In August 2015, in the town of Srebrenica, I began my journey into TCFT. A shy, fearful girl, who didn’t know what to expect, but knew that she wanted to work with young people. A creative with a love and knowledge of writing, yet still wanted to develop. A kind-hearted individual, who wanted to spark change, but was unsure of how to go about it.
TCFT enabled me to grow into the person I wanted to be and changed my life in the process. I not only developed as a change-maker, creative and youth leader, but I became more open-minded and was granted the gift of another family that I will cherish forever. Being part of TCFT is a blessing and privilege that I believe that every young person should have the opportunity to experience.
With this in my mind, I knew that I wanted to bring TCFT to my hometown of Croydon. Divided in many ways, I believed that Croydon was crying out for an initiative like TCFT. Taking the time to meet and work creatively alongside individuals you may not have met before, while discovering your truth, breaks down barriers and builds a deep sense of understanding. It is also a lot of fun.
In August 2017, after taking part in three TCFT residencies and launching my own youth platform, Young People Insight, I finally decided to bring TCFT to Croydon. Despite feeling a little out of my depth, I knew that if I didn’t do it then, I was never going to.
After talking it through with Tina, I decided to put on a one-day pilot to see if there was a want for TCFT in Croydon and how the process would work for any future projects there. However, this was not a task that I could complete alone, so I sought the help of my fellow Croydon resident and TCFT participant, Naomi, to co-facilitate.
Although it was only going to take place over the course of one day, putting on the pilot was incredibly stressful and one of the most difficult things I have ever done – it was a learning curve to say the least. Starting planning in about May/June for an event in August was pretty tight, and I definitely felt the squeeze throughout. Constant meetings, emails and phone calls kept me busy a lot of the time, but they were necessary for me to land the right locations, facilitators, volunteers, equipment, and of course, to invite participants.
Sourcing workshop locations wasn’t too hard, as there are a number of suitable spaces around Croydon Town Centre, and those involved were very generous. Turf Projects and Matthews Yard were lovely enough to provide their spaces for free of charge, which was a great help, as this was a project with next to no funding. However, we were fortunate enough to secure a meaningful donation from FAB Croydon, enabling us to buy food and resources for the day.
Yet finding the location for the evening’s final sharing of work was when things began to get increasingly challenging. Naomi and I wanted to ensure that we found a location that suited the feel of TCFT. We discussed a few spaces and there was one that seemed perfect, so I sent an email asking about it, contacted the leaseholders and engaged in a number of back-and-forth conversations regarding the location’s use. I don’t want to go into the whole story, but let’s just say that it ended in a horrible meeting, which resulted in my tears and frustration at all the red tape that comes with putting on a project like this. However, Croydon Council were kind enough to cover the costs of Braithwaite Hall for us, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because it rained during the time of the sharing and the other location was outside.
Sourcing participants also proved difficult, as getting responses from organisations was rare, in spite of how many emails I sent out and phone calls I made – even when organisations did respond, they admitted that it was hard to get young people engaged in any activity. I felt that I was continuously hitting brick walls, no matter what I did. Regular changes were made to the sign up process, in case the long application form was off-putting, and Rory even made an amazing sign up form on the TCFT website, which made the process easier. Signups began to increase with the introduction of the signup form, but unfortunately this did not translate on the day.
This did not stop the event from being beautiful though. On August 20th, the TCFT Croydon Pilot took place after plenty of hard work and planning. I was happy with the facilitators and volunteers, the locations and the schedule. Naomi, Nikki, Cedoux, Humaira, Chimaine, Liberty and Daisy did a wonderful job of facilitating the workshops, for an enjoyable day of photography, art, poetry music and drama. Geraldine was also brilliant, leading out in a discussion during the latter part of the day, enabling newcomers to get an overall taste of TCFT.
It was lovely to have the Mayor of Croydon, Cllr Toni Letts, and her consort, Nick, present with us for part of the day. They seemed to enjoy taking part in the morning warm up and photography workshop during the first half.
Although the number of young participants was small (the volunteers joined in as well, helping to boost workshop numbers), their enthusiastic contribution was amazing. Watching them deeply engaged in their workshops was special, and this shone through in the sharing of work in the evening. I was blown away by the quality of work created in just three hours, particularly the song, which I loved and thought was very TCFT. On another note, it meant a great deal to have a number of individuals from my TCFT family come to support and participate in the day. For me, that was one of my favourite factors of the pilot.
Everyone who participated expressed how much they enjoyed the day and I was asked by a number of individuals when the next one would be. My response was always next year, as I needed time to catch my breath, as I had struggled a great deal while putting TCFT Croydon together, which was also due to a number of personal problems and taking on too much throughout the year. What many people do not know is that I was not able to enjoy the pilot, because I was ready for the day to be over from the moment it began. I was burnt out and found the project difficult to process – that is why I am writing this evaluation/reflection of the day only now, because I finally feel that I’m ready.
Despite the day going well, I know improvements need to be made for the future. Firstly, planning needs to start earlier and I need to have more people working with me, because I do not want to be under that level of stress again. Nevertheless, having a lot of the initial templates in place and having built connections with particular organisations will make arrangements simpler. The experience I have gained will also prepare me for the bureaucracy and frustrations I may face. More importantly, invitations must be sent out earlier to potential participants, as I believe that may have contributed to an increase in the number of participants.
Timing is important for the day to run smoothly and most of the timing ran to perfection, apart from my slightly late arrival, lunch coming late and a delayed start to the final sharing. However, time did catch up and lunch appeared to be a triumph.
I also needed to have allocated volunteers to particular roles during relevant times of the day – this would have been particularly useful during the mad rush in the morning and cleaning up in the afternoon. Unfortunately, I seem to struggle with allocating roles and have the urge to do everything myself. It also would have been useful for someone to have filmed the day, but unfortunately, I was unable to find a videographer in time.
I need to spend more time developing partnerships in Croydon, which will allow TCFT’s presence to spread further. Most of all, I need to embark on training and build skills that will make me into a better facilitator. I need to undertake safeguarding training, gain some youth work training, as well as learn more from Tina and others working within TCFT.
I still have no idea how to describe the pilot, but I know that I want to bring TCFT Croydon back this year. It may be in spring or summer, somehow spread over two days, but I know I definitely want to make it happen. TCFT Croydon needs to be continued and built on to inspire, empower and unify not only young people, but all involved.
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