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This week we’re speaking to Dr. Yasmin Hussain, Founder of Connected Creatives, a start-up company focussed on improving the literacy outputs of young children by empowering them to express their inner thoughts through creative writing and artistic expression.

As a qualified and experienced educationalist, Yasmin has worked with a number of international literacy experts as well as the National Literacy Trust. Her educational work has enabled her to form strong bonds with school’s right across the North West. The development of her Connected Creatives: Young Voices Matter platform is about to burst on to the scene, improving the access for young people to be able to express themselves creatively, whilst being able to do so in a safe and moderated environment.

Claritas spent five minutes with Yasmin discussing the concept behind her Young Voices Matter platform, asking questions about running a start-up company in lockdown and what the future holds for Connected Creatives.

Yasmin, thanks for joining us and taking time out of your busy schedule, we’re incredibly excited to be chatting to you, especially as your Young Voices Matter platform is so close to launch.

So, what’s Connected Creatives: Young Voices Matter all about and why set it up?

As you know my background is in Education, I’ve worked at Manchester Met for eight years now, predominately in arts & humanities. So, I’ve always had a passion for the creative subjects, especially when it comes to encouraging young people to be creative and express their thoughts and feelings through writing.

I’ve always been heavily involved in creative writing; it’s always been very cathartic and helped me through some of the darker days in my life. I never really ever wanted to write a book so I looked in to publishing and very quickly found out how difficult it was to get anything published and the costs associated with doing this are astronomical.

Instead, I started to think about young people and how they would get anything published. What we forget is that some of the most creative work has been achieved by young people but still they don’t have many avenues available to them to have their work published. After a number of years pitching to investors, which is a difficult and relentless thing in itself, Connected Creatives and the Young Voices Matter platform was born.

Young people across the UK will soon have access to a creative writing platform which is safe for them to use as it is moderated by teachers, but also one which allows them to read and share other people’s stories amongst their friends, families and their peers.

Tell me about your friendship with Malala Yousefzai and how she has become involved in Connected Creatives?

As part of my day job with the university, I help to run a competition called ‘Mother Tongue, Other Tongue’. The competition is aimed at children whose first language isn’t English, or who speak a different language at home. They share a poem, lullaby or song in their native tongue and follow it up with an explanation of the significance of the piece to them in English – or write a creative piece in their other tongue, a language they are learning in school. The competition has recently won the Queen’s award, the highest accolade you can win in the UK.

So how did I manage to get Malala involved? Well, Malala’s father is a poet, so he was keen to get involved in the competition a couple of years back and he has continued to endorse the competition ever since. I was chatting to him one year and said how wonderful it would be to have Malala involved – many people didn’t think it would happen but in 2018, she agreed to take part and endorse the competition. I think people forget that Malala is the youngest ever winner of the Nobel Peace prize and she is a massive educational activist, especially for young people.

In 2019, I again spoke to Malala’s father and explained about Connected Creatives and the Young Voices Matter platform. I said how wonderful it would be to have Malala endorse a writing competition, which is when the ‘500 word Malala Yousefzai competition’ was born – See here

We will be launching the first ever competition this year on International Literacy Day – 8 September 2020. All of the details can be found on the Connected Creatives website or follow the link in the text above.

The whole purpose of the competition isn’t for adults to judge the children’s writing, this happens all the time, it’s more about the children discovering their favourite writer or short story, so they will write the story, judge the stories and chose their winner – all through the digital platform and in a safe space which is moderated by teachers.

Finally, Yasmin what’s next for Connected Creatives and the Young Voices Matter platform?

Well, all of the above really. I’m so excited to be launching the platform on the 8th of September with the 500-word Malala Yousefzai competition and finally being able to celebrate the writing ability of those young people across the North West and the UK.

Statistically children born in the North West are more likely to have poor reading and writing skills compared to their counterpart in southern based towns and cities – we need to address this, and children being able to interact and share experiences whilst learning can only be a positive thing in my view.

Hopefully, everything will go well, and the platform can be rolled out further to more schools across the UK, so we can establish a superhighway of literacy writing and sharing before too long.

For more information on Connected Creatives, Young Voices Matter and Dr Yasmin Hussain, please visit the Connected Creatives website – https://connectedcreatives.co.uk

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