Nadia, 21, BYC Volunteer (Spotlight Young Person)

Nadia, 21, volunteered with the British Youth Council

When and how did you first become interested in the arts?
I first became interested in the arts when I was seven. From an early age I was always interested in writing and different forms of creativity. That was how I channelled my emotions and expressed myself. I went on to do a degree in journalism but was always interested in working in the arts.

How did you get involved in this volunteering?
At the time I was living in Manchester after uni, with a part time job feeding me. I was doing work experience at a theatre there and wanted to come back down to London but didn’t have much reason to – until a friend forwarded the British Youth Council’s application form. They were looking for someone to make a documentary telling the truth about youth in Britain. I was still desperately looking for a graduate job and applying for anything that came my way so I applied. Much to my surprise I got the place!

Why did you make the film?
I was so glad to be accepted onto something that would give me good experience, but I got even more enthusiastic when I heard the subject. It’s something that needed to be spoken about more through the media and other artforms. This was a good opportunity for me to be a part of that

Didn't you mind that the work you were doing was unpaid?
No because I’ve been doing work experience and voluntary work since I was 15, probably younger, and always knew it would take a while till I started getting paid work – you have to show your dedication and get experience, especially in the media. I got paid expenses so money worked out ok.

I got so much more out of it than just money to pay the bills – the relationships I’ve got now and the skills I’ve developed mean so much more.

What did you get out of your involvement with the documentary as a volunteering experience?
We all learned how to edit film and developed journalistic skills through writing questions and interviewing.

And then there were friends and contacts: I still keep in touch with some of the people I met within and outside the project.

Most of all, it helped me make my decisions. Work experience can be a bit disheartening: you’re thinking, ‘have I made the right career choice, am I wasting my time?’ But when you see your work showcased at places like the BFI you really feel it’s all been worth it. It reminds you your work can be taken just as seriously as those who have been working on Channel 4 for 20 years. It pushes you forwards.

So where did it take you?
Just as the BYC project was coming to a close I discovered an opening for the BBC Young Writers Programme. I thought, ‘I need something to do now and this looks cool but I won’t get my hopes up’. But again I got in! I’m sure the writing, organisational and communication skills I improved through the BYC project helped.

I’ve written one of the episodes for E20 (an Eastenders spin-off) and I’ve even had a play I wrote commissioned! I’ve also started getting work teaching creative writing for children with behavioural problems.

Keeping in touch with my colleagues on the documentary has led to even more work. One of them has a company – an art collective called ‘Beddown and Bactimi’– and we’re working on an exhibition together. Another one who later got really into editing sent me a film script, so we’re doing a short film together. 

How do you feel you’ve made a difference?
Seeing how far I’ve come since I started the film makes me think I really could make a difference, by relating to people who are a bit younger than me who want to get into the media. Hopefully I can use my story with BYC (and the documentary too) as a good example.

Participation Works is a partnership of…
British Youth CouncilChildren's Rights Alliance for EnglandKIDSNational Council for Voluntary Youth ServicesNational Youth AgencyNCB