This weekend, the ICA welcomes Learning Associates SE1 United to present their autobiographical soundscape Music To Live By. Carey Robinson, Associate Curator of the ICA's Education Programme, explains the aims and importance of the Learning Associates programme, and caught up with SE1 United youth past and present to discuss the opportunities provided by their collaboration with the ICA.
SE1 United is a peer-led youth project with an award-winning leadership programme set up in 2003 by nine young people from Lambeth and Southwark. Champions of social change, education and employment, the organisation aims to educate, broaden minds, and remove stereotypes and limitations. They are the perfect candidates to join the ICA's Learning Associates, a programme that forms part of Young ICA. Young ICA represents a real step forward for ICA’s Learning Programme: we’re working with younger voices than those we’ve ever worked with, generating new opportunities, new partnerships, and new possibilities for creative exchange. This is not about what the ICA can bring to young people, it’s about what young people bring to London’s cultural and political scenes.
Shounde Adejuyigbe has been a member of SE1 United for several years now and has an ongoing interest in the creative industries, citing both fashion and music as key inspirations for him. As one of the main contributors to Music To Live By, he told us how he felt about SE1's partnership with the ICA.
Carey Robinson: What did the project mean to you?
Shounde Adejuyigbe: I thought it was an excellent opportunity to work with the ICA as it's not often we work in partnership with world-famous institutions. It was nice taking a break from the education and informal education aspects for a bit and get in touch with our creative side.
This is not Shounde's first collaboration with the ICA: earlier this year he leapt at the opportunity to meet and interview Lev Tanju, founder of Palace Skateboards, during the ICA's recent exhibition Alasdair McLellan & Lev Tanju: The Palace, which documents the early days of the skate scene when Lev and his friends lived together in a crumbling flatshare in Waterloo, which they ironically named ‘The Palace’.
The Palace turns out to be just round the corner from where Shounde grew up and still lives in Waterloo.
"For me meeting the founder of Palace was amazing! And the fact that Lev lived in Waterloo makes it all the more believable that you could achieve your dreams."
For this soundscape, Music To Live By, everyone involved shared the view that young people’s contributions to society can be overlooked, or they’re made to feel that their choices and opinions are not a valid part of contemporary culture. We wanted to address this cliché in a way that reached out to the widest spectrum of audiences, and felt an audio project was the best way to do this. The soundscape was recorded at the community recording studios Organick Studios in Elephant and Castle, who have offered extensive support to become an integral part of the collaboration between SE1 United and the ICA. Founder and director Nick 'Organick' Allen says of the studios' participation in the project:
"Music is a universal language. People, whatever their background, can find a voice, and be positively inspired to grow and create through music when sometimes that voice would not be heard or shared otherwise. We’re proud to be involved in such important youth work, and we too are learning from the process."
Timbo STP is an Afrobeat artist and past youth member of SE1 United who now mentors as part of the programme. We asked him how SE1 United and its collaboration with the ICA helped him in his life and career goals.
Carey Robinson: How did you first get involved with SE1 United?
Timbo STP: In 2007 me and a few of my mates lost one of our dearest friends to knife crime. This caused me to become isolated and feel as though my life was now in danger. As a result, I took it as a sign for a time for change and joined up with a few boys from the local area who introduced me to a youth organisation that they were attending, SE1 United, and told me I should pass by. It took a while before I decided to actually attend as I was so adamant that I had everything I needed on the streets. Through major encouragement from those around me I decided to attend my first ever youth meeting, and have never looked back since.
For a long time, I have been trying to incorporate the use of music and performing arts into youth work... the project between SE1 United and the ICA does this.
What do you feel you got from your association with SE1 United?
There were a lot of things that I wanted to accomplish in my life which SE1 has helped me to do. For example, I loved the idea of travelling but never had the opportunity to see the world. SE1 United has helped me to do this and I have been to places such as Poland, Egypt, Morocco and Cuba. SE1 also opened doors for me educationally and enabled me to go from being a teenager who left secondary school with no GCSEs to a university BA honours graduate with a degree in applied social science and community development.
What made you want to be part of this project between SE1 United and the ICA?
For a long time, I have been trying to incorporate the use of music and performing arts into youth work. I have never had the opportunity to do this before and I feel the project between SE1 United and the ICA does this. The ICA is such a well-established and well-known organisation and I have always wanted SE1 to have the opportunity to be involved with it, but never had the chance up until now.
Have you got any tips for young people hoping to make music?
Believe in change and never give up. Always be yourself and always remember that everything is possible. In three years of my music career I have achieved so much, things I didn’t think were possible. From staying focused, believing in myself and surrounding myself with positivity I have accomplished so much, and I know so much more is to come. ■
Timbo STP and Shounde will both be part of the panel discussion on black music and creative young London at ICA Learning Associates SE1 United Present: Music To Live By on 24 September at the ICA.