Norwich is a city in eastern England with an important artistic and cultural heritage that has turned it into a UNESCO City of Literature. The Norwich and Norfolk Festival is celebrated here every year. As one of the most important cultural festivals in England, the National Centre for Writing (one of our partners in the Engage project) has chosen to hold the one day Handover Festival as part of this main festival, organising activities on literature and activism."What is interesting about this event? That it is organized by young people between 16-18-years old: the Engage Young Producers!
We arrive in Norwich to meet Engage’s partners. The meeting is at the headquarters of the National Centre for Writing, located at the Dragon Hall, an old wool warehouse from the twentieth century, completely restored and added to with the addition of some annexes and a house where resident writers stay. During the morning we review our Engage development with our partners in the United Kingdom, Sweden and Poland, and talk about the future of the project.
In the evening we meet the organizers of the Handover Festival over pizza: a group of 16 young Norfolk enthusiasts who have worked for months to make this event possible. They have been in charge of choosing the theme of the festival and who will be the participants. They have also organized logistics, have learned to draw up a budget, to design and advertise a brand, etc. During the creation process, the group of young people have also been able to participate in an exchange with students from Krakow. On this trip they have been accompanied by Hannah Garrard and Victoria Maitland from the WCN, who have organized all the training in marketing and production, among other activities. All in all, we expect to find them nervous about the imminent premiere of the festival, but instead we meet a group of open, intelligent and determined boys and girls who are keen to put everything that they have been planning on stage.
Saturday is the big day. A workshop for pro-activism crafts aimed at young people aged 11 to 14 opens the Festival. In another room, the session "Where do you stand?" is held with an innovative format where three activists set out their opinions, the audience places themselves in the space according to the degree of agreement or disagreement with the ideas expressed and a debate begins: "Activism must be peaceful?", "Does Western feminism include all women?", "To what extent can we live with the offense?"
The third session is a conversation between Amelia, a 16-year-old student, and journalist John Dennehy about his book "Illegal" explaining his personal experience as an immigrant in Ecuador and his deportation to the United States. Amelia has prepared the interview with conscience and leads it admirably.
In the afternoon, three young writers, Holly Bourne, Mariam Khan and Yann W. Tanoé express their views about the construction of identity, feminism and mental health. During the debate, boys and girls cast their questions: " When was your opinion formed?", " How do you face the fact that your ideas are not liked by everyone?, "How do you protect yourself from attacks? "
And the final act comes with the performance of poet Jenny Lindsay and her show "Script" where she explores issues such as gender policies, the #MeToo movement, feminism, and cultural wars. In the end, the public applauds and the only things that remains is to hear the words of gratitude from youngsters that are uplifted and happy to have lived this experience.
We say goodbye to them with the feeling that this initiative and the festival has allowed them to find the tools to express themselves, listen to themselves, come together and be aware of their strengths. We come back home with renewed energy and run-down phones, with the batteries ready to die because we have not stopped broadcasting this incredible experience. But of course, we did not count on the fact that in England, as well as the pound coin, the umbrellas, and to look right when you cross the street, you also need a power adapter.