There's this stereotype that teenagers are lazy: that all we do is loaf around, get drunk and play on our phones. People say things like ‘teenagers hate learning’ but that’s not true: sometimes we just don’t like the way we’re being taught.
Our generation is made up of dream chasers. Many of us want to create our own paths. We’re creative and we can use social media to promote and express ourselves.
In fact, social media is the biggest difference between our generation and those before us. It means we’ve become a generation with a sense of justice and a DIY spirit: whether that’s organising huge protests, making music or starting businesses from scratch. Meet six teens who are achieving huge things. By Goldie from Vision Crew.
Bea Bennister, 18, High Barnet
Founding member of campaign group Girls Against and sixth former
Where are you?
‘I’m at Rough Trade East. I went to see Swim Deep here when Girls Against was starting to get going. They let us put posters up.’
Tell us about Girls Against.
‘We’re four feminists who fight against sexual assault and harassment at music events.’
What made you decide to start?
‘One of our squad had a bad experience at a gig and she told us about it. We set up an online forum and it spiralled from there. Now we’ve had support from bands like Peace and The 1975 and recruited 50 reps around the country.’
Do you still have time to have fun?
‘My free time and Girls Against stuff merge into one. I’ll be at a gig, then suddenly I’m handing out badges!’
What was the first gig you went to?
‘I used to be really into McFly and follow them around the country...’
Are female fans stereotyped?
‘Yeah. There’s this idea we’re “silly teenage fangirls”. It’s only at Slaves gigs that I’m able to mosh. Although once this patronising guy rubbed my head like: “Congratulations, you’ve made it to the moshpit.” I was like: “I can probably mosh better than you.”’
Interview by Joe
Maryam Jibril, 18 Hammersmith
Student and organiser of some of Londonís Black Lives Matter protests
You're in Hammersmith Library, right?
‘Yeah, it’s where I usually am during exam season. It’s where I trust myself most to get work done.’
Do you think schools are good at teaching teenagers to be socially and politically aware?
‘No! Teens have to find it out for themselves. I found out the stuff I know from social media and reading up by myself. Schools should do better.’
How did the @BLMLDNmovement Twitter account come about?
‘It was right after I found out about the Philando Castile shooting . People were tweeting like:“If something was to happen in London, I’d be dead down for it.” I was like: “We should actually do this.” I put all the dates together and people started retweeting them. It was crazy. We had like one thousand retweets by the end of the week.’
How did you feel with so many people on board?
‘It was such a warm feeling. Everyone at the protests was there for the same purpose. It felt very welcoming and like your ideas and everything were being taken seriously.’
How did you juggle school and organising it?
‘I didn’t really, because it was the end of exams, so I skipped the last few weeks.’
You skipped school the last few weeks?
‘It wasn’t anything important! I’d had my last exam, and you have to go back after, but it wasn’t anything except trips and stuff. People were going to Thorpe Park and I don’t really like rides.’
Interview by Hannah
Blakie, 18, Lewisham
Grime MC, producer and member of crew The Square
What's with the bouncy castle?
‘It’s at a playground where I’ve been playing since I was four years old. I was back there the other day to film some of the video for my single “Can’t See Them”.’ How did you end up getting involved with your grime crew The Square? ‘My boy Novelist lives at the top of my road. We were at his house. I tend to freestyle a lot and after he was like Grime MC, producer and
How did you end up getting involved with your grime crew The Square?
‘My boy Novelist lives at the top of my road. We were at his house. I tend to freestyle a lot and after he was like Grime MC, producer and member of crew The Square “That sounds grimey” and I was like “Yeah man, let’s do this.” ’
When did you first start taking music seriously?
‘I only realised I could make it a career about a year ago, but I first started producing when I was nine. This bus used to come around the ends, called Sounds Around, with production equipment on it. I’ve still got some of the tracks I made then. They sound mental.’
You produced a track on Skepta's album. How did that happen?
‘It was so random. Skepta’s a friend of mine. I was in the car with him one day and I played it off my SoundCloud. He was like: “What’s that?” Then said so calmly: “That’s going on the album.” I was just sitting there like “Yeahhh”. I still can’t get my head around the levels of it: it’s a very big thing.’
How's growing up in Lewisham been?
‘There’s such a mixture of people here. I don’t think I’d like to live anywhere else. If I was brought up even 40 minutes down the road I wouldn’t be who I am today. ’
What do you do outside music?
‘I’ve been skateboarding for three years, but I learned how to skate in just a summer. It took me like three weeks to do ramps. I’m just one of those people: if I’m determined to do something it will get done.’
Interview by Pascall from Vision Crew
Sophia Tassew, 19, Borough
Artist and art director at FCB Inferno advertising agency
Where are you?
‘In my bedroom. You’ll always find me in here hatching new plans. I’ve lived in this house for about eight years with my mum and siblings.’
You grew up in Peckham. How did that affect your taste in music, fashion and art?
‘I’ve always been in love with the aesthetics of south east London: the tower blocks, the black boys in hoodies, the chicken shops…’
‘Exactly! I‘m proud of everything that everyone else would find annoying, untidy, uncomfortable or intimidating. I try and represent my culture in my work.’
You just did your first exhibition: a series of film posters based on grime albums. What inspired it?
‘I admire art and I love grime but I’ve noticed that when I step into a gallery I don’t see artwork that represents me, or that culture. I tried to create a space where we can feel represented.’
You dropped out of uni. Are you glad you did?
‘Yes. If I didn’t leave on that night I’d probably be in halls writing an essay right now. I wouldn’t be an art director or even doing art.’
On that note... how did other members of FCB Inferno react to you joining the team so young?
‘Surprised but supportive. You don’t get a lot of young black people in the creative industries. We deserve more recognition. It’s our time now.’
Interview by Hannah
Clint Ogbenna, 19, Wembley
Co-founder of clothing line Cade and university student
Tell us about Cade.
‘It’s a clothing line my friend Ade Sanusi and I co-founded. We released our first collection in April. Our slogan is “On the Map”.’
Where do you get your design ideas?
‘The scope for inspiration is so big because of the internet. You can see something from Tokyo, or from a subculture in America and get inspiration. But our designs are always true to us.’
Have your clothes got famous fans?
‘No one we know of. Our first drop featured in ASAP Rocky’s short film, though. I remember seeing a camera crew near us that day. I thought they were shooting “EastEnders”.’
Has growing up in London helped you build a brand?
‘When I was 16 I was in this group of creatives called Apex. We were just hanging with each other, being ourselves, and other kids bought into it. We built up quite a big online following. That doesn’t happen if you’re not from London. It’s a hub for music and art.’
What do you do on a free night?
‘I’m looking through designs, watching Quentin Tarentino films... or playing Fifa.’
You wanted your picture taken in a Brick Lane bagel shop. Why?
‘Haha... I just fucking love bagels. They’re cheap and they taste good.’
Interview by Joe
Sophia Yuet See, 18, Whitechapel
University student and co-founder of Sula Collective
What is Sula Collective?
‘It started as an online platform for and by people of colour, and slowly we’ve been doing more physical zines. We’re also planning an event soon. I have a co-founder, Cassandra, who I’ve never met.’
What?! How does that work?
‘She lives in New York. It’s wild: we have this amazing friendship literally through the internet.’
How do you get anything done?
‘We video chat and Google Chat all the time. Our whole relationship is built online – which is, like, so cool. I do feel I know her, like it’s genuine. We’re always like: “It’s going to be mad when we actually meet, it’s going to be amazing.” ’
You’re also a filmmaker, right?
‘I made a film with Channel 4, the ICA and Space Studios. They had this programme for young people who want to make films and they give you funding. I applied and got it. I made this spoken-word-type piece about drifting and longing in the city. I’m also working on a short documentary about East and South East Asian people living in London.’
What inspired that?
‘It was for a school project then I just kind of took it more seriously because it was so personal to me and it made me realise my experiences weren’t in isolation.’
Is there more pressure to succeed, being a teenager today?
‘Yes! We’ve grown up with stars who are our age, and doing the wildest stuff, and you’re just like: Oh wow, I’ve made my bed today… What do you want me to do?’
You have that weird feeling of inadequacy?
‘Constantly. I always feel like I’m not doing enough, then I remember I’m 18… and it’s calm.’
What are the advantages of being a teenager living in London in 2016?
‘I’m surrounded by a lot more like-minded people in London than I would be if I lived somewhere else. I’m so lucky to have been brought up here because loads of Poc activism and general activism and art events and projects are centred in London. Which also kinda sucks because if you’re not here…’
What are the disadvantages?
‘Everything’s so expensive!’
Does that make you worry for the future?
‘Yeah, definitely. I’m just like how am I going to continue to stay here? How do you afford to live?’
Portraits: Ed Miles