Sheffield’s young people being encouraged to get involved with cultural heritage project

A young people’s charity in Sheffield is bringing people together and honouring cultural heritage, in a bid to create a legacy for future generations.

By Lisa Wong
Tuesday, 20th August 2019, 1:45 pm
Updated Wednesday, 28th August 2019, 2:38 pm
Some of the young people that are involved at Element Society
Some of the young people that are involved at Element Society

Element Society has provided support and skill development opportunities for thousands of young people of all abilities, backgrounds and religions since it was founded in 2013.

The youth-led charity recently received a National Lottery Heritage Fund grant which has allowed the Displaced Migrants: Living History project to take place.

Uzma Kazi is co-ordinating the seven month project alongside the University of Sheffield.

Some young people getting involved with activities at Element Society

She said: “It is not a history lesson. It’s collecting heritage stories in the widest sense. Capturing memories of home, settling here, people just getting on with the daily grind.

“It doesn’t have to be a story, it can be through musical instruments, food, dance.”

Uzma believes that through the project, missing but important narratives will be archived for posterity, which will create a legacy for future generations in Sheffield.

She explained: “It is about the person telling the story - keeping the ownership of their story.

CEO Chris Hill (centre), with some of the charity’s young people

“People have been really giving. It is important to honour that in the best way we can.

“We all come from somewhere. It gets people thinking and invites conversation in simple ways.

“We come from a place of thinking, with lots of history but it is not recorded. It is about bringing people together and trying to build awareness.

“There is a fear of cultural heritage being lost.”

The project aims to train young people in oral history skills, providing the opportunity for individuals to explore their own heritage and identity through workshops.

They will also learn how to use technical equipment - collecting and presenting their findings like social researchers.

The aim is to tell the stories of people from displaced communities in Sheffield, including refugees, asylum seekers, migrants and new arrivals into the city.

Uzma has taken inspiration from her own life for the project.

She is a British-Muslim-South Asian with Indian heritage and grew up in Bradford.

The 33-year-old misses the exposure to some of her own cultural aspects as it is those things that remind us where we come from, she says.

Stories for the heritage project will be completed this month and will be edited into audio clips afterwards.

In October, work will be shared in an exhibition at a location to be confirmed.

There will be a celebration event involving food, music and conversation, for everyone who has participated.

Stories will be archived online and at the local history library and the University of Sheffield.

So far, seven young people have completed the training.

The Displaced Migrants: Living History project came about two years ago, after young people working on other projects at Element Society expressed an interest.

Taking place over the summer at the charity’s ‘social action studios’ on Leopold Street, Uzma understands that not everyone will be interested in the project but welcomes those who may be curious.

She said: “We are open to people dropping in and out.

“There are lots of different bits of the project. If people don’t want to interview, they don’t have to, they can just learn about the technology side if they want.

“It’s a legacy building project - honouring human lives.”

Although the project is aimed at 16-24 year olds, there is a diverse range of young people involved with activities at Element Society.

Uzma has been working at the charity - founded by Chris Hill - since June, but says she has seen ‘massive changes’ in those few months she has been there.

Explaining how the range of activities can offer many benefits, she said: “It is a chance for young people to do what they want to do.

“A good opportunity to build confidence and friendships.

“It has been great for getting a lot of young people through the door.”

Other ongoing projects at Element Society include the National Citizen Service programme, which is more concentrated and involves residentials.

There is also a mental health specific project called Blue Dot, and a self care project, which are based around workshops.

More projects are also in the pipeline.

Element Society has some small funding to enable projects to take place.

However, by getting more people involved, the charity may be able to apply for more funding and roll projects out further.

Uzma believes that getting young people involved in projects like the heritage one can be good for mental health.

She said: “Mental health is becoming more normalised but we are not there yet.”

Uzma believes that the length of time people spend waiting to be seen by mental health services is worrying.

She wants people to be aware of other activities that may interest them, to ‘help them out of their shell’.

Uzma explained: “Young people that have previously worked on projects have come back to work as youth leaders and mentors.

“It is inspiring to see.”

Element Society is keen to reach out to other organisations and communities to create ‘a stronger sense of working together’.

Trips to The Sanctuary on Chapel Walk have been beneficial for engaging with people, as a way of building trust and understanding more about the communities of Sheffield.

Uzma can be contacted by email: [email protected] or by phone: 0114 299 9210

More information about Element Society can be found: