UNESCO City of Literature Mark International Youth Day

Words: Andrew Tucker
Photos: Rhys Naden
Monday 14 August 2023
reading time: min, words

Saturday 12 August was the UN’s International Youth Day, and to mark the occasion Nottingham UNESCO City of Lit’s Youth Board set up a celebratory weekend under the low wooden beams of Waterstones’ Sillitoe Room. We popped by on Friday to jot down some career advice and chat about our favourite books with the welcome fortification of a free vegan sarnie. (It was a great lunch - this is UNESCO, not Tesco)...

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As International Youth Day kicked off, the Youth themselves started turning up with open notepads, attention fixed upon the excellent Creative Careers speakers. On the panel were: Khaya Job (creator of Femme Fatale Gals magazine), Georgina Wilding, (Nottingham’s first Youth Poet Laureate and founder of Mud Press), and Emily York, (Youth Programme Manager at The Mighty Creatives).

Chaired warmly by City of Lit’s Chief Exec Hannah Trevarthen, the conversation took in the necessity of fighting for creativity in the education system - Khaya recollected eight of her friends starting a petition to be able to study Performing Arts, which ended in success. When discussion turned to confidence within creative industries, Georgina noted that ‘the naysaying and imposter syndrome came from me’ - and the all-female panel also agreed on the need to be able to project one’s own worth, even in spaces that don’t feel immediately welcoming.

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Fortunately, this space was welcoming, as was the Playhouse’s Neville Room, where the follow-up poetry gig, Speak Easy, took place. Speak Easy is another nascent product of City of Lit’s Youth Board, an open mic with a remarkably high standard of verse and a rich abundance of good vibes. With several attendees coaxed into performing their poetry live for the first time, including this trembling reporter, the open-mic was another demonstration of the value of providing venues in which young people can make their imaginations more firm, more concrete. They will always do the rest.

Special commendation goes to Abigail Hutchinson, who began both halves of the open-mic with some of her own brand of evocative poetry - she is a rising rhapsodic star in her own right. Abigail is the board’s chair and co-founder of Speak Easy, but props for the weekend must go to the whole of City of Lit’s Youth Board, a friendly, precocious bunch who are well on the way to their own creative careers. Now, calling an organisation the United Nations seems like a way to set yourself an impossible goal - but for a brief weekend this UN project managed to make Nottingham feel like it could do anything.

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