What is it like to be trans at work? We found out at Imagining Our Futures 2017

Last Saturday at Gendered Intelligence we ran our annual day about careers and interests for young trans people in London, Imagining Our Futures 2017. 

In the morning we invited 15 diverse employers and organisations to run stalls and chat to attendees about what they can offer to trans people.

We were delighted to have stalls from Accenture, Amazing Apprenticeships, Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust, Diversity Role Models, EYLondon College of Beauty Therapy, Media Trust,  Ministry of Justice/Civil Service, NHS Employers, NUT, Royal MailSoho TheatreStonewall, TfL, with Institute of PhysicsRoyal Astronomical Society and National Physical Laboratory on one stall.

A group of trans teachers from the NUT  ran a workshop about what it’s like being trans as a teacher alongside the careers and interests fair.

At the beginning of the day we asked young people to share their concerns about their future at work or following their interest. Their comments demonstrated that there is still a lot of fear and apprehension around what it means to be trans at work. They are concerned about “being viewed as inferior compared to others”; “getting discriminated against” and “being outed against my will”.

Imagining Our Futures gives young trans people a chance to talk to employers and organisations about careers and projects that interest them. More importantly, those employers have an opportunity to tell young trans people that they are welcome in the workplace. Many organisations now recognise the value of a diverse workforce. Resilience and self-knowledge are assets. Imagining Our Futures provides a space for employers to communicate their message that trans people have a place in their workforce.

During the afternoon session, ten adult trans professionals with a range of backgrounds spoke to the audience of young trans people and their parents/carers about their experiences of being trans in the workplace. Just under half of them were non-binary. We heard from an academic, a London Underground driver, a video games developer, a charity filmmaker, a graphic designer, an archaeologist, an IT engineer at Mars, a software developer, a consultant and a primary school teacher.

Our speakers did not shy away from issues that they had encountered at work. They spoke about instances of being misgendered and when other’s lack of knowledge had created tricky moments for them. Everyone had experienced challenges and looked for advice and support from their employer, union or wider networks of friends, mentors and allies.

However, our speakers’ experience of work were overwhelmingly positive. Their employers had been accommodating and supportive and in general they were able to be themselves at work. Many found that their work improved once they felt comfortable in themselves .

At the end of the day, we asked all the young people who attended for their reflections about Imagining Our Futures 2017. Here are some highlights:

“The job fair was interesting – I felt like something positive could come out of it and it was great to speak to real people.”

“The employers I spoke to had a great attitude.”

“This morning’s careers fair showed us that employers are keen to diversify and appeal to trans people.”

“I have learnt that workplaces are accepting.”

“Thinking about a career is usually daunting, but today has given me a lot of confidence. I feel like I have a future as a trans person. “

“It’s reassuring to know that I have options in the future.”“It’s good that the fair focused on the “T”. I graduated recently and have been to LGBT employment fairs where trans gets lost.”

“It’s been empowering and encouraging. We exist everywhere and it’s been great to see companies that value our individuality.”

“I now know there is a place for non-binary people in the workforce. I go by they/them and I see that I can do that in the future too.”

There is a lot of work to be done to make sure that young trans people are, and feel, safe to be themselves in all areas of their lives. Imagining Our Futures showed attendees that progress is being made and that they can have the future they deserve.

We’d like to thank the National Union of Teachers for donating their amazing space at Hamilton House for Imagining Our Futures 2017.

Trans youth are real

by Dr Jay Stewart, CEO Gendered Intelligence

 

Following the broadcast of  Who knows best? documentary by John Conroy on BBC 2 last week, there has been a lot of rich discussion, debate and thoughtful insight online by members of our trans, queer and LGB communities and beyond.

Part of me feels there isn’t anything constructive that I can add, so much has been said. I’ve been reflecting and some time has passed. However, I’ve been thinking about the impact of this programme on our young members and their families, and wanted to address it.

The young people at Gendered Intelligence often tell me of their general sense of not being listened to and also of not being taken seriously. Sadly, that’s their norm. Sometimes what young people want isn’t deemed important, or they are told that it’s not ‘doable’ or even ‘sensible’.

Well intentioned teachers, parents, carers, nurses, GPs, social workers, youth workers, therapists and counsellors can feel nervous about the best thing to do when working with a young trans person.  Sometimes they miss out the most important question: what does the young person want? I think professionals do this because they lack support and guidance from the institutions and services that they work for.

Mainstream programmes that purposely undermine what trans children and young people are saying about themselves, their feelings and what they would like to happen are a backwards step for everyone. It’s disappointing that the BBC posited the idea that it is not children and young people, but experts, who know best about their own gender-related feelings and emerging identities.

At Gendered Intelligence, we have critiqued the notion of the ‘expert’ or sought to problematise it. From our inaugural Sci:dentity Project in 2005 where we asked ‘What’s the science of sex and gender?’, we learnt quite quickly that in fact there is very little ‘science’ when it comes to sex/gender and what is out there is subjective, even partisan – arguably heteronormative and reinforcing of gender norms. What’s more, by the time any scientific findings reach us (the general public) via journalists and documentary makers, they have been so reduced and oversimplified, all nuance is lost and meanings twisted.

But, what if we gave young people more of a platform rather than less of one? I believe we would all gain. At Gendered Intelligence, we learn from our young members. That’s where we got our name – trans and gender diverse young people are very intelligent when it comes to gender and it is their insight and experience that should steer services, not vice versa.

The 400 young people who attend our groups each year come from a wide range of backgrounds and have very diverse experiences, senses of self and use different words to describe their identity and their expressions.

When we use the word trans we mean it in its very broadest sense and work hard to ensure that those who identify as, for instance, non-binary, agender or a person with a trans history are all included. It’s important to state that we also welcome young people who are questioning their gender at our groups. We can’t expect young people (or anyone really) to have it all worked out.

Some members might think, ‘It feels right for me to express my gender in ways that people don’t expect, but I’m not sure trans is the right word for me just now and might never be’. We value these diverse feelings, experiences, identities and expressions. If such diversity was more visible and valued in society, the world would be a better place.

The BBC documentary reiterated a common belief that any exploration of gender identity or expression during the childhood or adolescence of a person who turns out not to identify as trans in adulthood is inauthentic and even dangerous.

I want to make the argument that we shift through life, we can change and we can take on different words to describe our sense of selfhood as we go along. Some things stay the same, some things don’t. Who we are is not ever entirely fixed – there is a lot that’s fluid. I think there is a lot of pressure for trans people (and young trans people in particular) to prove to everyone around them that who they are is entirely fixed in order to be taken seriously.

Thomas Kuhn wrote a book called The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962). In it he tells us that what we know through science, comes to us through a paradigm shift. A new piece of scientific knowledge will look to prove the old one wrong – it’s a fundamental shift, a revolution, rather than a gentle evolution.

In 2015 I did a Ted talk, stating ‘We are on the cusp of a gender revolution‘. Today I picked up a copy of National Geographic and on the front features a photograph of 7 young people with different gender identities. In big letters it says: ‘Gender Revolution’.

It looks like that revolution has started.

national-geographic-2

National Geographic

The idea of two distinct categories of gender identity based on genitalia presented at birth is (or will be) no longer tenable. Gender is more complex, nuanced, political and interesting than that.

I’m reading a book at the moment called Notes Towards a Performative Theory of Assembly by Judith Butler. In it she talks about the importance of coming together, to ‘call for justice’, to say ‘”we are not disposable”… “we are still here, persisting, demanding greater justice, a release from precarity, a possibility of a livable life”‘.

Now is the time to come together and get behind gender diversity, get behind the right to express ourselves, get behind Gendered Intelligence and other organisations like us because this affects lives.

Butler states:

‘The political aspiration is to… let the lives of gender and sexual minorities become more possible and more lovable, for bodies that are gender nonconforming as well as those that conform too well (and at a high cost) to be able to breathe and move more freely in public and private spaces…’

To breathe and to move more freely – that is what trans, gender diverse and gender questioning people need – to breathe, to expand our lungs, our bodies, our selves – let us feel what’s right, let us do what’s right – right now.

Transgender Equalities Report

Gendered Intelligence statement on Women and Equalities Committee’s Transgender Equality Report

Gendered Intelligence fully welcomes today’s Transgender Equality report published by the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee and its listed recommendations.

Despite an increase in trans visibility over recent years, we have a long way to go before trans people can feel happy and safe in all aspects of their day-to-day lives.

The report’s aim, to achieve full fairness and equality for trans people across the country, is poignant to many trans people and to organisations such as Gendered Intelligence.

Our work with young trans people gives us an insight into the daily struggles that young trans people face due to widespread prejudice and lack of understanding.

We are hopeful that the report’s strong recommendations in the following areas will bring about lasting change for all trans people.

  1. Recording Names and Gender Identities
  • Its consideration of the needs and recognition of non-binary people, in relation to the amendment of more inclusive language in the Equalities Act
  • The consideration of ‘x’ on passports
  • The removal of gender markers (“non-gendering”) from official records.

These recommendations work to acknowledge that gender is diverse. The practice of having only two gender options available (‘male’ or ‘female’) is no longer fit for purpose in a society where non-binary gender identity proliferates.

  1. Amending the Gender Recognition Act
  • Amendments to the Gender Recognition Act so that trans people can self-declare their gender identity

Currently, the process of applying for a Gender Recognition Certificate can be lengthy, confusing and even humiliating. We welcome a move towards self-determination of gender that ensures full autonomy and dignity for trans people.

  1. Gender Segregated Sport
  • The report highlights the very real discrimination that lies in gender segregated sport

Trans people experience significant barriers to taking part in sport at all levels. These barriers mean that many trans people are not able to enjoy the sense of well-being that can come from participating in sports and related activities.

Gendered Intelligence is currently working in partnership with the FA to improve trans people’s access to football. We hope that the Transgender Equality report will encourage systematic change across all sports.

  1. Experience of young people at school, college and University
  • The much-needed improvement in school, college and University experience of so many trans students

We have a right to feel safe in our learning environments. At the moment there is a lack of centralised guidance to help schools and colleges put equalities legislation into practice for the benefit of trans and gender variant students.

Giving students, and teachers, opportunities to learn about gender diversity is also integral to achieving full equality and fairness.

There continues to be enormous restrictions on all of us when it comes to expressing our gender identity. We need to make the world more intelligent about gender and give children and young people the skills to navigate the complexity of gender.

Reforming trans inclusion in our education system could dismantle gender stereotypes for everyone.

The full report can be read here.

Find out more about our support groups for young trans people: http://genderedintelligence.co.uk/trans-youth/youth-group.

End of Year Round Up from Gendered Intelligence

Happy Holidays

We’ve had an amazing year here at Gendered Intelligence.

We’ve worked with more young people and parents than ever before. We’ve also delivered more training sessions, assemblies, talks and workshops on trans awareness and gender diversity too!

In December we produced an interim report of our work from June 2014 – July 2015. Here are some highlights:

  • From July 2014 to June 2015 we worked with 266 young people and delivered 63 sessions with a total of 851 attendances.
  • In the same period we worked with 99 parents, carers and family members.
  • In schools and colleges, we have delivered workshops and assemblies to approximately 1200 students.
  • 985 people attended our trans-awareness training course.

You can read more about our work in the past year by downloading our interim report.

Below you’ll find more highlights of our work in the past year.

A Parent’s Story

Debra
Deb and her son came to GI for the first time in February 2015. Below she shares the impact our support has had on their lives.

Deb, parent of a GI youth:

“I am not exaggerating when I say that getting in touch with GI was literally life-changing for both me and my son.At the beginning of this year, I had a depressed and isolated child, out of education and out of life generally. He wasn’t the only one who was depressed and isolated. I don’t know if you’ve heard the expression “you’re only as happy as your unhappiest child.” How true is that?
At the end of February, my then 15 year old told me he was transgender. I knew very little about trans issues but whilst researching, someone told me about GI. A week later, I took an anxious and reluctant teenager who had not been out of the house for weeks to the March Youth Group.
What a transformation! The group welcomed him with open arms and immediately took him in and accepted him as one of their own. Two hours later, he emerged with the biggest smile on his face and there were plenty more hugs all round! I honestly couldn’t remember the last time I had seen him so happy.
Getting in touch with GI felt like a real lifeline to me and my son. He said to me the other day “I really don’t know where I would be now without GI” and I don’t know either.”

For more information about our parents and carers support group, please see the Gendered Intelligence website.

GI Volunteers Society

Two of our volunteers

Members of Gendered Intelligence Volunteer Society (GIVS) have continued their amazing work this year to support and raise funds for GI. In 2015 GIVS members have:

  • Worked hard to recruit volunteers to the trans youth group and other projects such as the camping trip
  • Run stalls at events at Southbank Centre, Westminster Kingsway College, London Metropolitan Archives and more
  • Organised activities including Clothes, Cake and Trans Inclusion in collaboration with The Circle as part of International Women’s Day, and camping trip fundraising party
  • Supported our clubs like Allotment Club and Football Club.

If you’re like to become a member of GIVS, fill in this short application form or email volunteer@genderedintelligence.co.uk for more details.

 

Football Association Partnership

group photo from our FA partnership event

In February 2015 Gendered Intelligence was commissioned by the Football Association to develop guidance around the practical inclusion of all trans people in football. The guidance sets out to support the FA’s new Trans People in Football policy.

We ran two focus groups to gather people’s views, followed by a friendly knock about on one of the astro turfs at Wembley. As part of this work we also ran a workshop about trans fans in football at the Football v. Homophobia conference.

To support the guidance we are also currently making a short film that looks to raise the visibility of trans people participating in football. Watch this space for 2016!

Stop Our Silence Success

SOS Logo

During Anti-Bullying Week 2015 in November, GI supporters signed up to stay silent for 24 hours to raise money for our youth work and take a stand against transphobic bullying. One 10 year-old young person raised £357 single-handedly! Well done to everyone who took part – you were amazing.

 

Over £1,500 raised so far

 

 

Knowledge is Power Launch

Knowledge Is Power

Knowledge Is Power

Knowledge is Power was a project funded by Awards for All that aimed to build a resource for young trans people, their families and those who support them.
We collected young people’s experiences and ideas during a series of workshops up to July 2015. One of the workshops was delivered by Beyond the Binary, where young people talked about their experiences and journeys as non-binary people.

Now Knowledge is Power is live! There’s lots of information there – it’s up to you to apply it to your life in a meaningful way and turn it into knowledge. Ka-pow!

 

Best wishes for the New Year from everyone at Gendered Intelligence.

Student placement at GI tells us about the trans youth network conference

Hi, my name is Phoebe and I am on the BA Drama and Applied theatre in Education course at Central School of Speech & Drama. I am currently in my third year and so have been lucky enough to be on my placement with Gendered Intelligence.

I attended the National Trans* Youth Conference in Manchester, based at the Manchester Metropolitan University. This was a day full of incredible people who identify as trans, non-binary or questioning their gender as well as some working professionals from services such as CAMHS or LGBT youth groups and there was a turnout of around 200 people.

Manchester-sign

As well as it being a day to increase connections and socialise with other people who may be having the same experiences as you, it was full of sessions providing people with important information which can help to empower young trans people by giving them the knowledge they need as well as inform professionals with information and facts on how best to help the people they work with.

The conference started with an introduction to the day, explaining what some of the sessions would be about as well as how the day would pan out. In the morning some of the sessions consisted of confidence building, how to create a petition, information about trans people’s rights within schools, as well as many other sessions.

After lunch, full of sandwiches, crisps, pasta, vegan and vegetarian friendly food, as well as gluten free food which was so kindly provided, there were some more sessions for the young trans people to attend. These sessions were more creative sessions and consisted of Film making, music, drama, creative writing and others.

I attended the drama workshop, as it is one of my main interest. We had lots of fun making sock puppet scenes, in which our trans sock even dated a crocodile, which I found quite entertaining. I believe that using drama as well as other creative fields is a perfect way to build confidence. Seeing people, previously looking slightly unhappy with a big smile and laughing was probably the best part of my day.

After this session there was a panel discussion in the format of question and answer, allowing the questions of the young people, mainly related to healthcare to be answered directly by working professionals.  This was highly interesting and gave not only me but I believe many people answers to queries that had not been answered previously.

This day was an excellent way to meet other people who identify as trans, non-binary and questioning their gender. It allowed people to share stories and experiences as well as being given advice on how they may go about difficult situations in schools.
I felt lucky to be able to talk to many people and learn so much that I did not already know around the topic of trans identities in medicine and in other aspects of their lives.

I am personally cis-gender, however I love to wear shirts and baggy jeans and I have myself experienced hate because of the way I dress. I believe that with these conferences in place, more people can become educated, which I believe is the start to end hate.

If you ever hear of another trans conference, I would highly recommend going, bringing friends and family to the event. Getting everyone involved will start breaking down the barriers between us.

Thank you for reading,
Phoebe

Finn tells us about the 11-15 year olds trans youth group so far…

What a lovely evening we had at our recent 11-15s trans youth group session. 7 young people came to the session, mostly from London or just outside, but one young person came down from Warwick!

We played a name game with juggling balls which ended up involving a lot of running about the room to fetch dropped balls… Er, from bad throws – nothing to do with anyone’s catching skills…! 😉

Then we worked on our working agreement and had some wonderful discussions about including and welcoming people into the group and during sessions, as well as respecting each other, listening, being sensitive around pronouns and opinions shared etc.

After a relaxed break and lots of biscuits and juice, we took some reflective time to draw our own ‘gender timeline’. Here is mine to give you an idea of what I mean.

image

The young people drew, wrote, discussed with friends to produce their own. Then they shared their stories in pairs and small groups. The room filled with more chatting and lots of laughter at the silly names that other young people have called them at school or incidents when people have got things very wrong even when trying to help! It was a great atmosphere and good to hear the young people share their similarities and find humour in moments that when you are alone can cause more distress.

At the end we closed with a circle of what people had enjoyed in the session as well as thinking of more ideas for sessions going forward. We are going to have a chilled out socialising music and games session as our last session on the 18th of December so looking forward to seeing all 11-15 year olds who identify as trans, non-binary or are questioning their gender identity there!

Finn Greig

5 Things You Will Learn from Being Out as Trans at University

By Jesse Ashman

Having come out in my first year of studying an undergraduate degree in English Literature, I am about to start a new university for the second time – this time as postgraduate student, below are some things I learnt from the first time at university.

SONY DSC

  1. You are not alone

While it seems statistically unlikely, there are other trans people at university. I might have been extremely lucky, but I had a small support-cluster of trans friends on campus. There is, of course, no way to find out if you have a potential trans comrade without being very rude (asking if someone is trans is rude, and does not help with making friends). This extends into professional academia as well. I’ve found, especially when dealing with queer theory, you will start using more and more texts by trans academics; it isn’t just my generation of trans people in higher education, others have walked this path before. This also isn’t just confined to the arts; I particularly recommend Evolution’s Rainbow, by Joan Roughgarden, who is a biologist and a trans woman. For me, it’s comforting to know that if you do get to the higher circles of academia there will be others there who too have had to go through explaining things like ‘my pronouns are actually…’ and ‘the gender is wrong on my passport because…’ which brings me on to…

  1. People will surprise you

It’s nice to have other trans people to talk to, but it’s also good to bear in mind that people outside of the community will surprise you. If you do choose to disclose your trans status, I’ve found that you can never assume who will be understanding and who won’t. Some of the most supportive people of my experience as a trans student have been people who I would never have guessed before coming to university would be. I especially remember one member of staff was extremely passionate about the injustice of me not feeling comfortable taking part in a conference because it would mean being put in single-sex accommodation. The overwhelming majority of people, especially proper-adult people who have had more years or more life experience or both in order to become educated on trans issues, were understanding and used the correct pronouns after having been corrected a minimum of once. That being said, doesn’t just apply to people already informed on trans issues. During my time at university I found myself explaining my trans status to a hall full of boisterous high-school students – after having clumsily explained in what I thought were the simplest terms possible, the reply came back from one of the particularly loud members of the pre-pubescent audience; ‘fair enough.’

  1. You will study texts that completely ignore your existenceSONY DSC

You can explain the existence of trans people to an IRL (IRL = In Real Life, for any non-digital natives reading) person, no amount of careful explaining to a hardbound copy of Freud’s essays on sexuality will change its mind about the development of gender. As soon as you go into any reading about gender a trans person will find many texts that ignore or misunderstand their existence; erasing it or using it as an ‘extreme example’ of gender variance or worse, by implying that the existence of trans people infringes upon women’s rights. There is no easy solution for this, the only partial remedy I can offer is to write your own opinions, challenge tutors who portray outdated theories in a positive light and try to use any salvageable elements of texts like this. It is unfortunate that it’s almost impossible not to encounter academic articles and books that have no understanding, consideration or a negative view of the trans community and it’s important to bear in mind that this does not represent the view of most people. Especially now, and especially after someone has undergone a little education on trans issues – most people have prejudices based on misunderstanding and not on hate.

  1. It is Okay to challenge the institutionSONY DSC

Bearing this in mind, this goes not just for trans issues, and is definitely something that all students should be made aware of ; it’s okay to challenge the institution (the institution being academia, the university system and established knowledge). Being at university means you’re part of the academic community now – and anyone who tries to tell you otherwise, to imply that your opinion is less valued based on your age or position as an undergraduate, is a self-aggrandising moron. It’s perfectly okay to point out when a text ignores or contradicts your existence or when you disagree for any other reason. And it’s certainly perfectly okay to point out when a staff member makes a mistake when talking about gender, either as a general concept and especially when they’re talking about your own gender. One of the problems I regularly encountered on a course made almost entirely of women was seminar leaders jovially pointing out ‘there’s only X amount of boys in the class!’ – the tally was always one short and a lot of apologies were made. Just because someone is an authority figure does not mean they won’t concede when they are wrong, and any member of staff who doesn’t should not be involved in teaching, or in academia. University is about broadening horizons and collective knowledge, not an established knowledge being passed down from on high by the doctors and professors of the university. (Although one piece of information I would like them to pass down is what actually is the difference between a professor and a doctor except that one makes me think of the bird from Bagpuss). It is often difficult to be assertive when you know or suspect authority figures to be wrong, but you should challenge them whenever you are able.

  1. There will be bad days

And lastly this one almost goes without saying – there will be bad days. There will be days when you feel entirely alone, when you feel like there is no one in the institution who would even scrape the tip of the iceberg of understanding trans experience and as if every piece of study was designed without you in mind. The best thing to remember is that this is natural, and this is okay. I haven’t met a single student, trans or otherwise, who hasn’t had bad days. It doesn’t mean you’re not strong enough to get through a degree, and it doesn’t mean there aren’t good days to come – and this is the most valuable piece of information I learnt as an undergraduate and if I was to choose one thing to pass down to my first-year self it would be that bad days are okay. So okay in fact that despite the bad days I chose to start it all over again within few months of graduating.

Jesse is an English literature graduate and aquatic snail enthusiast from Essex. He graduated from Queen Mary, University of London and is currently studying for an MA in Sexual Dissidence at the University of Sussex. 

Follow him on Twitter: @JesseAshman 

Gendered Intelligence Camping Trip

By Finn Greig 
Untitled5

In 2010, with a very small budget,  we had the idea of going away on a residential trip with the GI youth group. With camping being the cheapest option and something that I enjoyed doing, we took 8 young trans people and 3 volunteers to Debden Campsite in Epping Forest for 2 nights. As money was tight, we travelled by tube to Debden and walked 30 minutes to the campsite with heavy packs on our back!

Since then things have developed, grown and changed somewhat.  We changed our campsite. We took 11 young people for 2 nights. Still not being able to afford a minibus, we got cabs from the station with all the bags in and the group had a 20 minute walk, back pack- free, to the site. In the third year, we graduated to 16 young people, 2 nights and a minibus!

That being said, the minibus was quite small and most people had to sit for the half-hour journey with lots of luggage on their laps.

This year, our 4th time camping in 5 years (we didn’t go in 2013), we took a massive 25 young people and 6 workers – for 3 nights! We hired a coach with a driver and had ample room for luggage, sleeping bags and excitement. 

The idea behind camping is that we can disappear off to a field somewhere and create a little ‘gender haven’ where people’s gender expression is accepted without question, respected and best of all appreciated. It means that we can literally forget the difficulties of being trans in a cis-gendered world, for a few days at least. 

Camping Weekend Log:  August 8th – 11th 2014

Before we go away, the staff meet up on various occasions to plan, troubleshoot, go through as many ‘eventualities’ as they can think of and get to know each other a bit better.

Then with all paperwork completed, risk assessment done and the needs of the individual young people considered, we set about packing for the weekend!

Thursday night at Finn’s house, almost ready to go:

The supplies!

The supplies

  • Tent  ✔
  • First aid kit  ✔
  • Kitchen equipment  ✔
  • Cool boxes  ✔
  • Other camp gear  ✔
  • Storage crates  ✔
  • Random bag of circus equipment and whirly plastic tubes ✔
  • Finn’s clothes… Yikes, knew I’d forgotten something!

Friday 8th: Leaving day!

After an awful weather report for the whole of the Friday, we actually had a very sunny Friday afternoon.

Everyone met us on time at Walthamstow Central, apart from the coach! After calling the company we realised that it was at Walthamstow Central, but on the other side of the station. The driver apparently couldn’t get into the car park through the road works, so everyone picked up their stuff and we trekked around the corner to the coach.

Happy campers on the coach

 Our driver was lovely and very soon the  coach was packed up and we were on our  way with music playing, excitement brewing and good spirits.

When we arrived at site, the campsite staff  were busy setting up our marquee tent and  we set about laying out our tents and beginning to build our camp. The field was smaller than we’ve had in previous years and we had more people and tents to fit in. So we had to plan it out and get people working together in their tent teams but also helping each other to set up camp.

Untitled3

Untitled4

Nearly done

The weather held out until we finished building all the tents, then as it got wetter we all took shelter in our marquee kitchen tent.

We spent some time before dinner going over our working agreement for the weekend, which after a few days of rain, even though it as inside the marquee, ended up looking like this.  

Untitled7

 Nonetheless, the agreement was stuck to and re-discussed throughout the trip.

Untitled10

After a discussion about working together, we managed to organise the kitchen, cook dinner, reorganise the pitching of some dodgily pitched tents and settle down for a candle lit, soggy pasta dinner.

We didn’t get to have our first night campfire because of the rain, but everyone seemed not to mind too much and was keen to get to bed anyway what with a very tiring first day.  It rained most of the night, very heavily, to the extent that a few people gave up on their leaking tents outside and we set up ‘tentception’. For those of you that haven’t seen the film Inception, it refers to ‘a dream within a dream’ or in our case…

Tentception

Tentception

 Saturday 9th August: Day two or our first full day!

Saturday morning started in a relaxed manner, everyone getting up after a rainy night and helping themselves to breakfast and hot drinks. 

By 10am we had assembled in the main tent again and touched base as a whole group. Everyone went off to get ready for their activities and by 10.30 am we were headed to meet our instructors. Saturday morning, one group took part in Jacobs Ladder, another raft building and the third archery, all in the sunshine!

untitled13Untitled15

When we got back to camp, the rafters had a well needed shower after falling in! Apparently their raft stayed together through all of the challenges that the instructors set them, until it came to 10 minutes of free time, when it fell apart and everyone fell in the lake! The Jacobs Ladder climbers did really well, with 6 of the participants reaching the top bar and standing up, 12 metres from the ground! The archers reported on a fun and friendly competitive atmosphere reaching the target, and the two teams had great fun.

Then lunch makers got started with preparing salad, sandwich ingredients, fruit and juice. The sun stayed with us so we had a sunny outdoor lunch.

We had a chilled out afternoon and by 3pm we were ready for our early evening swim. The sun was still strong and everyone was really looking forward to our exclusive swimming session. We had an hour and a half in the pool on the sunny Saturday afternoon. We played water polo, catch and generally floated about in our chosen swimming costumes with the only worry being not getting hit by the ball during the enthusiastic game of water polo!

Saturday afternoon after the swim, everyone was hungry, and we got started on setting up the evening barbecue, 

Untitled18Chicken, burgers, sausages, veggie variations and pepper kebabs galore, we ate our way into the late evening.

After tidying up we got to have our first campfire, eating chocolate bananas, chatting and sharing thoughts on the day.

Saturday night was considerably drier and after a morning re-pitching and adjusting some of the tents that had let in the rain from Friday night, everyone slept well and, importantly, in dry tents!

Sunday 10th August:  Third day on camp

Sunday morning was a similarly relaxed morning of everyone getting up by 9.30am and after breakfast getting ready for more morning activities. Unfortunately by about 10am the rain was getting heavier and some of the young people asked if they would still have to do their activities in the rain. We phoned reception and asked at what point did the activities get called off due to weather? They said not until thunder and lightning was overhead, but that the activities could go ahead in any amount of rain. They assured me that it was safe, so we insisted on the young people getting all their waterproofs on and attempting to give it a go. We assembled in the main tent looking like we were about to go sailing in an Atlantic storm:

Untitled20

By 10.30, just as we were about to leave the marquee the thunder cracked about our heads and the lightning streaked across the sky, everyone looked at Finn… “Well, they haven’t called me to cancel, so I guess it’s still on?!” 

We left the marquee, some more reluctantly and confused than others and headed to meet our instructors. Sure enough, when we arrived at the meeting point, the weather had gotten too hairy for the activities to be safe, so they changed our proposed activities to some indoor ones: gauntlet and indoor archery. Everyone was happy, and the Gilwell staff told us if the weather got better later on they could put on a Kayaking session that we had missed in the morning because of the weather. 

Untitled25After the activities and drying off from the morning’s storm, we had lunch in the marquee, and fortuitously Sunday afternoon brightened up completely for the Kayaking session and our 2nd swimming session that evening!

Sunday afternoon on the way to swimming: the weather windy yet sunny & happy campers!

After swimming and showers, we made two massive pots of vegetable and potato stew to eat with our bread rolls and prepared to eat dinner around the now slightly dried out campfire, for our final evening. 

After lots of sharing and discussions about what people had thought of camp, some ukulele playing, singing and more chocolate we went to bed for our final night’s sleep.

Untitled27

Monday 11th August:  Packing up and going home day.

After everyone was up, slightly earlier than the previous two days, we showered and ate breakfast. The group were amazing at cleaning up as they went and generally helping out. We got them to pack their bags and be ready for a group meeting mid-morning for instructions on dismantling our tents and communal kitchen area. The group set to work as a big team, helping each other to dismantle all the sleeping tents and arrange them in an organised manner for the Gilwell workers to find later.

Untitled29

Staff set to work on organising and packing away everything from the kitchen tent, except for any lunch foods and the kettle. We ate a leisurely lunch and drank lots of tea and coffee. After lunch and the lunch clean-up, we had time for a ‘go-round’ on how people were feeling before dismantling the last of the kitchen set up and general camp stuff, tidying and packing Andolie’s car with the staff bags and camping equipment.

Before we took everything to the coach meeting point we had time for one last closing circle where everyone sat round, in the sun and we were joined in the middle by one of our friends from the weekend. 

No sooner we had got everything packed onto the coach and most people sat down, the heavens opened again and an almighty downpour of rain accompanied us off site with everyone safely dry in the coach. We arrived at our drop-off point in Walthamstow slightly late due to bad traffic, but pulled in to see some parents and carers waiting to take their tired young people home. Before leaving though, lots of hugs and phone numbers were exchanged, not to mention a few tears!

Those that weren’t being picked up headed off to the Tube for their heroic onwards journey home until just the staff were left for a group hug and a quick snack…

Thank Yous

A MASSIVE thanks to my INCREDIBLE, hard working and ever enthusiastic camping team:

– Lisa, Chigozie, Greygory, Andolie and Jake

– Keishaun the night worker, our ‘silent’ team member who stayed awake from midnight until 7am, every night keeping everything safe and our marquee from blowing away!

– Jay Stewart and Catherine McNamara for preparation support and for being on the end of the phone over the weekend for extra support.

But most of all… ALL 25 of the amazing young people for being fun, funny, enthusiastic, caring, thoughtful, kind, strong, willing, experimental, honest, skilled, memorable, curious, sensitive, brave, clever, patient, innovative, prepared and WONDERFUL!

Finn Greig – camping enthusiast, GI youth worker and eternal optimist.