 38 buses are amazing. And I love to sit at Islington Green in the summer after a long day and reflect.
  • I love Upper Street because it is very vibrant and currant. Appeals to me because I love socialising.
  • I like to sunbathe and party in Finsbury Park when the sun is shining. It’s a good place for a picnic – jollof rice, chicken wings and frozen ice cream made into jello shots with tequila.
  • I get my wigs at Stroud Green Road.
  • I loved the church we slept in one Thursday night, St Mary Magdalen’s church, on Holloway Road. It’s magical – so nice. The 10 commandments were on the wall. Only slept there one time.

========
Surelle is one of the three members of Engage London team who is due to go to Romania to meet  Engage Europe. Safe travels, or as they say in Romania, cālātorii sigure.

I’ve learned media skills take more than meets the eye. There’s so much editing and planning, and it’s important to have knowledge and facts about the things that you speak on.