In September 2013 BBC Children in Need were excited to be contacted by the team working with Radio 1Xtra DJ Charlie Sloth.They were looking to recruit some young people to take part in work experience at this year’s 1Xtra Live events in London, Bournemouth, Liverpool and Leeds.

1Xtra's Charlie Sloth

After careful consideration, 14 BBC Children in Need advocates joined ‘Charlie’s Army’ as trainees to work with 1Xtra and their BBC Local Radio stations to get experience developing on-air content, working with talent and shadowing the team during the live events.

The SPID Theatre Company, based in Ladbroke Grove, London, is one of the organisations which put forward some of their young people to take advantage of this fantastic opportunity. SPID provide training in all aspects of theatre production to young people living on local inner city estates. ‘Gangs on Stage’ is their successful, long-running project which has been funded by BBC Children in Need since 2010.

This funding has supported uplifiting youth shows like Team Spirit - which premiered during the London Riots - and Passersby, a rework of the Good Samaritan story. SPID works a lot with teenagers from the North Kensington council estates with some referrals coming via the Young Offenders’ Team or the police. Gang culture, poverty, boredom and underachieving can be a part of these young people’s lives.  Thanks to your donations to BBC Children in Need, SPID is able to teach teenagers how to turn personal stories into theatre work that they can proudly perform to their friends and family!Developing new writing, acting and design skills is fantastic for the teenager’s self-esteem and artistic expression not to mention improving their education and employment prospects. The project also promotes integration with the young people interviewing older residents about their own lives on the estate. The young people are encouraged to think about a sense of community and feel more part of local life. Currently they are creating a youth show called Kensal Voices, about the history of the Grade II* listed Kensal House council estate.

Lakeisha and Trisha from Charlie's Army

Trisha Soares, joined SPID in August and is now a project ambassador supporting the under 18s who come to the theatre workshops. For Trisha, the placement was more than just an exhilarating ride as she recounts:
‘Based at the iconic BBC headquarters in London, each session of the traineeship was focused on the principle of learning by doing. Amateurs and girl-Fridays? Not us. In the short span of 3 weeks, we were DJs, producers, marketers, writers – the list is endless.  The project provided hands –on experience in every sense of the word, from the chance to play DJ on-air to conducting live interviews on the streets of London using professional recording equipment for our personally developed production packages.

There are no words that truly capture the essence of the experience as a BBC Radio 1 trainee. While the project has undoubtedly moulded me into a little more of the career woman I aspire to be, in pushing me to think creatively, instilling the importance of effective teamwork, and teaching me to contribute, and excel in a high pressure environment, the experience would not be the same if not shared with the other unique and talented individuals of ‘Charlie’s Army’. I take with me not just an invaluable learning experience, but a wholehearted memory.’

Lakeisha Lynch-Stevens, has been part of SPID for three years, taking an active role in drama and creative writing workshops culminating in shows at Kensal House and other venues. At her placement Lakeisha learnt a lot about the creative process, with all its ups and downs:

‘Split off into groups, we were asked to make Production Packages on a subject of our choice centred on London and geared towards interesting a BBC Radio 1Xtra audience. I was given the role of the scriptwriter, which meant I wrote up the links the presenter would say in between interviews alongside intros and outros. I also followed the presenter, sound recordist and broadcast assistant around, jotting down any parts of their interviews with people that particularly struck me as interesting.

For the Red Button 1Xtra Live Show, I was based in the TV Gallery where all the live editing was going on. I was responsible for writing interesting tweets down onto BBC cards and running down to the TV Studio to pass them on for Charlie. I loved the responsibility within such a fast-paced environment, especially when a little technical difficulty took us back to Charlie’s screen quicker than I thought, pushing me into doing a careful sprint round.

1Xtra Live

I’ve walked away with an eye for how the energy of something can be captured and translated onto screen and invaluable radio production training. I felt really inspired by the work, advice, friendly words exchanged, but mostly how calm and together everyone was. Naturals. Thanks!’

Thank you for supporting BBC Children in Need so we can fund projects at organisations like SPID that help young people like Lakeisha and Trisha.  Click here to find out more about the work that SPID does.

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