The Southbank Centre's WHY? Festival supports children's rights, and this year explores issues such as child refugees, those who don't identify as a certain gender, and what makes a good childhood. The Festival incorporates workshops, interactive areas and a marketplace to talk to professionals about issues facing young people today. They aim to use the arts to face important and difficult issues and have various influential speakers over the weekend, including keynote speeches from Jacqueline Wilson and Michael Morpurgo on what makes a good childhood.
I went along to the festival on its first day on Thursday, and immediately loved what I saw. Voicelab: Sing for Your Rights was in session, and I was faced with around one thousand young people sitting and learning songs and protest chants, led by singer Fran Lobo. All of them seemed to be genuinely enjoying themselves and paid great attention to Fran, meaning she was able to split them successfully into a two part harmony on many occasions.
Directly following this, all the young people at the festival took part in a protest parade along the Southbank, all of them chanting and holding posters they had made themselves. Seeing such young people stand up for their rights was inspiring and the parade was very impressive.
As well as these main workshops, there is also the marketplace, where the young people can discuss the current issues facing them with those who are trying to help them. Stalls were held by Amnesty International, NatWest and others, as well as a stall encouraging them to write welcome letters to young refugees coming into the country. There are also a couple of interactive play areas, put together by children, that are ideal for very young kids.
Overall this is a really worthwhile festival to attend. Many schools had taken groups of children to be a part of the festival on Thursday and Friday, with special day passes for them to take part in everything the festival has to offer. WHY? Festival tackles important issues many people don't like to think about, and they are helping to shape the way the young people of today get their voices heard.
WHY? Festival is suitable for young people of any age, particularly aimed at those under 18. If you are interested in attending, or just want to learn more about the festival, click here.
The Southbank Centre is an Arts Award Supporter - read more about what they offer here.