James Broadley Fosters Creativity and Collaboration Through Mafia Weekend CIC Film Course

James Broadley is a co-founder of Mafia Weekend CIC. While this may sound like some convention for London’s next best criminals, it is quite far from it. Mafia Weekend, also known as, Make a Film in a Weekend, is a 48-hour program based in Owslebury, Winchester that brings community members from different backgrounds together into a collaborative environment to create film. 

The Mafia Weekend team consists of 3 people. Broadley, the artistic director who deals with sales, outreach and the general business management of the company. Co-founder Dan Robb, who is also an in-house filmmaker for the National Health Service, uses his expertise to mentor the participants. Kezia Joseph, a professional actress, teaches acting, creative writing and other aspects of the course. 

When asked about the inspiration for this project, Broadley gave insight into his background in drama.  27-year-old Broadley graduated from the Royal Central School of Film and Drama with a degree in acting with collaborative and devised theatre in 2018. 

“I found it’s such a such an extraordinary energy like live performance like being on stage and having someone witness you transform into another character,” said Broadley

He described being blown away by his experience at the school learning to not only be an actor but also a creative and a producer. 

“And really offering actors the idea that they’re artists that can, if they want to, can have an influence in the way community and society see themselves,” said Broadley. 

After graduating, though, Broadley moved away from the creative space working as a fundraiser for Amnesty International. But he eventually immersed himself in the filmmaking field again when joining the film committee at Bell House, a volunteer-led charity providing opportunities for aspiring creatives. This is where he pitched the idea of a 48-hour intensive filmmaking course. Broadley collaborated with Robb in its creation. 

“And people turned up for the event. And we really enjoyed the experience of working together and we loved the feeling of people coming together to create. It was a real high energy space. So it just left a really strong impression on both me and Dan and the participants,” said Broadley. 

In order to complete the ambitious task of making a film in just two days, the program runs from around 10 in the morning to six in the afternoon. 12 participants are allowed per course that consists of five parts. 

“Part one is about bringing a group of strangers together and generating an experience, a kind of an atmosphere where people feel safe, and people feel comfortable,” said Broadley. 

This consists of team games and having each participant write about their own creative journeys. 

“A lot of time is spent really letting people come into their own body. Because it’s really important when things get frenetic on day two and quite high energy. Just people can come back into their own body and feel safe.”

The second part, which occurs also on the first day, is committed to story generation and teaching movie fundamentals. Because no story is pre-written before the course, the participants must collaborate on what movie they want to create. Broadley then said that past movies have been ghost, coming-of-age films and most recently climate fiction. 

In order to most effectively decide on the film, Broadley splits the team into smaller groups to discuss their ideas and interests before opening up to the large group. 

“Over the period of around three hours we will have generated like a kind of seven scene film,” said Broadley. 

Broadley also emphasised that the purpose of day one is to provide a foundation in storytelling so that on day two, he can give creative freedom to the participants. 

“It’s not me writing it for them and saying, ‘Right, now go make the film.’ It’s like, ‘No it’s your movie, you get the choice of how it’s made.’”

After deciding on a storyline, the second day is committed to film creation. Broadley insists that everyone get in front of the camera at some point in filming as well as the opportunity for each participant to direct their own scene. “Whether you’re [director of photography], light, sound, all of these roles get switched around.” 

Once the film has been shot and the 48-hour time period is over, Broadley said that a time to meet remotely is scheduled for Robb to provide an editing workshop. Robb later edits the entire movie with the shot film, and the five to 11 minute short is ready to be screened in about two to three months. 

Broadley described the company’s target audience as emerging artists between 16 to 25 who may be looking for direction after completing school, but he welcomes ages up to over 60 years. “We noticed that the films that were getting created when people from mixed backgrounds or demographics were just more interesting,” Broadley said. “Whether that be as a professional or more as like a hobby or an outlet, everyone kind of comes along.” 

Another demographic that Mafia Weekend provides outreach to is refugees and people seeking asylum in the U.K. Broadley said that he hopes to provide a creative outlet for refugees to express their experiences. 

Moving away from the charity organisation it began as, Mafia Weekend registered as a company last year, evolving to more of a production company. While still an educational program, the company takes commissions from various clients such as local governments, charities, and corporate organisations. 

When asked about the future of Mafia Weekend, Broadley said that he hopes for the course to become a regular experience and to network with local filmmakers in the U.K. and abroad to conduct similar programs. 

“How can we kind of transport that framework and take it to other communities across the UK and potentially, you know, potentially internationally as well?” said Broadley.

Broadley highlighted the goal of the course being to show people that things are possible when there is collaboration and motivation. Mafia Weekend CIC is a recurring course so if you have any interest in filmmaking in any capacity, be on the lookout for their next course. 

By Jack Underhill, You Press Intern

Tyrone Chambers’ Experience in Music, Management, and Multitasking

Tyrone Chambers is no stranger to the art of multitasking. With a full-time job, a start-up in the works, and multiple other projects and titles, he shed some light on how he achieves his many aspirations. 

Chambers grew up in South London and graduated from university in 2015 in global business management. Since that time, just some of the jobs he has taken up include project management in the IT and finance space, operations and logistics for a music department, customer service and even freelance football writing. Chambers has also been involved in social action campaigns. 

One such campaign is The Reach – Next Generation Summit, which, according to Chambers, partners with the largest companies across the world doing events through the U.K. that focus on empowering young girls aged 11 to around 15. 

But throughout this time, Chambers has also been a musician, playing drums for the past 15 years in various bands and at his local church.

Relating to music, his full-time job is being a studio manager and head of events at The Box, a space for hire. The space is rented out for the creation of podcasts, video shoots and other creative projects. Chambers also indicated that the company plans to move into the live, intimate events space.

“We had our first event last month, which was a listening party that I produced,” said Chambers. “We’re looking to do more of those between sort of like the release parties, intimate concerts, as well as the video shoots, photo shoots, podcasts, etc.”

The Box provides a space for aspiring creatives to celebrate, produce, record, and perform their artistic work. 

Chambers also works part-time building his company, Elevation Management. He hopes to make it his full-time responsibility. Starting it officially a few months before the pandemic, Chambers describes Elevation Management as “slowly burning.”

Through Elevation Management Chambers manages artists, one such being his friend, singer and songwriter WhenSheSpeaks.   

“She was getting ready to go into music and she asked me if I could manage her. And we’ve been on this journey now about, December will make it 3 years.” … “She just released her EP last Friday, which has been amazing, the rollout and everything has been great.”

Chambers’ plan to get into the music and events space began 10 years ago and he said that his company has gone through “various iterations over the years.”

When asked what kind of musicians he wanted to manage, he said he wanted to work in the R&B, neo soul space. Chambers emphasized that it is necessary for managers to give their artists creative freedom. 

“No level of empowerment is generated as a result of micromanagement.”

When asked how he juggles multiple projects while still actively growing his start-up and being at a full-time job, Chambers came with no shortage of advice for those also looking to achieve their aspirations and be successful in any field. 

To organize himself and the people that he works with, Chambers suggested having multiple email addresses tailored to each company or project. 

“You can demarcate what people have what contact information, because if everyone has the same email for you, then it’s so easy for everything to be meshed into one.”

Chambers also noted that, people, especially people with start-ups should utilize the tools that they have at the time. He compared starting with little resources to the story of David and Goliath. 

“You don’t have to have like, you know, the top of the top of range gear. You don’t have to have all the contacts you need in order to get started. That will come,” Chambers said. “Just start with what you have now. And as a result, just keep just being diligent in that which you started with. And then you’ll just see the growth”

Chambers also found value in playing the long game. “Don’t look for the short-term success when it comes to your life because there’s no one that’s going to be living your life more than you. You’re worth the long-term investment.”

He also discussed how individuals should be conscious of the people they surround themselves with and the importance of making sure that others aren’t the ones holding you up. 

“You can have people believe in you but they can’t believe for you,” said Chambers. “Because at the end of the day, I can’t be doing more work for your dream.”

“If you’re looking for people to join you in what you’re looking to build, have a clear plan, have an idea as to what it is you want to build, what you want to create. And then as a result, the right people will come along with you. Where there’s ambiguity there’s going to be confusion.”

All of Chambers’ helpful tools and advice can be applied when pursuing any field, in the management industry and abroad. Especially for young entrepreneurs or aspiring artists, applying these tools can help alleviate the stress of juggling multiple projects while also having a clear vision for the future. 

When asked about his own plans, Chambers described it as going to be “busy,” “loud” and possibly “violent,” he said jokingly. 

“My twenties have really been a lot of sort of like finding myself,” said Chambers. “My thirties is literally just me try out new things.”

“I’m not going to be going with the grain. So I’m at peace with that now because I was always trying to you know,” … “Like coloring within the lines. But here’s the thing. If you really want to make impact, you’re gonna have to be different.”

By Jack Underhill, You Press Intern

A Journalist’s Journey Into Narrative Writing

In news writing, you might as well give in your resignation if you, the writer, wind up in the article because the most effective way to lose all of your credibility is to present your bias for the world to see. So when I came to You Press four weeks ago, the idea of writing stories where I deliberately used I-statements and input my own opinions was almost out of the question. 

I am not a narrative writer, I haven’t been for three years. At the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, I have written for our student-run newspaper since my first year. I write about student life, administrative decisions, breaking news, and sometimes investigative pieces. Despite the different content, all my stories are written in the same format. I have my lede to give the reader the who, what, when, where and why. I have my nut graph to give context. I need three sources in each article and less than five sentences per paragraph. 

This confining set of stipulations ensures that my audience absorbs the required information quickly and concisely. Especially when it comes to breaking news, there is no beating around the bush, no flashy first sentence to draw the reader in, it is just meant to inform. 

Coming to You Press and being told to write narrative articles that pertain to my own experiences was nothing short of a shock. I felt my entire ethical standards I had come to live  were crashing down on top of me. The AP style book was like my bible, the SPJ Code of Ethics were my Ten Commandments. I couldn’t imagine writing any other way, because why would I need to? But in narrative writing, there are no needed quotes, the lede doesn’t need to be front and center and most unsettling of all, I would be putting my own perspective, my own opinion, into my writing. 

In school, I am relentlessly told to provide a neutral and fair stance on any issue. I am strictly a bystander observing a situation. But now I was being made the center of the story, and that was terrifying. Initially I felt so distant from my own opinions because I had to keep them as far away from my words. These two forces, that weren’t supposed to touch, were now colliding directly into one another. 

But despite this dissonance that I was and still am experiencing between the news writing that is my safety net and the abyss that I am just now exploring, I have found that stepping back and embracing a different style has made me a much more skilled writer. 

With news reporting comes an immense sense of urgency. Urgency to break the news, to get the sources and reach the deadline. With narrative writing, you are forced to look within yourself and analyze how you perceive the world. This has been therapeutic in allowing me to look deeper into my own interests. And the calmness of analyzing these values have made me more adept at framing and forming a story line that rises and falls. 

When I get back into the newsroom in the Fall, I will certainly do my best to once again distance my opinion from my writing, but I will hold on to that creativity of finding unique ways to frame stories. I can stretch those rigid rules just a tad, I can walk the edge of factual reporting and storytelling to create credible, neutral works that utilize storytelling tactics to keep the reader engaged. 

That rigid box that I confined myself in for three years now feels a little more spacious. 

By Jack Underhill, You Press Intern

Freedom of Expression Under Fire: U.K.’s Just Stop Oil vs U.S.’s Black Lives Matter

Intertwined within the essence of democracy is the right to freely express ideas and opinions, even those that are not in favour of the government. In the United States and the United Kingdom, the right to freedom of speech and expression is embedded in their values. 

U.S. citizens have been invoking the First Amendment since its signing in 1791, granting the freedom of speech, of assembly and of the press. 

The U.K., though, did not have a specific bill like its neighbour across the Atlantic until 1998. While it still had its form of freedom of expression, it was not until the Human Rights Act of 1998 that the freedom of assembly and associationwas explicitly signed into law. 

In light of the controversial stir that the environmental activist group, Just Stop Oil, has created across England’s infrastructure, let us take an examination of how each country has, and is, handling civil disobedience on its streets. 

A standoff: The United Kingdom versus Just Stop Oil

Since its founding in February of 2022, Just Stop Oil has undoubtedly been making itself heard. Non-violent actions by the group include throwing soup on a Van Gogh painting, throwing confetti during a tennis match at Wimbledonand shutting down highways. Discussion about the activists and their controversial tactics has become unavoidable as they take over major news headlines. The group’s main goal: “demanding the UK Government stop licensing all new oil, gas and coal projects.”

On the Just Stop Oil website, the group holds training programmes for those interested in participating in non-violent slow marches. While there is widespread dislike for the activists’ tactics, it is apparent that they are not aiming to be liked, but to be heard. 

As seen in many viral videos, these tactics of ‘slow marches’ have been combated with force from not only police, but aggravated motorists held behind a blockade of bright orange vests. The onslaught of media surrounding these street takeovers prompts people to ask, is this legal?

The Highways Act of 1980 stipulates that any person who “​​wilfully obstructs the free passage along a highway” is “guilty of an offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 51 weeks or a fine or both.”

However, a BBC article indicates that Just Stop Oil referenced a 2021 Supreme Court ruling that “there should be a ‘certain degree of tolerance to disruption to ordinary life, including the disruption of traffic’, as a result of non-violent protest.” 

In a recent large-scale march that occurred across numerous London streets, officers removed 183 protesters and arrested up to 21. Those occupying streets are continuing to challenge the limits of legal protesting. 

But the government’s response to the growingly more frequent and disruptive protests has been to tighten the legal standings and freedoms that peaceful protestors are granted. The most recent bill being the Public Order Act passed in May 2023.

The anti-protest bill stipulates that it is an offence for protestors to interfere with use or operation of key national infrastructure. It is also an offence to commit the act of tunnelling, to obstruct major transport works and to attach themselves to “another person, to an object or to land.” The act also gives police officers the power to stop and search civilians in or around a protest without suspicion. 

According to a BBC article, previous legislation stipulated that “the police could generally restrict a protest only if they could show it may result in ‘serious public disorder, serious damage to property or serious disruption to the life of the community’.”

But this threshold has since been lowered. 

In April, 2023, the U.N. Human Rights Chief Volker Turk delivered a statement, calling on the British government to “reverse legislation that would clamp down on protests by giving police in England and Wales more powers to act to prevent serious disruption.”

In response, the British Government said that the legislation was due to a “​​small minority” of environmental action protests that were “disrupting the lives of the wider public,” continued the Reuters article. 

Support for the bill can be expected to come from the police force working to regulate the disturbances and commuters that have been blocked by the interlocking arms and orange banners.  

But the bill has received much criticism for increasing the power that the police force has while further restricting civilians’ key freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. 

How does this compare to anti-protest legislation in the United States?

After George Floyd attempted to buy cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill, he was pinned to the ground by three Minneapolis police officers, leaving Mr. Floyd unable to breathe. The killing of George Floyd on May 25, 2021 sparked international protest and conversation around police brutality and systemic racism. 

His death, combined with the heightened condemnation of law enforcement across the country due to other instances of brutality and excessive force. Americans took to the streets in protest of injustice. 

Similarly to the climate activists in London, Black Lives Matters protestors in the states occupied roads and even highways, subsequently disrupting traffic.

During one such instance in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in May, 2020, a pick up truck pulling a horse trailer drove through a Black Lives Matter rally taking place on Interstate 244, injuring three people, paralysing one. No criminal chargeswere filed against the driver who claimed that he feared for the safety of his family as protestors threw projectiles at his vehicle. According to 2 News Oklahoma, the protestors veered off the police protected route and onto the interstate, blocking vehicles. 

That next month, Oklahoma passed a law that “increased penalties for demonstrators who block public roadways and granted immunity to motorists who unintentionally kill or injure protestors attempting to flee.”

Obstructing the use of a public street or a highway during a protest is punishable by up to a year in prison and/or a fine of up to $5,000. 

But Oklahoma was not alone in its roll-out of anti-protest laws. According to a New York Times article, Iowa also passed a bill granting immunity to drivers who hit protestors on public streets. Spearheaded by the Republican Party, some politicians framed these bills as anti-riot, and pro-law enforcement measures, despite a study indicating the vast majority of protests associated with the Black Lives Matter movement had been peaceful. 

According to the International Center for Not-For-Profit Law, 269 anti-protest bills have been proposed and 45 states have considered the bills that would “create new offences and increase penalties for a broad range of interference on passageways.” Since the beginning of the protest movement following the death of George Floyd, 21 states have enacted anti-protest bills relating to traffic interference. 

In Section 2101 of Title 18 of the United States Code, the incitement of riots is already outlawed and has been since 1970. Critics have therefore argued that the anti-protest bills were not a way of protecting civilians, but of suppressing freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. 

The similar responses of both countries’ governments

In both the U.S. and the U.K., social movements in retaliation to injustice have led to protests occupying the streets in an act of civil disobedience. Just Stop Oil activists conducted slow marches in the middle of busy streets which was combatted by the rolling out of laws that tightened the freedoms of non-violent protestors, providing harsher sentences and more power granted to police. 

Similarly, Black Lives Matters protestors were met with harsh bills and harsher penalties for traffic disturbance. Despite their different causes and motivations, both groups were met with similar legislative retaliation.

In certain U.S. states, though, Republican lawmakers and politicians went so far as to provide immunity to motorists, which is the demographic that the U.K. government did not seem to focus on. These laws are also specific to state governments rather than federal. 

While Just Stop Oil was the cause for the 2023 Public Order Act, the law will have a rippling affect across not just one group, but all protests that occur in the U.K. 

Critics in both countries are sceptical of the government’s response of targeting protestors rather than addressing the grievances of those protesting. The legality behind non-violent protest is being challenged, inadvertently testing and subsequently tightening the freedoms of speech and assembly. 

While the Black Lives Matter movement protests have since become much less frequent since 2020, Just Stop Oil shows no sign of letting up. Time will tell how they will respond to these harsher offences, and if it will affect the frequency of protests and the masses that join them. 

By Jack Underhill, You Press Intern

You Press Partners With Force For Good to Choose a CRM System

Customer Relationship Management Systems (CRMs) have helped businesses, small and large, stay afloat for decades. The global market for these technology systems has reached a massive £54 billion pounds as of 2020, and has only become more vital in the post-pandemic years, as companies look for ways to become less reliant on the physical workspace.

A CRM System consists of software designed to help integrate and store nearly all information seamlessly, from sales to data insights from customers and employees alike. It is designed to make all interactions within the company, and between company and customer, flow smoothly. 

As You Press continues to expand, we look out for any opportunities to help facilitate our growth. It was decided that establishing a CRM System would help take the organisation’s internal operations to the next level. Thanks to JP Morgan Chase’s ‘Force For Good’ initiative, we are working to begin a new era for You Press, one defined by vast improvements to the customer experience.

‘Force For Good’ “connects employee volunteers with hundreds of nonprofits around the world to build sustainable tech solutions to advance their missions.” You Press was fortunate enough to be selected as one of the organisations to receive aid. 

“Most organisations in the non-profit space can’t dedicate full time space to their technology space, but at JP Morgan that’s where we come in,” says Ali Marano, Global Head of Tech for Social Good at JP Morgan Chase. A team of ten volunteers with backgrounds in technology have spent months searching for ways to add value to You Press through technological solutions. 

They recently visited to present their work and seek out feedback from the You Press team. The volunteers were divided into groups, with each assigned a different CRM System to research and showcase, with the goal of one being selected as the best fit for You Press’ needs.

Copper was the first CRM System presented. It had an impressive presentation, highlighting the vast amount of integrations, including MailChimp (for the newsletter), Slack (for internal communications), and the Google Workspace (for pretty much everything else), along with its workflow automation capabilities. 

Bigin was the next to be shown, and stood out with their strong team management capabilities and communication pipelines for a competitive price.

More meetings will be held in the coming weeks to choose the system that fits You Press the most, and the JP Morgan Chase volunteers will work to optimise it for the team.

The goal for the future is to have absolutely everything in one place, easily accessible at all times. Emmanuel, who works as the Clients and Services Officer at You Press, deals with tons of information daily, sifting through lists of partner organisations, freelancers, and workshop graduates to make sense of it all. He is excited about the prospects of implementing a CRM System making his job easier.

“I can pretty much just type information in, and it will be there immediately,” says Emmanuel. “Before, I would have had to go on Google Drive and go through mountains and mountains of folders just to find what we need. It will make life easier for all of us.” 

With more than 100 projects globally and over 1000 JP Morgan technologists participating in “Force For Good”, You Press is just one of many nonprofits that are being worked with to adapt in the ever-changing technological climate. Any other nonprofits interested in the “Force For Good” program can fill out an interest form here.  

Embracing the Journey: How Hostels Offer More Than Just Accommodation

Going to a foreign country on your own is a daunting and anxiety-inducing experience. You worry that you may struggle to meet people, or even worry about your own safety navigating such an unfamiliar place. 

I was eager to arrive in London, but nervous that I would be navigating the city without a friend. I wondered if I would be able to make connections and that eventually led to anxiety around traveling alone the entire time. When I booked my first weekend trip to Dublin, Ireland on my own, I was unsure what to expect. But I knew that my best chance of creating friendships during my time was to book myself a bed in a hostel.

For those that don’t know, hostels are different from hotels. Rather than living in a purchased private room with your own amenities, you are living with strangers in a shared room, usually bunk beds. Residents also share a kitchen space and washroom. While this may not sound exactly like lavish living or even comfortable, hostels provide a connection to others and to our environment that a hotel can’t provide.

Hostels date back to 1909, “when a German teacher Richard Schirrmann recognized a need for night shelter for groups of school children in order to explore the countryside.” Schirrmann created the world’s first hostel in Altena, Germany. 

According to the website, 1932 saw the creation of the International Youth Hostel Federation in Amsterdam. Schirrmann was named the first president and numerous European countries joined the federation. Now known as Hostelling International, it is the world’s largest international membership organization with over 3.3 million members. 

Hostels have certainly changed since the 20th century, though. Hostels are no longer the dirty, run-down places that people may associate them as. Most are now well-kept and clean. The types of hostels have also diversified as there are some known as “party hostels” or conversely “family hostels.” Many also provide private accommodation for a higher price. 

Hostels have been designed since their inception as a destination for young travelers to stay for a short amount of time at a low cost. A side effect that hostels have is their ability to gather individuals from different cultures and different parts of the world together. 

Whether you are making food in the kitchen, hanging out at the lounge or laying on your bunk bed, you are encountering someone you have never met before. Every individual shares the similar goal of finding a cheap place to stay amidst their adventures, and oftentimes they too are looking to meet others on their journey. But each person has had their own life and unique experiences that you may learn from. This contrast between a common destination and difference in backgrounds prompts engaging conversations as you learn about someone that can be from an entirely different part of the world.

This exposure to people through shared space sounds socially tiring, but it is also enriching when you learn about other cultures through conversation. Hostels act as an intersection of adventure and relaxation and if you do stay in one, be eager to spark some conversation with your hostel-mates. There is the chance that you may be able to create a friendship and explore the environment around your stay together. 

Hostels hold a temporary beauty. They spark meaningful and deep friendships that can help you learn about yourself, but the connections all have an eventual check-out date. The short-lived friendships I have made with people that live thousands of miles away are something that I will always cherish. And if you haven’t yet, think about booking a hostel rather than a hotel, you will be surprised by the people you meet, cultures you experience, and memories you make. 

By Jack Underhill, You Press Intern

Traveling Pianist Jonas Hirschler Shares Music Across Europe’s Streets

While exploring the city of Bath, England, I came across a man with wavy bleached hair and a rainbow-coloured sweatshirt sitting at a piano. The instrument was painted colourfully in blues, whites, oranges and yellows that resembled stained glass. Pasted on the backside was what looked like a map of Europe, but it was hard to make out from the many sticky notes pasted on top with messages written on them. Leaning on the ground was a painted sign that read, “PIANO around EUROPE.” I then noticed the small wheels that the piano rested on.

Pedestrians stopped in their tracks to admire the emotional renditions of popular tunes. There was an added layer of depth and humility with each note. Some even stopped to paste a message on the piano before resuming their exploration of the city. 

I soon discovered that the pianist’s name is Jonas Hirschler, and I had the pleasure of talking with him about his experience travelling through Europe with his piano.

28-year-old Hirschler is from the town of Aachen within North Rhine-Westphalia of Germany. The town is about an hour’s drive away from Cologne and lies right by the border of Belgium and the Netherlands. Hirschler first picked up playing at 12 years old when his parents got him a piano as a birthday present. 

Courtesy of Jonas Hirschler

“Originally, I picked it up because of my parents because they wanted us to learn an instrument, and I never liked the lessons because my teacher was a very traditional way of teaching […] and I learned to read notes which is useful today. But I was always told to play this piece and play it this loud or this fast and slowly as it’s given in the scripts. And I never really liked it and I didn’t find passion in it. And when I found passion was when I started again when I was 19. I had like a more freestyle to it, like I was playing with a guitar app, which is just giving you the chords of a famous song and so I learned some basic chords and improvised the melody over it,” said Hirschler.

“And this is when I started to be passionate about it and also, I could connect my feelings better through the music that I do.”

Hirschler’s inspiration for the idea of travelling around playing in different cities and countries came from Dotan Negrin, a pianist who travelled around the United States and eventually the world playing his instrument. 

Taking a shot at street performing for the first time, Hirschler brought his piano to a small town by his hometown. He was understandably nervous to play in front of strangers for the first time as he considered himself an introverted person. 

“I was pushing the piano up a bridge and was shaking and thinking, ‘What the hell am I doing here?’ And when I sat down to the piano, I tried to imagine, just to be in my room and just letting my emotions flow through my fingers just like how I do for a couple of hours every day the last few weeks,” said Hirschler. “And so I just did that and it felt like it reached people. So, people came to me and said, ‘Okay, I could feel this when you play,’ and I didn’t even have to talk with them like that. And so I skip like all that talking part and reach the people on an emotional level directly so it’s also why it was possible as an introverted person to do that.”

“Through playing music, I get to talk with people much more because they are interested in what you do and they want to get to know you. So you get a lot of small talk experience when doing street music. And that helps your […] extroverted person growth.”

Once he got this kind of positive feedback, he went on his first month-long trip to France in 2019. Visiting places such as Paris, Lyon and Dijon, he described it as a “very magical experience” because of the amount of positive feedback he received.

Since that first trip, Hirschler is on his fourth trip and has charmed 30 countries with his musical talent. 

Courtesy of Jonas Hirschler

“I did an Italy trip. Then I did a trip through the Balkan countries and around the Baltic Sea, which was last year for three to four months. And now this trip is going since the middle of April and I went through Spain to Morocco, and then back through Portugal and France and now I’m doing a trip around the UK and Ireland with a friend. And we are ending in the middle of August.”

When planning out his journey, Hirschler said that he has a rough plan of which countries he wants to perform at, but his decision of where to go within the country is decided very spontaneously.

“You don’t know in advance how good the city will be for busking. For example, we went to Galway in Ireland last weekend, and we just had like two days there until we had to move on. But turns out it’s like a great city for busking and we could have spent two weeks there easily,” said Hirschler. 

“We go with the flow. We have more like a go with the flow travel style.” 

Hirschler recalled one time he stayed somewhere for a lot longer than anticipated. 

“I had a really great time in Montenegro last year, but I wasn’t doing much music there because it was not really densely crowded area […] But I get to know some local guy who was showing me around his village for one week and I worked in his garden, and we had a really nice week there. And I get to know the country and the people very well, so it was an intense time in another way.”

So how does one travel around with an instrument as big and clunky as a piano? Driving a VW van with a high roof, Hirschler had to construct a platform for the piano to rest on for transport. He said that it took a few tries to get the platform right. There is also a small kitchen and an “upstairs” compartment where he sleeps. 

When asked about the idea to let passerby paste messages on his piano, he said that he came up with the idea as another way of communicating with his audience. Hirschler plays piano for about two hours at a time, and oftentimes he will blend songs together creating about 15 minute runs. 

“People, maybe they want to say something to you, but they don’t have 10 minutes time to listen until you make a break and then come to you and talk. A lot of people also they don’t have the courage to talk to you, but they still maybe want to say something. So I just started to put out some small letters,” said Hirschler, “So I just kept it going and it’s very nice. I collect every message and maybe make like a big poster out of it one time, and it’s also very profitable because it creates a lot of attention because it’s colourful and people read the messages in different languages.” 

Oftentimes too, other musicians will join Hirschler, whether it is singing, playing an instrument or even playing his own piano. 

“I always welcome them because I love to take a step back from my piano and see others playing there. I know that it was for me a very unique experience playing piano on the street. So if people even look like they are thinking about playing on my piano, I go to them and say, ‘Hey, do you want to play something?’ And most of the cases I’m right, and they’re like, ‘Ah, yeah.’ And then they have three friends behind them cheering […] And then they play something and it’s a good experience for them.”

Reflecting on his time travelling, Hirschler noted how his experiences have given him a better impression of the world. 

“For example, when we went through Morocco, it was like a total culture shock and different religion, different culture, different language. Everything was so different and when you come back to Europe then, you learn to value some basic rights that you have. […] And I think this is something special that you can make this perspective switch when you travel to countries for a longer time.”

Hirschler emphasised his appreciation of the immersion into different cultures that playing street music provides. 

“When you travel by doing street music, you are like head diving into a different culture. Because you get to connect to the people through music and you can talk with them on a personal level. And you get to know the country differently like when you travel as a standard tourist for example.”

Of course, I had to ask how his family felt about him travelling around Europe for months at a time. And he said that his parents saw the positive impact it had on him and were very supportive. 

“My family, they maybe think that at one point I will have enough of traveling and I come back to Germany but I don’t see that coming yet.” 

Once this trip comes to an end, Hirschler will make his way back to Germany where he will find a job in IT and save up for another summer on the road with his piano.

By Jack Underhill, You Press Intern

Royal Docks Internship Programme Honours Graduates

Last week, the Royal Docks Internship Programme participants celebrated their graduation. These young people have spent the last 12 months working for various organisations around the Royal Docks area.

The ceremony, held at the Good Growth Hub within the Hackney borough, brought together all of the interns to reflect back on all they have achieved, and look forward towards the future. Those interns being celebrated included two of our own here at You Press, Emmanuel and Maxime!

Launched in 2021 as a means to help the area bounce back economically and creatively from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Royal Docks Internship Programme was designed to “invest in the talent of local people and create more youth employment opportunities.” The programme was part of a joint initiative by the Mayor of London and the Mayor of Newham, and helped support the interns working full-time through providing them with a liveable wage (London Living Wage salary is £11.05 an hour).

After some opening words from a few of the interns who worked to organise the event, everybody had an opportunity to showcase a video project they have been working on focused on the Royal Docks themselves.

The video styles varied, with some using spoken word poetry, and others doing a walking tour of the docks. They did share a common theme throughout all the videos, that being they were all able to find their own form of beauty and inspiration from the area, and capture it in their own unique way.

As an American intern with You Press this summer, I thoroughly enjoyed these videos, and found them to be quite relatable. Every day I work in the office, I use my lunch break to walk down the docks, past the city hall and across the tall footbridge. It serves as a refreshing break from writing my articles, and helps rejuvenate me creatively. I was happy to see so many others feel the same way, and able to derive the same joy I do every time I make that relaxing trip.

Throughout the entire experience, each of the interns also received mentoring support and career coaching, with Farah Mohammoud, founder and director at You Press, helping to lead the way. His contributions and dedication to the interns did not go unnoticed, as he was honoured with a round of applause and a gift of his favourite chocolate banana bread.

Farah still had some more to give though, sharing some final thoughts with the interns he has helped work with over the last year.

“You worked hard, you committed, you delivered, you pushed yourself.”

For those interns who helped to organise the graduation, the event felt like a satisfying culmination of all they have learned throughout the entire process. Maxime, who was one of those interns, said “my favourite part was seeing everyone we interviewed together in the same space,” and “it has helped me develop my event planning skills the most.”

While the graduation certainly may have felt like the end of the road, it’s only the beginning for these promising youths, who leave with valuable skills and lessons under their belts.

“We helped you to find your voice. We told your story. We created something special,” said Farah.

Congratulations to all of the graduates, and we wish you all the best of luck wherever your exciting futures take you!

By Joe Brady, You Press Intern

‘Lead and Be Led Workshop’ Puts our Youth at the Forefront of Tomorrow

Earlier this month, the Anti-Tribalism Movement (ATM), in collaboration with You Press, began with the first of eight workshops dedicated to empowering our youth to find their identity and sense of self.

The ‘Lead & Be Led Workshop’ was facilitated by Farah Mohammoud, founder and director at You Press, and held in the Shepherd’s Bush neighborhood of London.

As an American intern, I had the opportunity to sit in for the workshop, which I found to be an incredibly engaging and informative experience. We began with an icebreaker, splitting up into pairs to get to know one another, then introducing our partner to the rest of the group, which surely helped everyone feel more comfortable with each other.

What followed were various activities meant to make you think deeply about who you really were inside, with discussion on the tail end breaking everything down.

Two of the activities stood out to me, with one being the group splitting into two and creating a list of five core values most important to them. Afterwards, the two groups each shared their five, and worked together to deduce the five most important to everyone in the room. The final result included respect, commitment, honesty, community, and confidence.
The second, and final activity, involved writing a text to our future selves, a personal message about how I feel in the moment, to serve as a reminder in case I ever lose my way. My text finished with “hold on to the same drive you have always had.” I hope that one day, myself and the others with me can find solace in the words of our past self.

I began the night not really knowing what to expect from the ATM event, but left feeling a bit more understanding of my own feelings than I had before.

I returned last week for the final session of the ATM workshops. The progress I had seen from the other participants was extraordinary. The group had managed to take what they had learned about leadership and identity and channel it into something tangible. They had worked diligently over the weekend on developing a social action plan together.

They had decided on creating a podcast together to discuss the many issues Londoners from all different backgrounds face. Farah had walked them through all the necessary steps to build their plan, which the group quickly carried out with great attention to detail.

The group’s vision, mission, and desired outcomes were decided first, followed by more logistical steps, including team roles, risks, and budgeting.

Everyone seemed legitimately excited and passionate about their plan, and their vision to “help set a foundation for the younger generation.”

Growth seemed to be the central theme of the ATM workshops. The transition from trying to find growth within one’s self to helping to grow the community through initiative was beautiful. If more youth were able to take these same steps, it would have a transformative impact on our society.

Overall, the ‘Lead & Be Led Workshop’ proved to be a rousing success, and showed firsthand how YouPress’ goal of giving young people a voice is coming to fruition.
The group’s finished podcast, ‘Life of a Londoner’, will be available to stream starting August 12th.

By Joe Brady, You Press Intern

Bath’s Buskers: Providing Life to a Historic City

Hopping on a bus on Sunday morning, I made the three-hour journey to Bath, England. As I left the Bath station, I was immediately immersed into the quiet bustle of people strolling through the city’s cobblestone and tile streets on a rainy morning. 

The light grey clouds and occasional drizzle was a fitting forecast for the calm richness of Bath. 

It was amusing to observe how each person was enjoying the city in their own way. Whether it was grabbing a pint in a pub, enjoying a coffee at a quaint café or strolling through the many shops, Bath held something valuable for anyone. But many were exploring the historical wonders such as the Roman Baths, Bath Abbey or watching the river flow from Putney Bridge. 

Because the city centre lies within a valley, long rows of honey-coloured houses snake throughout the hills on its outskirts. Each with its many chimneys jutting out paired with white windowsills. The greenery along every hill stands vibrantly against the rigid stone buildings. 

Bath appears as though it has been frozen in time since its transformation from the Roman province, Aquae Sulis, to what is today known as Bath during the Georgian period in the 18th century. The Bath stone, an oolitic limestone, gives the buildings its distinctive colouring. One can feel the culture and history that has been preserved for so long. 

I had the pleasure of walking through the high arches of Bath Abbey, a church that has been used as a Christian place of worship since the 12th century. The immense, colourful stained glass windows, the oldest dating back to 1603, depict the life of Jesus Christ, stories from the Bible and the crowning of King Edgar. While every feature in the cathedral stood still, I could observe its complex structure like it was its own living organism. 

I was quite surprised to be spending much of my day, though, observing the many buskers scattered throughout the streets. The musical skill of each performer was astounding, and the range of instruments being played allowed you to walk through the streets hearing different styles of music.

As I first entered the city’s centre, I came across a pianist who was travelling Europe with a piano painted colourfully and adorned with sticky note messages written by passersby. The pianist, who I later found out is named Jonas, played emotional renditions of various well-known songs. In front of his instrument was a sign that read that this has been the 26th country he has played at.

Before I could see it, I could hear the soothing tone of a trumpet echoing off the beige stone buildings. Continuing further through the winding alleys, I came across the trumpeter, Ivan Andre playing with a tone and vibrato so soothing it made the many pedestrians stop to listen beside Bath Abbey. His beautiful runs sounded as though they were emanating from the building walls themselves. 

At the front of Bath Abbey was a violinist playing soothing classical music, and just a couple of hours later, a young guitarist and drummer duo took his place, jamming out in their performance of “Hit the Road Jack” by Ray Charles. 

I eventually wandered in front of the “Fiddler on the Rope,” otherwise known as Kwabana Lindsay. An international circus performer, Lindsay effortlessly played the fiddle whilst walking across a slack rope suspended five feet in the air. 

These performances further enhanced my own experience visiting Bath by not only providing entertainment whilst exploring, but deepening the cultural richness of a city frozen in time. 

Street performing, or busking, dates back to ancient Rome during agricultural and religious festivals when two parties “would hurl insults in a sing-songy manner.” It was also used to celebrate the working class and supported by the Roman government. Once Rome fell, though, busking was essentially cast out as free speech was restricted. Even after the Church of England deemed busking sinful, it was used as a tool to instil social change, protest injustice and transport creative ideas and songs amongst regions. 

In 2014, a dispute between Bath Abbey and buskers had been persisting for months and erupted when “a choral evensong service was halted because the buskers could be heard above the sound of the Bible reading and threatened to disrupt the choir,” according to The Guardian article. 

While the rector of Bath Abbey claimed that buskers using amplifiers near the church were disruptive, performers claimed that the church was trying to restrict their freedom to play to the public.

It is not up to me to decide who is at fault, but it is undeniable that the very essence of busking was reignited as a medium for combatting injustice. 

The historical architecture preserved for centuries was breathtaking enough to look at, but the buskers provided this ancestral city a breadth of newness and life. Their skillful craft gives the city a new, young heartbeat energising artistry and creativity. 

Bath is a shining example of how street performers help enhance the culture of a city that has been around for centuries and can be used as a medium to communicate ideas and emotions.