Our garden has been feeling particularly special this spring and summer period. After what felt like a very, very long winter, not only is it now beautifully bursting with blooming wildflowers and our new colony of honeybees - it’s also been a constant hive of activity from our young people who have been making waves in the community.
Be they primary school-age children or young adults, their ideas and energy for bringing local people together and creating change is without a doubt the most inspiring thing about my role at Global Generation. Seeing them work together to host events and invite people into shared spaces to raise awareness about important issues such as positive mental health awareness, equality and wildlife conservation has uplifted everyone who has worked with them.
But engaging people of any age in the task of facing the urgent challenges of our time is delicate work. It requires honesty and openness about how it affects us all emotionally and what we can do to catalyse change motivated by our sense of compassion for the world and its inhabitants (as a staff team, we’ve been feeling particularly inspired by Joanna Macy’s Work That Reconnects and concept of ‘active hope’). Allyna, 15, recently reflected, “I am feeling quite heartbroken that humans are so careless and selfish - that we are so unaware of the effect of our actions. However, I do have some hope because many different people are coming together and realising our mistakes and trying to make a change. What I can take away from this is to begin to take action, since it does not matter how old or young you are, your voice can be heard."
It seems more important than ever that we are able to face these issues head-on - and we are constantly working with our young people to appropriately introduce social and environmental action to them and their peers. So it’s safe to say we were all very excited when award-winning art environment organisation Invisible Dust approached us earlier in the year about their Under Her Eye festival of climate change talks, public art installations and workshops across King’s Cross (1-2 June).
Invisible Dust invited people to consider and experience climate change through the lens of AIR, LAND and SEA. They commissioned artist Gayle Chong Kwan to focus on the LAND theme, and her 'Microclimate Sensory Family Workshops' on Saturday, 2 June invited visitors of the British Library's piazza to take part in a series of plant-based workshops, performances and immersive rituals exploring our relationship with food and our environment. Alongside co-hosting Under Her Eye’s ‘Microclimate Sensory Banquet’ with Gayle in the evening - as Gwen has written about here - we loved having the opportunity to work with Gayle and the Invisible Dust team to involve our young people in this very important programme.
And so, supported by our friends at Regent’s Place, we were able to engage local children and young people in half-term workshops in the Skip Garden and the wider community, aimed at widening perspectives and engaging young people in thinking about global and local environmental issues. The workshops we delivered helped them to understand climate science and wider environmental issues. Sessions included provocation and discussions through art, growing food, 3D making using recycled materials, and preparing for and delivering public engagement activities for the 2nd of June.
At the very beginning of the half-term break, artist Louis Masai gave us a personal tour of his ‘Missing’ exhibition at The Crypt Gallery in St Pancras Church in Euston - on the topic of human beings’ missing connection with nature and the resulting endangerment of animal and plant species. "I really enjoy coming here today because I've learnt a lot about the planet and how to protect it, not just for now, but for the future," wrote Tasnim, 14.
We followed this session with creative workshops with artist Gayle Chong Kwan, who shared the ways she uses materials to stimulate ideas and conversations about our relationship with the environment, and gardening sessions with the Skip Garden team.
All of this then fed into the young people’s experience of hosting multi-sensory family workshops at the British Library alongside Gayle, as part of the ‘Under Her Eye’ festival. Members of the public joined them to consider their relationship with recycled materials and plants, bringing a bit of the spirit (and plants!) of the Skip Garden out on to the piazza on Euston Road.
Artist Louis wrote: “I am humbled by a powerful statement by an inspiring 15-year-old local youth leader at Global Generation (…) Feeling blessed to see so many young people engaging with these issues and my art.” We look forward to more youth-led social and environmental action coming out of our gardens over the summer.