A BOLD new youth movement wants to make Taunton a hub for social change, creativity and community action for the younger generation.
On February 15, Stand Against Violence, the Taunton anti-violence charity, officially unveils an exciting next step in its mission.
Its name is the Inspiring Social Innovation Society or ISIS – a youth and community engagement programme hoping to make a big impact. The ISIS is ambitious with a capital A.
As the brainchild of creative director Mel Amor, its objective is to empower passionate 14- to 24-year-olds around the issues that concern them, promoting open-mindedness and community action in two ways – through a Diverse Events Academy and a Live Music Academy.
In the Diverse Events Academy, 48 events will be held over 12 months, dead set on getting keen, bright youngsters from Taunton’s schools exploring key talking points and working on projects.
To put students in touch with a network of inspiring grown-ups from the Taunton area: ethical businesses, charities, enthusiasts, experts, organisations or community groups, industry professionals or philanthropists . . . anyone with an insider’s view and a social conscience who wants to share their vision and what they know.
The Diverse Events span eight topic areas, including health, food, money, entertainment, image, benevolence and the environment.
The first, surrounding ‘Police and Crime’, is on February 28 at the Creative Innovation Centre, where young people will get to put their questions to Avon and Somerset Police, the West Country manager of Crimestoppers and the Taunton Homeless Association.
Through these Diverse Events, ISIS wants to get youngsters thinking about and responding to subjects as wide-ranging as sexual health and the diet industry, sustainability and money management, capitalism, the music industry, celebrity culture, ethical business and conservation.
Mel said: “SAV has done a lot of work looking at violent behaviour, anti-social behaviour, and drug and alcohol abuse, to stop violence.
I want to extend that with the ISIS by bringing in a community of people already established who want to mentor or positively influence young people.
“The topics have been specially designed to target those industries or topics that influence or affect young people.”
So how does it work?
Mel says: “We set a brief and pitch it to the schools before the event.
They then select their ten highest-achieving students in that subject.
“Through social networking, kids from all different schools who probably haven’t met one another then have to think about and come up with ideas for what they’re going to do once they’re here.
“So, with fashion, for example, I’ve approached school textile departments and said ‘right, I need ten students to work on this really cool event – can you put forward ten of your most passionate kids?
Those who, perhaps, have real ambitions to work in the fashion industry?”
(Heathfield Community School has already given the ISIS a big ‘thumbs up’.)
That’s not all.
Mel is also rounding up promising NEETs (16- to 24-year-olds Not in Education, Employment or Training) and youngsters with Special Educational Needs to be part of the ISIS, too.
The over-arching ambition of the ISIS?
“It’s showing, from the NEETs up to the professors, that we all have an important role in society and all can contribute to what that community is,” said Mel.
“We want to promote benevolence, explore ethics and engage communities, facilitate change and creativity, and empower the youth.
That’s what the ISIS aims to do.”
CICCIC director and ISIS advisor Richard Holt said: “It’s all aspects of the community coming together to improve all aspects of the community.
“These are young people we instruct and support in order to move forward.
The whole thing is a great package.”
Then there’s the ISIS Live Events Academy – a fortnightly gig co-ordinated by Toby Holt.
Music has often acted as a fizzing, powerful catalyst for social change, and The Academy offers an open invitation to young musicians and bands to play live at CICCIC – the next gig is on February 14 – supported by individuals interested in sound engineering, and using a professional PA and lighting from the Liven Up music project.
There’s also an offer for aspiring music journalists to review and photograph the Live Music Academy’s nights for the ISIS’s social media sites.
The Live Music Academy is open to everyone with the next event, an acoustic Valentine’s special on Friday night, followed by another live gig on Friday, February 21 – contact Toby on firstname.lastname@example.org to be a part of it.
The ISIS’s first Diverse Events Academy event, on Saturday, ‘Inspiring Social Change’, is an “apt” launch pad for the ISIS, says Mel.
March 8’s event, meanwhile, will look at the fashion industry with fashion ‘upcycler’ Sophie Poulton.
Mel said: “The response to the ISIS has been hugely positive, yet many more hands are needed on deck.
“It’s as if I’m driving this massive truck and I need more fuel – I need people to help unload and reload, I need a bit of a workforce. I just want this to be the best it can be to have the most positive impact.”
To be part of the Inspiring Social Innovation Society, email Mel on email@example.com
The ISIS is at CICCIC, Paul Street, 4pm- 10pm on Fridays, and on the second and third Saturdays of the month, 2pm-10pm.
The Diverse Events Academy is on alternate Fridays and Saturdays from 6pm to 9pm, at £5 for registered participants, before which the youth café opens to everyone, registered or not.