Amber McClatchey, Intern, Bristol Zero Tolerance
A huge turnout of young people filled Integrate Bristol’s summer celebration event held on Thursday 14th July 2016, at the Trinity Centre, in Lawrence Hill. The celebratory conference culminated the last years’ worth of ambitious action taken by the charity’s teams of young campaigners, and served as a platform to highlight the progress they have made with their recent projects.
Advertised as Integrate Bristol’s ‘LAST ever’ event, sparking rumours of a big announcement to come, the conference featured a showcase of the charity’s work combating gender-based violence, and their ever-growing specialism, campaigning to end Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). The organisation’s members sported T-Shirts with their slogans ‘Liberate the Genitals!’ and ‘FGM is in Prevent cause my clitoris is so explosive’, produced to raise money for the Divinity Foundation’s Stop FGM Rescue Centre, in Kenya.
Continuing their trend for boldly approaching taboo subject matter, the first performance of the day was a spoken-word act; complete with a sing-a-long chorus provided on each audience table. The piece took both a strong stance on FGM and racial stereotyping, and its hilarious verses and brazen chorus (‘My clitoris, Stayin’ where it is’) produced rounds of giggles from the audience. Despite the laughter; the combined effect of so many young voices standing up to confront the very real issues in their communities, and using a humorous and uncompromising stance in doing so, continues to create a unique and very strong impression.
The event was peppered with introductions from various speakers, including local MP Thangam Debonnaire, who sung the praises of the organisation’s high achievers, and DCI Leanne Pook, who is climbing Kilimanjaro, also in aid of the Kenyan FGM Rescue Centre. Lisa Zimmermann, Project Director, hosted the day and proudly introduced a number of the films produced by her young campaigners. ‘Use Your Head’; the catchy so-called ‘Dance to End Gender Violence’ is rapidly becoming Integrate’s musical motto, and encapsulates their work extraordinarily well, with a motivational soundtrack and cameos from the Avon and Somerset Police and ex-mayor George Ferguson.
Integrate have created a bit of a specialist niche for themselves; with their media outreach in Bristol centring so strongly around short film. They have teamed up variously with The Guardian and Zed Productions to send these important messages, covering subject matter such as grooming for radicalisation but also documenting their own political campaigns. Ranging in styles from uplifting music videos, to more hard-hitting narratives about the reality of gender-based violence in Bristol, their growing collection of films successfully puts the conversation about taboo subjects to the wider public, and serves to educate and inspire others to join in and take action. At Thursday’s event they premiered a new series of short films entitled ‘Call of the Void’, a surrealist narrative on the subject of racism and the traumatic effects this can cause, and the high-production value lends a lot of credit to the organisation’s media team.
The film featured one of their younger members Waris as the protagonist, who also presented the event’s opening remarks, and this kind of progression of younger members up through the charity’s ranks as older ones go off to university demonstrates the sustainability of their approach as a young persons’ organisation.
After an excellent lunch, Lead Outreach worker Muna Hassan led a presentation on the findings of their educational work, in which groups of young members visit schools across the country, in a bid to spread knowledge about FGM, and encourage frank discussion between peers about it. Surprisingly, according to Integrate’s statistics, fewer than 30% of school children had had a lesson on gender-based violence prior to their visit, highlighting the major lack of educational resources to teach about these issues, and how necessary Integrate’s work is.
Finally came the time for the big announcement, and it was definitely a reason to celebrate. After a number of gifts and photo-ops, the young people of Integrate announced proudly that they were re-branding to go national! This is a major step for a young persons charity, and the new status accurately reflects their outreach work, incorporating their campaigning into a wider community of national charities. These changes are due to take effect in November 2016, and at Bristol Zero Tolerance and Bristol Women’s Voice we wish Integrate the best of luck with their new endeavours and new title.
Wrapping up the day, the teens took over the stage for a celebratory dance-off to some of their favourite videos, and after a little dance, we returned to our office, truly inspired by these high achieving young men and women.