For over five years Hussain Manawer and Yamin Choudury have been producing large-scale, high profile opportunities and events; designed to create safe spaces, support systems and an infrastructure to share ideas, stories and information, with and for young people from across the UK. Utilising their shared networks and platforms to highlight endemic issues that affect some of the UK’s most vulnerable and deprived communities, particularly where young people are too often most affected by lack of advocacy and thereby isolated or deprived from resources that would otherwise enable the development of a more ambitious aspirational index.
In April 2020, following the national lockdown, as a result of the COVID-19 global pandemic, Hussain and Yamin were horrified to learn of the disproportionate effects of the virus and subsequent lockdown specifically experienced by Black, Asian and ethnically diverse communities from across the capital. Black and Southern Asian communities were recorded as being up to three times more impacted by mortality rates due to the virus, and according to research, almost all ethnic minority groups are more likely to live in urban and deprived areas, which had been most affected by COVID-19. Shortly thereafter the murder of George Floyd, once again focused attention on the systemic and institutional racism and broad inequalities experienced by Black communities on an international scale. It was at this point that Compulsory Subjects was born; an opportunity to allow young people that represented the broadest range of London’s communities to come together; to share and learn, from each other and some of the leading figures from across arts, business, science and politics.
Originally designed as a fully online, digital programme, data provided by the Hackney Empire: Creative Futures department, supported evidence of a growing apathy and need for practical delivery and physical safe spaces, particularly for young people from marginalised communities. Due to the limitations stipulated for large group gatherings in August 2020, the decision was made to provide a space for 10 young people to engage live and for livestream recordings of selected workshops to be shared either live or as an archived online resource. Working with Trinity Buoy Wharf the team were able to strategically and logistically plan how to deliver the programme practically, safeguarding at all the times the wellbeing of the participants, delivery team and speakers, while not compromising on production values, quality or excellence. Young people would submit applications for the programme via social media, in a process designed to maximise accessibility and not be unduly academic or gruelling, submitting a 60 second video outlining their background and how they believed they would benefit from their involvement. Within a week of the announcement the team had received over 200 submissions, clearly demonstrating the vital need for the programmes existence.
Compulsory Subjects and programmes like it will be will be fundamental to our recovery as a society over the coming, inevitably challenging years.