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SLP - The Beginning

An introduction to Joe Mason's series, 'Impressions of a young summer intern' and a reflective piece on the inception of SLP by founder, Fran Plowright.

I have known and worked with Joe Mason since January 2010 when he impressed our selection panel at A New Direction  looking to recruit from a group of 35 Year 10 applicants from Stoke Newington School & Sixth Form in Hackney. Joe was one of 6 students chosen to take part in a unique, Olympic focussed journalism and youth engagement project which included a trip to Vancouver's winter Paralympic Games 2010. 
The students received pre-trip workshops and training in writing, blogging, researching, interviewing, audio podcast production, film-making, event production, debate curating, ideas presentation and pitching. They worked both in teams and individually and were introduced to some inspirational industry professionals. They were also encouraged to find and use their own voices and perspectives to pull together a narrative and commentary on their experiences which they posted on their blogs.
The six-day trip encouraged them to learn from a nation - especially their young counterparts from the Britsh Columbia Ministry of Education project - Sharing the Dream - what it felt like to be hosting a life changing event like the Olympics and Paralympic Games. They took notes to bring back and pass on.
The programme (funded by A New Direction) continued out of school hours after the initial trip.
I worked with 10 of them including those 5 that came to Vancouver encouraging them to use their blogs and their unique perspectives to find their voices to comment on the changes that were happening to their city all around them at breakneck speed.  After all, the games were sold on Legacy and the next generation who would be benefitting from this life-changing event and these were 10 of them.
All of the SMJ's (Social Media Journalists) as I called them had their own individual strengths and skills; from spoken word poetry to podcasting, photography and film-making, to interviewing and presenting. They were invited to speak and appear as pundits on radio programmes including BBC World Service, LBC Breakfast show and BBC World & BBC Global. They were also published online at The Guardian 'Comment is Free' and had tours of production houses, media and cultural institutions such as BBC Radio 1 and the Guardian, Somethin' Else, The Barbican, Free Word Centre in London, and even the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland. Particular highlights for Joe were having his photos and an extract from his blog included at an exhibition about Politics and the Olympics and taking part in a panel discussion alongside other eminent broadcasters and print journalists, about getting into journalism, chaired by the then Deputy Director General Caroline Thompson. 
I have stayed in touch with all the SMJ's over the years - some more closely than others - post-2012. All moved on to do their A Levels and have now gone into further education & university.
I have inadvertently fallen into the role - for some - of mentor, advisor, reference writer, opportunity broker and sometimes employer - both Bianca (Manu) and Kimberley (Nyamhondera) have worked for me on and off in their gap years and during holidays back from uni and they always bring fresh insights, ideas and enthusiasm to the projects I am working on. There are many reciprocal benefits. I believe it is through this continued contact with this bunch of bright young people and subsequent projects that work like this has led me to, that I became convinced that a programme like the SLP apprenticeship programme can truly work. 
These are relationships built over time, built on trust and opportunity, built on honest feedback and with bespoke support for individuals and their unique needs rather than a one size fits all approach.
It has taken hard work and perseverance, and there were and are moments of frustration and things don't and did not always go to plan, but I think that focusing on bespoke support is definitely the key.
In May this year, Joe - who is now about to go into his third and final year of his music degree at Manchester University - contacted me and asked if I could help him to get a summer internship at Shoreditch-based content company, Somethin' Else. He knows he might like to work in some shape or form in the creative industries, possibly journalism, possibly music related, possibly in radio? when he graduates, but he isn't sure and wanted a summer internship to find out more. I confidently recommended Joe onto SE because I knew that Joe would rise to the challenge and use the opportunity wisely with tenacity and enthusiasm and with enough humility to role up his sleeves and be prepared to cheerfully do whatever jobs were thrown at him. The feedback I got was good and may well lead to some paid work for Joe at Christmas. Following is an extract from the blog he kept. Impressions of a young summer intern. Enjoy. 
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