Brixton people stories: meet Renee

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At CHIPS, helping young people to explore their talents and think about their future is an important part of our strategy in Brixton.

We know from experience that presenting positive alternatives to a lifestyle of crime and violence is key to peacemaking in our community, but for various reasons many young people often don’t have the support they need to unlock their true potential. 

Renée is 16 and she lives in Brixton with her mum and two siblings. Thanks to her involvement with CHIPS and other community projects in the area, Renée has recently been able to explore her growing passion for the arts.

Renée was volunteering at the Brixton Chamber Orchestra last year when our CHIPS first recognised her budding talent, but she was struggling to find other opportunities to gain the work experience she needed. Kamika, our youth worker, invited her to join our Summer of Film-making in Angell Town last year as a volunteer, helping to make our short film ‘What Happened to Karen‘.

Renée says: “CHIPS has given me great opportunities, and it’s because of them that I am now working in two short films! I really enjoyed helping to film ‘What happened to Karen’ which has an amazing amount of views and sent a positive message for the community about young people in Brixton.”

Our community partner Michelle adds “After getting to know Renee more as a young volunteer, I put her forward for an arts project, along with a number of young people from the Unlock project that I coordinated last year.

Along with several other local young people, her work was featured at an exhibition organised by Big Local Impact Brixton. The exhibition, called ‘Brixton Celebrates Young Art’, was curated virtually because of Covid, and was designed to give a window into young people’s creativity during the pandemic. 

“My experience with the art project has been inspiring for me”, Renée says “because it shows me how other people can view and appreciate art from their own different perspectives.” You can view the exhibition here.

Renee also took part in the Herbarium educational project organised by our community partner Michelle Killington and San Mei Gallery, a local gallery near Angell Town Estate which is keen to make their gallery accessible and inclusive to the young people who live and study in the area. Renee was part of the small film-making team, documenting the journey of the project which will be published shortly.  Renee was fortunate to work alongside an award-winning BBC film-maker, who provided training of film making techniques using a mobile phone.

Renée will also be among a number of young people we work with taking part in a new arts project, Caribbean Garden Heritage, organised by the Garden Museum in Lambeth. This project will explore the impact that people from the Caribbean have on the gardens of south London and the young people will learn how to conduct oral history interviews and be involved in recording and interviewing members of the Windrush generation about their lives and about what gardens and plants mean to them. The recordings will then be used in a public autumn exhibition, and become part of the museum’s archives as a record for future generations.

Renee’s mum says that her daughter really appreciates all the love and support she has had to help her explore her career in the arts. “As a single mother, family life can be harder than usual, so to have an organisation that provides such a great support for young people is definitely appreciated. I would like to thank the CHIPS organisation for their tremendous support for my daughter has received since volunteering with them. Thank you to all the volunteers and staff!”

Renée’s enthusiasm is contagious and she is now an inspiration for her peers in our weekly youth clubs, with whom she has been sharing her experience. “I came to CHIPS for voluntary work, and it has honestly been amazing because of the youth workers and the opportunities it has given me,” she says.

“I’ve gained a lot just by being there and I have also had a lot of fun with the people I have met. I am truly grateful for the people that have helped me on the way!”

We look forward to following Renée’s next steps and continuing to mentor other young people to consider their future through our Brixton project!