User Voice Collaboration Raises Youth Issues to Parliament

London - Saatchi & Saatchi London and award-winning musician Speech Debelle are collaborating with the charity User Voice on a tour of inner cities, where they will meet young people who have been excluded from society, and listen to their stories.  User Voice Founder Mark Johnson, Speech Debelle and 30 young people will then go on to meet leading politicians and policy makers in Parliament on 2 December, where a film of the process created by Saatchi & Saatchi will be screened.

"Because of Speech Debelle's music, based on her own personal experiences growing up, we felt that working with her on User Voice's Excluded Youth Project would be the ideal way to capture people's imaginations and to help User Voice raise awareness about the serious problems that disadvantaged youth face in Britain today."  Paul Silburn, Creative Partner, Saatchi & Saatchi London

Saatchi & Saatchi will film Mark Johnson and Speech Debelle, as they meet with youth in London, Birmingham and Manchester to talk about a variety of topics that affect their lives, and follow their progress in Parliament, where they will meet representatives from the Home office and Ministry of Justice as well, as from the world of youth justice.  They will be in London on Wednesday 24 November, Birmingham on Thursday 25 November, and Manchester on Friday 26 November.

Speech Debelle, who won the prestigious Mercury Music Prize for Best Album in 2009, for ‘Speech Therapy', takes a break out of recording her second album for Big Dada to conduct workshops, and collaborate with these young people on a new song, inspired by their stories.  As Pitchfork said of ‘Speech Therapy'; "Speech cuts through the crap without pretending to have easy answers." The track will be written during these UK meetings and recorded soon after, with a release date tbc.

Speech says "Writing music has always been a way for me to address my own circumstances, when a track is finished and you're hearing the final mix, it's like taking a step back and seeing a subject more clearly.  It's empowering.   I hope that though this project I can help User Voice and the people I meet to achieve some of that same feeling."

The process began when more than 700 ex-offenders aged between 14-25 across England, completed questionnaires on topics such as money, crime and housing.  This was narrowed down to over 200 who took part in focus groups, where they talked to Mark Johnson and his team, about their lives and the problems they have faced and overcome.   Each person was given a T Mobile phone with credits and internet access, to allow them to keep in touch with the User Voice Mentors. 

"Our own histories give us unique access and a special relationship with people like us from chaotic, violent or abusive homes.  When we get into prisons and the young people's secure estate, people talk to us because we understand.  We listen and we hear their voice because we have been where they are now.  Our job is to urge policy-makers, people with power, people who make decisions affecting the lives of offenders and ex-offenders, to listen and act on these voices."   Mark Johnson, Founder of User Voice

User Voice is run by rehabilitated ex-offenders, who are giving something back to society by helping young people in a similar situation to reform their lives.  This process allows the youngsters to reveal the reasons why they may have ended up in prison or involved with drugs, with the philosophy that "Only offenders can stop Re-offending".

In a society where young people often don't have a voice, and are frequently stereotyped by the media as hoodie-wearing, ASBO-wielding thugs, User Voice is a refreshing antidote to the negative portrayal of the next generation.  User Voice aims to cut out the middle man, and put young people in a room with politicians who can make a difference to government policy, and take direct action to change the way Youth are represented and treated. 

Creative Director:  Paul Silburn
Copywriter:  Steve Howell
Art Director: Rick Dodds
Agency Producer: Ed Sayers
Account Director:  Sarah Campbell
Production Company: Partizan
Director:  Matthias Hoene
Producer:  Madeleine Sanderson

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