'Now is the time we have to platform young voices'

I remember the week after the [EU] referendum, chatting to a young person I mentor about the result. She was distraught. "Why have the over 60s voted for something they’ll die before they experience it? This is my future they’ve screwed up." I didn’t know what to tell her. I’d lost my patience with mainstream politics too. We’d seen rises in youth voting across various elections in recent years, and here was a young person, feeling like her voice had no power.

Rife Magazine is the youth magazine I edit in Bristol. We’re a Watershed project, funded by Bristol Youth Links and Bristol City Council, and the whole reason it exists is to give young people a voice. We provide a platform where young people can promote opportunities and positive activities that are available for them in the city, while at the same time writing essays and making videos about the things really bugging them. Crucially, we pay them. We have three jobs available every six months, and we’ve had nearly 20 young content creators come through, as well as over a 100 people who just want to be published on a magazine.

I love working with young people. I find it challenges my writing and it really makes me think about why I do what I do. Don’t ever doubt the power of giving a young person a platform to tell their story in their own voice. It can give them the opportunity to find their way into their dream job in the creative industries and it can give them the confidence to express themselves.

Varaidzo, one of the young people who worked with us at Rife Magazine, is an incredible writer and working with her, I was taken by how strong her voice was, so I commissioned her for The Good Immigrant, which has given her a kickstart to her career. She and three other people I’ve worked with have created the award-winning platform gal-dem, written by women of colour. Other writers have ended up making films, writing for magazines, working in the mainstream media.

Now is the time we have to platform young voices.

Why?

Because, well, while I run the risk of giving you a cliche, we are living in utterly dark times and so, cliches feel like a comfort, so… why? Because children are the future, dude.

So after three years of Rife Magazine and Rife Guide delivering inspiring content and activities to young people, we’ve decided to do a book. A state-of-the-nation look at what it’s like to be young in Britain at the moment. Young people didn’t vote for Trump, Brexit, Scotland to remain in the United Kingdom, David Cameron (no one voted for Theresa May), and they’ve been left out of the political discourse. So they decided to commission themselves and tell their stories.

You should know that it’s never been harder to be young. One in four people under 25 will be affected by mental illness. 52% of all people under 25 have looked for advice on homelessness. As university fees rise, job opportunities dry up and houses get more expensive, they are facing an ever-expanding chasm of doubt, instability and, basically, buckling down for a really, really rough time for the rest of their lives.

I’ve curated the book alongside Sammy Jones, who used to work for us at Rife. The writers, all under 24 and selected from all over the UK, include Ella Marshall, June Eric-Udorie, Liv Little, Amber Kirk-Ford, Rosalind Jana, Ailsa Fineron and many more. Some are Rife writers, others are young people we’ve worked with, others are writers we rate.

What they all have in common are their essential insights into what it means to be young in Britain right now. Against the apocalyptic backdrop 2016 has provided us with, their stories prove their are still full of ideas and aspirations. And maybe they’ll fill you with hope too.

If you’re under 24, with an interesting story to tell, get in touch with editor@rifemagazine.co.uk - we have plenty of room for writers new to us with important stories to tell!

Nikesh Shukla is an author and works at Rife Magazine in Bristol.