Member Spotlight: Art Against Knives, Barnet

In our second Member Spotlight we speak to Hannah Bowman, programme manager at Art Against Knives.  We’re highlighting this during national Youth Work Week, which provides an opportunity for youth organisations, youth workers and young people to celebrate their achievements and the impact of their work. Hannah’s journey into youth work and the innovative programmes her organisation runs are a perfect example of this and tell the story of this year’s theme which is ‘Youth Services: youth work for today and tomorrow’.

Q: What sort of programmes are you running currently?

A: We have two main programmes – which are projects that our work and activities come under – one of which is our ‘In Our Hands’ programme, working with females through our community nail bars and our nail training programme. We work with young women age 12- 25 in our functioning nail bars which are embedded in communities and estates in north London. We do long-term consistent work around personal safety, heathy relationships and domestic abuse, education, employment and training and mental health and wellbeing.

Our second programme of work is called Creative Collaborations, this includes our music studio, The Lab, in North Finchley, and our ‘Studio N2’ programme, which is about community outreach and embedded support, consulting with young people on future work as well as providing targeted support for high risk young people. The idea of Creative Collaborations is that we partner with creative individuals and creative industries to deliver work with young people.

Q. How many young people do you work with?

A. We work with about 400 young people a year.

Q. How do you get them involved?

A. Our projects are very much embedded in the community, so they’re a space that young people use. The programmes are also developed by young people in the community, run by local role models as well as professionals. The young people actually do most of our outreach.

Q. How did you get involved in youth work?

A. I started as a volunteer about three and a half years ago, became full time soon after and now I’m Programmes Manager for Creative Collaborations.

Q. How does London inspire you?

A. I’m from London – I was born and grew up in Lewisham – and I think just the diversity of the city and what it has to offer, as well as the challenges, is what makes it such an interesting place to work.

Q. What is the best thing about doing what you do?

A. The diversity of what I get to do, in terms of being a part of a small to medium size organisation that’s growing, and the range – I get to work with young people and see real change, but I also work with creatives and partner organisations from a range of sectors, both public and private.

Q. What do you enjoy least about what you do?

A. This is my obvious challenge: the limits on what we can do in terms of resources is really challenging. To operate with the growing needs of the young people we work with, and the ones we don’t have the resources to work with, is huge. That’s a consistent frustration…challenge, not frustration. Even trying to support those we do already with limited resources is challenging. Partnerships are key to how we work, not only with the creative industries but also services that are running locally that we can really join up with.

Q. What’s been the most exciting thing you’ve worked on this year?

A. There’s been so much. We celebrated the fifth anniversary of our first nail bar last month, which was really exciting to look back on the past five years. We did a big celebration event where we had all the girls come and do nails, we had partners come from across London, and we also had Sophie Linden, the Deputy Mayor for Police and Crime as a guest speaker, so that was quite exciting. It was key to looking at how we could expand and sustain our work, and looking at other potential areas to deliver work in.

Q. What’s the next project you’re working on?

A. We’re going to expand on the music studio and building on our existing programmes, and embedding our Mental Health offer across programmes working with charity MAC-UK. We’re doing a lot of consultation work with the young people we work with around shaping our plans for next year and our strategy. We’re finding out what they want to see – it’s a definite watch this space! .

Q. What’s the best piece of advice you’d give young Londoners today?

A. That’s a hard one. I guess I would tell them to get involved and shape things they’re not happy about, rather than feeling that there are things that can’t be overcome. To try and feel empowered and take hold of that enthusiasm rather than letting it be a barrier.

Q. Do you have any other comments?

A. If you’d like to know more about our work please get in touch with us at hello@artagainstknives.com

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