‘Interesting and insightful’: Hackney students deliver lectures on gentrification, social media and local education

Gentrification featured in two of the lectures. Photograph: courtesy Mair Lawrence-Matthews

School students have given heartfelt lectures on issues affecting Hackney’s young generation as part of an outreach and activism project.

The Hackney Young Lecturers initiative, run by AccessHE, covered four days of communication and training that concluded with lectures delivered at the Tomlinson Centre on Queensbridge Road.

The programme, designed to develop skills for future careers or higher education, included a photography workshop by Donna Travis from popular local arts organisation Future Hackney.

Three insightful lectures were delivered by A-level students Chanel, from Bridge Academy, and Maria and Jess from Clapton Girls Academy, to an audience of residents and higher education experts.

Their presentations explored gentrification, social media, and academic attainment in Hackney.

Maria’s research into the links between social media, isolation and anxiety was clear enough to jolt one out of social media addiction.

Her statistics, including the fact that we spend on average 50 days a year on social media, are a cause for much reflection.

The students bolstered their presentations with additional research. Photograph: courtesy Mair Lawrence-Matthews

Maria said the project has given her good transferable skills: “All the secondary research we conducted will be very important because I am going to go on to study psychology.

“I did some primary research to understand how my peers were thinking, which will be important for any career in research that I may do in the future.

“It was all great. It was all very out-of-my-comfort-zone because I haven’t done public speaking. Everyone’s been really encouraging and very nice and it was really fun.”

Chanel’s lecture highlighted the effects of gentrification by taking us through the threat of development at the historic Ridley Road Market in Dalston.

With poetic delivery, she told the stories of residents affected by changes in the area.

Jess’s thorough presentation examined how racial stereotyping, gentrification, and biased expulsions can impair the academic success of Hackney’s ethnic minority students.

She cleverly brought the issues to life with experiences from students and some audience role-play.

All the lectures brimmed with confidence and fresh, intelligent takes on issues of huge relevance to young Hackney residents.

The lectures were filmed and AccessHE plans to share the video with the council.

Mair Lawrence-Matthews, outreach coordinator at AccessHE, said: “It has been amazing seeing the young people’s confidence and their skills grow from the workshops. Seeing the issues that are important to them has been really interesting and insightful for me.

“There are a lot of things I think we know about from reading but we don’t actually hear what the younger guys say about them. I think that young people need to be brought more into discussions about issues like these. Because actually, they’re the ones who are being impacted the most.”

Lawrence-Matthews plans to run the project again next year with more visibility and a larger audience.