Titilola Dawudu, Programme Manager Young People & Youthfulness
“Being unapologetically free” is my favourite quote from the many people I asked, “What does youthfulness mean to you?” I asked this question just before I moved to Coventry. I used this as part of my interview presentation for the role that I am in now. I asked people on my social media platforms and fifty or so people responded. The age range of those who answered were between 16 - a friend’s daughter, to 61 - my mother. The answers came from all over the UK. From people who follow me in Edinburgh, Bristol, Manchester, Birmingham, London, Plymouth and everywhere in between. It was important for me to ask this question because it is so easy to assume youthfulness equates to being young in age.
“A sense of adventure”
Words repeated time and time again.
I believe that youthfulness is a state of mind, an energy and an attitude.
So, how do you become youthful or feel youthful? By giving yourself permission to have fun and be curious, to ask questions or call things out. By being part of the conversation and taking action, whether from home or out in the city. Anyone can be, or feel, youthful. It doesn’t discriminate, it’s not only for those with privileges or tied to status.
I will use this as the foundation for the programmes I am leading on for UK City of Culture. In the year I have lived here, I’ve met people who want to see a more fun and playful Coventry; who want colour to wash over the concrete and who want to be a part of making it happen. While Coventry is by no means still, static or invisible, its people want the city and its stories to be more visible to the rest of the UK. And we can do this by being unapologetically free.
What I also like about the quote, and what I didn’t think about at the time, is that being unapologetically free is something that we should all feel, we should all be, but we know that for some this is not the case. Coventry City of Culture Trust stands for human rights. We believe everyone should be able to express themselves and be active against opposition. Coventry’s history is about rising from the ashes and we’re using art and culture as a way to carry on that legacy. My tool of choice is youthfulness. Using exuberant energy and daringness, and the freedom I have, to bring events to Coventry that ensure all voices are heard. The time we’re currently living in has dulled a lot of us, and people’s freedom has been put into question. In its place there’s uncertainty, fear and trepidation, but the “optimism”, “sense of adventure”, “curiosity” - is still within us. It’s a powerful way to send a message, show resistance and be a part of healing what is broken.
Main image: Toyin Dawudu