Thursday, 22 May 2014

Guest Blog from Rianna the Founder of Shine Aloud

This is a guest blog by Rianna Raymond-Williams who set up Shine ALOUD

I always knew I wanted to be writer, but after countless work experiences and placements in the media industry, I couldn’t find myself just settling for one publication. From beauty to celebrity news, finance to politics, art and album reviews, I had done it all, but I still wasn’t happy. My experience working for the Terrence Higgins Trust as a Sexual Health Assistant highlighted to me that there was a problem amongst young people when it came to sexual health. Not only were the young people I engaged with misinformed about the facts, but simply discussing partners and relationships made them feel uncomfortable, which for me was a huge light bulb moment! I would often find publications on sex and relationships too formal, biological and overall boring. They were not age appropriate or young people friendly which for me, as a young person myself, was very disengaging! I wanted something that was educationally compelling yet fun and interactive.

I started Shine ALOUD magazine on an internship in 2011, I approached the editor of the publication I was interning at with my idea and he was very supportive in helping me to create a flat plan for the magazine. The flat plan helped me to think about what articles would be in Shine ALOUD, who the target audience would be and overall, it lead me to think about what I wanted people to gain from engaging in the publication.

With a £300 O2 Think Big Grant, article and artwork contributions from close friends and journalism student and of course a helping hand in design from a media colleague of mine, Shine ALOUD was created. Initially, I hadn’t thought beyond the first issue, it was simply just a mini project I had started before my second year of university began, but the response and feedback I got from readers after the first issue showed me it was a much needed resource.

I continued to release Shine ALOUD on a quarterly basis through 2011 – 2012 whereby I began to create partnership with various sexual health promotion companies and charities, youth empowerment organisation and youth media enterprise across London. Shine ALOUD quickly became a sexual health publication for young people, by young, with the aim of educating and entertain youth about sex and relationships combined with arts and culture. I received cash injection and business support from Zeon Richards, The Alec Dickinson Trust, Starbucks Youth in Action, Business in the Community and most recently Lloyds Banking Group, as a result of me enrolling on the Start Up Programme with The School for Social Entrepreneurs which I am currently on.

Thankfully Shine ALOUD has attracted an audience of over 28,000 people, all of whom are avid readers and followers of, which for me is a demonstration of its need and want in the community! My plans for the future are to make Shine ALOUD an international social enterprise.

Firstly, by producing a sexual health publication regionally across the country, thereby allowing young people to gain skills in media through creating and producing a quarterly publication, in addition to maintaining a virtual online website. Secondly, I hope to deliver sexual health awareness workshops across youth provisions and in and around the community, thereby allowing young people to gain qualifications in sexual health awareness and youth work, providing them with the opportunity to gain transferable skills for the working work and further develop as professionals.

And lastly to embark on cultural exchanges with young people overseas, providing education to those who most need it across the globe, thereby allowing young people to meet other young people internationally and discuss how and why sexual health agendas differ. Shine ALOUD aims to empower young people to make informed choices regarding sex and relationships.

Shine ALOUD – Sex & Relationships with a different tone! Rianna is now running a crowd funding campaign to raise money to take Shine ALOUD further. To support her on her journey of raising £10,000 follow the link below: Shine ALOUD UK: The Sexual Empowerment of Young People! (

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Mirror, Mirror - why we must be challenged and stretched

Last week I attended a Dove Foundation Poetry Event at Selfridges as part of their 'All types of Beautiful Project'. I went expecting to be read poetry by Hollie McNish - simple - I was going to listen and watch, enjoy, applaud and leave. It was much more powerful than that. I and many other PSHE fanatics talk about the importance of PSHE being both memorable and challenging for young people. Our worry that PSHE is often information heavy and personal development light. The same is true of adults learning. To grow we all need to be stretched and challenged, and to leave an experience intrigued and inquisitive, hungry to stretch ourselves further and find out more.

Mirror Mirror wasn't quite the listen, watch, discuss and applaud workshop I expected (with hindsight I should have read the details more closely). First I was the only man in the room at an event that was exploring beauty. Second apart from enjoying Pam Ayres reading poetry (probably affiliation with her West Country accent) it really hasn't been my thing. Unless of course you count the three poems I wrote for a school poetry anthology aged 7 when I was in Mr Spillers* class (one about a jumble sale with a forlorn teddy, one about a hamburger with juicy rivulets of gravy and one about a dentist and the horror of drilling and amalgam).

After reading some introductory poems from her collection Hollie set to work creating an experience that would challenge participants through both the process and content. First we had to find someone we didn't know as a partner. Let's call mine Zoe. Then we had to take it in turns to be their model for them to draw our face and vice versa. We were tasked with really focusing on some particular details and features. Then we were encouraged to get a 'poetry head on' by describing a woman's lips (a volunteer from the group had to stand in front of us whilst we got more and more descriptive. I felt for her.)

From our drawings we had to choose three things to write a sentence about. All the time there were hushed whispers, low squeals, resistance, anxious looks. All the time we were cajoled, supported and pushed to 'just try' because it would be alright.

Then we had to ask each other 4 ‘banal’ questions about everyday life. I asked how Zoe travelled around London, whether she preferred broccoli or cabbage, how often she tends to go to the cinema and whether she is a thumbs up or naysayer to twitter. She asked me whether I sang in the shower, lived in a flat or house and my favourite music. From this we wrote short poems. We then

1. had to read them to each other
2. read the poem about us while looking in a mirror
3. sit in front of everyone while your partner read the poem about you
4. read out the poems about our partner to the rest of the group.

The workshop was in equal measures tortuous and sensationally good - I haven't been stretched and challenged in quite that same way for a long way. It was tortuous as a result of my confidence - an internal talk about whether what I could draw or write would be good enough - in fact if I am honest an internal talk that said there was no way I would be good enough (and my drawing was spectacularly crap but my poem was alright). That feeling was overwhelming for a lot of the workshop. There was a lot of internal chatter going on. It was only really at the end when both Zoe and I, and I suspect many others were able to say 'that was good'. I shall remember that experience for a very long time.
Hollie's poetry was stunning to listen to. In just the few poems I heard she covered a whole host of issues about beauty, about growing old, about pregnancy and about being a woman - a great resource for working with all young people and young women in particular. Google 'Cupcakes or Scones' and 'Megatron' and you can see them on You Tube. Hollie runs similar workshops in schools and other settings too. I would sincerely recommend her. You can find her on twitter @holliemcnish

The experience taught and reminded me

1. That PSHE and personal development opportunities for young people have to be magnetic and thrilling. Young people are no empty vessels that need filling with information – our challenge is to create experiences that light fires.
2. That teachers and others working with young people must be able to do group process well – people can only stretch themselves when groups work well. Groups only work well with skilled facilitation that holds the ring, makes it safe and confidently enables, cajoles, encourages, rewards and challenges

3. That as professionals we can often get ourselves stuck in traditional learning modes – seeking out events to gain knowledge rather than stretch and challenge ourselves and our teams right the way across our organisations. Senior managers and leaders can helpfully think more creatively about how we develop confident people who know themselves and think for themselves.

4. That personal development must comes in lots of different shapes and sizes - as organisations we can do more together to create opportunities for peers to learn, to share, to play and to grow.

5. That in order to really thrive we must put ourselves to be in uncomfortable situations, to sit with our discomfort and to learn from it.

6. That i quite like poetry after all. My May 2nd resolution: to put myself in more uncomfortable places and see what happens.

*Mr Spiller was my favourite ever teacher. I was 7 and I adored him. It felt like he believed in all of us and he built relationships with all of us. He got excited, angry and disappointed with us and for us and because of that relationship he stretched and challenged all of us. Sticking with the poetry theme he told Kevin that he could be the future Poet Laureate like Sir John Betjaman. He taught us that life should always be an adventure.

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