Five Years of Spotlight: Looking Back


Five Years of Spotlight: Looking Back

Spotlight opened its doors back in 2014 – when 12 Years a Slave won the Oscars, UpTown Funk was playing everywhere and no-one had even heard of Brexit.

Created after 1,600 individual youth consultations, we here at Spotlight have always aimed to put young people at the heart of everything we do. And in the five subsequent years as we grew from a small office in one centre to six across Poplar, we still pride ourselves on re-writing the rules of youth work and creating spaces for discovery, growth and inspiration.

It is not easy to narrow down five packed years of classes, activities and memories to a few highlights but we have had some moments we definitely want to humble-brag about:

Spotlight Sounds performance Nizzy Nation

Performance by Nizzy Nation at Spotlight Sounds’ album launch. Image Credits: Mark Lucas

From the beginning supporting young people to be creative has been the mission, with over 3000 having taken part in our Get Creative programme to date. Founded in the area where Grime was born, music has always been in a huge part of Spotlight’s identity and we have seen some incredible talent blossom in the multiple sessions coming out of our state-of-the-art studio in Lansbury and more recently Bow East centre. From the creation of our in-house record label Spotlight Sounds (already released two albums) to collaborations with massive names such as BBC 1Xtra, GRM Daily and Resident Advisor to name a few, it has been an incredible few years of encouraging young people to express themselves and their talent.

Our young people even had their five minutes of fame when Sadiq Khan came to listen to them perform as part of the launch of his Young Londoners Fund, something the young people of Spotlight & Poplar will benefit from.

Dulwich picture gallery fashion collection

Young person’s fashion design based off art featured in the Dulwich Picture Gallery.

Spotlight members creativity does not just end there. We ran an amazing fashion project with Dulwich Picture Gallery, London College of Fashion and costume designer Lesley Ford to create garments inspired by the gallery’s paintings and last year worked with Dream of Life London supporting young women to create art about their dreams and aspirations as well as hosting annual dance events like #SpotlightsUp with Urban Interface Dance UK.  And our recent project with Tower Hamlets Youth Offending Team and Playing ON Theatre Company to create a theatre group for young people at the risk of offending, Breaking Character has been a gesture towards the power of the arts. These are only a few examples of how the last five years have shown the talent and dedication of our young people.

On the Get Active side, we have had over 2000 young people take part in our sport activities. Boxing has been massive from the start, and our partner Limehouse Boxing Academy have done everything from running sessions that young people attend religiously and helping them gain boxing qualifications to mentoring young people. Their ‘KO Racism’ campaign works to combat online extremism and they have created programmes that help young people on the edge of gang involvement. They even took their young boxers to meet heroes such as Anthony Joshua!

Girls Boxing

Spotlight Girls’ Boxing Group

A special shout-out must also be done for our Girls Boxing programme, supporting young women be empowered and get fit as well as to our Bromley North Centre for continually running great sports sessions, including engaging young people in basketball with professional London basketball team the London Lions.

One of the most vital parts of our work is making young people engaged and responsible in their community. Through our multiple Get Inspired programmes young people have really shown they care, with around 600 young people having taken part in our Volunteering and Youth Leadership Projects. One brilliant thing that we have achieved is the creation of Youth Committees in each of our centres, giving young people the opportunity to have their say in Spotlight and create community events. They have seized these opportunities with both hands, taking part in in one-off volunteering events cleaning canals to joining our Youth Empowerment Programme, the ultimate personal development experience helping young people develop themselves and the world around them.  We recently saw the revival of our incredibly inspiring Youth Independent Advisory Group, giving young people the chance to have open debates with the Metropolitan Police and other prominent community leaders.

Most importantly, over the last five years we have created a safe space for young people to enjoy, feel welcome and supported over anything from personal issues to job skills – and with 92% of young people surveyed claiming that Spotlight has had a positive impact on their life it is really encouraging for us to see that Spotlight has made a difference.

With all this behind us we are excited to see what the next five years brings. With an International Women’s Day evening of performances, talks and free food and Young People’s Question Time event providing young people with a space to question leaders members of the community coming up in the next month it’s definitely not going to be quiet. So thank you to everyone who has helped build Spotlight up to what it is today – to all the staff, partners and especially the young people who constantly bring their A-game – and here’s to a creative, active and inspiring future ahead.

And if you want to check out our five year anniversary video watch it here: