By Aoibheann Kelly – Project Director

In March 2020, we were looking forward to continuing to deliver a number of interactive workshop sessions to our partner settings, up until July. However, lockdown meant we needed to re-assess these plans – each of the school settings very much wished to continue to set up social justice action groups and were interested to explore ways of continuing to engage pupils with the Spark project during school closure. Following reflection and consultation, we decided to launch a new You Tube channel and invite inspirational guests to share their experiences and stories about what kind of positive difference they have made and hopefully inspire young people and young adults to make a difference too. This new idea was turned around very quickly – we needed to learn a multitude of new digital skills in a short space of time! We carefully researched and invited a number of brilliant guests to feature on the episodes. Tom Allan, a local young adult aged 18yrs and past pupil of St Mary’s Menston, supported the episodes initially but then took on the role of lead host. Tom was invited to write a piece in his school newsletter about his experiences:

“Justice and Peace asked me to be a part of their newest funded project which in time became the SPARK Project. The initial aim of the project was to go into schools, colleges, universities and parishes around Leeds to set up social justice groups.

screen grab of SPARK YouTube channel
The SPARK YouTube Channel

This would then allow the creation of a network of groups across our local area which would be able to work together or separately to campaign, fundraise or raise awareness of issues. Some of this was already being done within our school, and, due to its success, I agreed to be a part of the steering group for the project allowing me have a say in the format, delivery and setting up of the project from Day 1. Since the initial meeting SPARK social justice has delivered workshops across Leeds. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, these sessions were halted, meaning students were unable to partake in the concluding sessions and the setting up of social justice groups and begin campaigning/fundraising, etc. However, this led to a reformatting of the project and the start of interviews with inspirational people across the UK. I have been fortunate to be involved in many of the interviews, and have recently been interviewed myself, for the YouTube Channel. These have been so much fun to deliver as I’ve met so many inspirational people along the way. If you are interested in campaigning, social action, social justice, how to get involved in your local community or just want to be inspired I would highly recommend these videos to anyone.
Tom Allan, Year 13

The weekly You Tube episodes grew in popularity and were shared locally with our partner settings during lockdown and over time, nationally. You can see the range of videos by following this link

flyer for SPARK digital sessions In the Autumn term, it was agreed that we should launch some new live zoom sessions with young people from St Mary’s Menston, St John Fisher High School Harrogate and Notre Dame College in Leeds who were committed towards setting up social justice action groups. We worked in close partnership to plan and deliver the sessions with Young Christian workers – each session was inspired by the model See-Judge-Act and were effective in bringing together young people from different schools across the Diocese who shared a passion for social justice and making a positive difference. We will continue to provide ongoing bespoke support in the new year for these settings.

comments about SPARK from young people
Comments from students taking part in SPARK workshops

One school has already set up their own Social Justice Action Group and the remaining two settings have plans to do so in the new year.

flyer for SPARK voicesIn addition to this we are launching a new a social media campaign for the last 3 months of the project, created to provide a platform to amplify the voices of young adults by inviting them to send in a 1-2-minute video with their ideas and views about a social justice issue. A token payment will be made for the first 25 contributions agreed. The next 3 months will see the existing project come to an end. However, we are in discussion with the Porticus Trust (who have funded the existing project) and are hopeful that they will be interested to fund a follow-on project.

Thank you:

Aoibheann has now finished as the manager of this project. The Commission is indebted to her for the professionalism, creativity and responsiveness that she brought to it. Luckily for us, she has agreed to remain involved as a member of the Project Steering Group until the end of the existing project and to be part of the Steering Group for any follow on project.