Jennette Arnold
London assembly member for North East London — fighting your corner at City Hall
Imagine’s East Side Story

Imagine’s East Side Story

It is powerful when a young person tells me their story in their own words. This is why I look forward to attending community events where young people have a voice. Whether I meet them out and about in the constituency or at events at City hall, it is always a privilege to hear what they have to say.

The recent Imagine documentary ‘East Side Story’ gives an insight into the stories of young people such as Laface, Leon, Raheem, and Zizi and the difficulties they face as they strive to make their lives better. These are fantastic young people coping with very difficult circumstances and still working to take advantage of all the possibilities that life offers them.

The documentary tells the ‘East Side Story’, a project set up as part of the Waltham Forest’s ‘Borough of Culture’ programme. The project brought together young people from estates in Walthamstow and Chingford with coaches from RAW academy and Catalysts in Community to brainstorm, write and create an original production.

Young people first attended workshops on their own estates then all attended a residential weekend away, with powerful and uplifting results. Waltham Forest staged ‘East Side Story’ last April at Chingford Assembly Hall. Through this work young people confronted the discrimination that they face, channelling their experiences into the final production.

Throughout the process the coaches challenged young people to face their own prejudices and to see the world differently. This different outlook supported the work, helping them to use their collective experiences to put together the final performance. It also helped them to realise their own potential and to have confidence in what they can achieve.

I want to thank the young people involved for their bravery in sharing their lives and their work. Stories like theirs remind me of why I entered politics, because I wanted to use my platform to make a better, more equal society. I hope that young people like those on ‘East Side Story’ will use their power and their stories to continue making a positive difference to our communities.

Imagine: ‘East Side Story’ is available on iPlayer until 30th October 2019

Photo credit with thanks to Catalysts in Community.