By Tasnim Siddiqa Amin, Community Project Coordinator at the London Legacy Development Corporation
East Summer School was back for in-person delivery this year and amazingly despite Covid measures which capped our max capacities it was our biggest programme to date! In total 350 young people took part in a mind blowing 400 hours of course content over 10 days. Each year Summer School is growing and beginning to match the ambition of the place we are bringing our young East Londoners to connect, learn, inspire, and imagine and as the slogan Here Us have plastered over some hoarding “Here for whatever 2021 throws at us”.
Without our partners East Summer School would not be possible. The 35 courses were delivered in collaboration with 25 partners all currently or soon to be based in and around Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Our partners design, shape and deliver the programme and together we are bigger than our parts. With our partners we are able to provide variety, our networks are far reaching, the quality is top-notch and the impact is massive. Our East Bank partner BBC Music for instance was able to hook us up with BBC Introducing producer and presenter Jess Iszatt to come along and be our co-host for the final celebration event, Smart Mobility Living Lab were able to show off their innovative work with Self-Driving Cars at Plexal, the coolest co-working space I’ve ever been in, Badu Sports provided us with their local young talent as facilitators for the successful (back due to popular demand) course What You Saying, LMA provided us with state-of-the-art facilities and their teaching professionals and so on and so forth.
"To see so many young locals, from all walks of life enjoying such a broad spectrum of experiences across all of the different programmes was incredible. I’ve had close ties with this part of London for my whole life, so it was really inspiring to see the local community directly benefitting from the resources and opportunities that have poured into the area over the past decade". – Torri Stewart from Misfit delivered Fusion Futures, funded by Foundation for Future London.
East Summer School takes representation and consultation seriously which is why every year we set up a Youth Steering Group (YSG) specifically for the Summer School. This year we recruited and formed the group in March and met with them for 2-hour workshops every fortnight to consult with them topics such as course content, marketing, and lunches. Our YSG also were on the ground the whole time whether they were starring in our promotional video, flyering in local neighbourhoods, attending judging panels, or hosting the final event.
Over two weeks Summer School set up base at the innovation and technology campus Here East. The ten venues which hosted our courses also included canal-side public destination Hackney Bridge, the brand-new construction skills and training centre Build East, “London’s Hippest Postcode” East Village and of course, the Park itself. Come rain or shine (and typically, the British summer delivered both) passers-by saw summer school participants drawing, recording sounds of nature, on construction site tours, conducting interviews, mapping colours, planting seeds, and writing poetry inspired by their surroundings.
“We went outside and took pictures of nature, we drew them and we made collages with our teams. We focused ours on natural disaster, we wanted to do something that not everyone would do, coz when you usually think about nature you think forest. [The final output was] a messy collage which worked all together, main colours were dark black, grey. Most of the materials were magazine, coloured papers. The emotions that go through people when in a natural disaster, fear, worry need to protect someone or something.” Aleema Koiki-Bangura, 14 years old from Waltham Forest took part in the 2-day course Colour Stories delivered by London College of Fashion.
As much as we broke new ground last year the return to in-person engagement made us appreciate how important it is that young people not only witness but, as Torri said, directly benefit from the recent investment in East London. The real palpable difference between virtual and in-person engagement for me is the radical impact of inhabiting space. By having young people board the branded Here East shuttle buses and come into modern, creative, and high-tech spaces we are saying you belong here, you are part of this community, you are part of this regeneration narrative. I remember when I was 15 I took part in a similar free Summer School with the Brady Arts Centre in Whitechapel. We were invited to showcase our final work at Burberry HQ in Westminster where professional photographers shot the garments that we made and it was one of those moments that told me I could dream bigger than my parents because if I could somehow be here now, maybe I could have a permanent pass to places like this when I grew up.
Summer School participant Elizabeth Lawal, 15 years old from Dagenham, did Styling It Out with London College of Fashion and similarly she said working with a professional model “was really benefitting especially if you want to be a future designer it really helped…she knew what she was doing, she was doing all the poses, it was really professional and I was really grateful to have her there”. Likewise, the week before Elizabeth got to work with musical theatre professionals who “brought us the dances they did in the shows. Professionals have more experience [than teachers] and if professionals teach us maybe we have a higher chance with getting somewhere… they told us how to get into the industry.”
Though East Summer School 2021 is now officially over the hard work continues as we reflect on lessons learnt and how we can deliver better content and engagement for next year and continue to reach out to the young people who will benefit the most. We are pulling together an evaluation report now and will debrief with partners in the next few weeks. I am most excited in how this model can be implemented in future years all year round and we’ve seen a glimpse of that with our first ever Autumn School with UCL Institute of Making in 2020, and early this year with the first East Careers Week. With our partners we can guarantee there’s always some exciting programme being cooked up so keep your eyes peeled.
The fourth East Summer School took place 26 July – 6 August 2021 at various locations in and around the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. The free programme consisted of various workshops and courses which were attended by 12-17-year olds from local boroughs Newham, Hackney, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest.
East Summer School is supported by our world-leading East Bank partners BBC, UAL’s London College of Fashion, University College London, V&A, Sadler’s Wells, all soon to be based here in East London. The programme is also supported by Here East, Foundation for Future London, City of London, Culture Mile Learning, Mace, LMA, Staffordshire University, Bloom, and is being managed by London Legacy Development Corporation.
For more information about East Summer School and other programmes we have delivered head to our website: www.queenelizabetholympicpark.co.uk/summerschool