Students speak up! 

Posted by Kirsty Telford on 15th December 2023

This month, Year 9 students from Bridge Academy, Hackney shared powerful and fresh perspectives at Shoreditch Town Hall as part of Speak Up, one of Ministry of Stories’ longest running writing programmes.

Speak Up develops young people’s confidence in writing, public speaking and active citizenship. Poet and Writing Facilitator Laila Sumpton led a day and a half of speechwriting workshops at Bridge Academy, supported by five fantastic Ministry of Stories volunteer writing mentors. Each student chose a topic they were passionate about and learned to craft and deliver a powerful speech.

The young writers shared concerns over inflation and the cost of living crisis, the plastic garbage patch. Refugee rights and the need to accept people for who they are and where they’ve come from.

The audience were challenged to pay closer attention to enormous societal issues including racism, global warming, global hunger, the lack of access to education and children in war. Three students spoke passionately about young people and mental health. The invited audience at the speech giving event included parents, activists, advocates, teachers, educators, funders and mentors.

‘I believe that our words hold the power of life and death… Consider great forests that have been set on fire by a small spark. Words. Our words are like that small spark. So be more careful and considerate of what you say. When we communicate, let’s use our words wisely.’ Tiara, Year 9

Cameron ended her speech on discrimination with the line: ‘Some may say that I will never be as equal as others or that I will have to earn my place in society, and I would like to say – I am human, isn’t that enough for you?’.

After the raucous applause died down, each student received a special Ministry certificate and the audience had the opportunity to speak directly to the young people and give feedback on their speeches.

We were delighted to benefit from the reflections and remarks from Councillor Anya Sizer, Speaker of Hackney, and Baroness Meral Hussein-Ece who encouraged the writers to use Speak Up as a launchpad to use their voice and words to influence their community, society and politics.

One young writer’s speech emphasised;

‘Students need recognition. Students need support. Students need to feel valid’

We couldn’t agree more.

Congratulations to all the young writers who took part and many thanks to Shoreditch Town Hall for hosting our event and making us feel so welcome. Huge thanks to our friend, photographer Tom Oldham, for capturing the essence of the day.

Our Speak Up programme at Bridge Academy is generously supported by UBS. This is the third year of the three year partnership with UBS and Ministry of Stories. 

In addition to UBS, our work in Hackney schools is also supported by Westfield East Bank Creative Futures Fund, funded by Westfield Stratford City and delivered by Foundation for Future London, Allen & Overy and The Vintners’ Company.


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