The ‘How Are We?’ Zine created by Sophiya & supported by the Youth Cultural Life Fund

In lockdown, rather than experimenting in the kitchen, it was in my notebook that half-cooked ideas were brewing. The ‘How Are We?’ Zine, started as another unlikely scribble until it was brought to life with the support of The Mighty Creatives and the many young people who offered their food for thought. The project aimed to capture the genuine thoughts and experiences of young people in 2020 to amplify our voices to where they need to be heard – even if that meant back to ourselves. The Zine would dig into the questions that had gone unasked or unanswered through an illustrated journey covering everything from what we do not miss about normal, to what songs are becoming the soundtracks to our days.

Why a Zine?
The YCLF offered the opportunity to realise virtually any idea, but having made a much simpler zine once before and been thinking about making one for lockdown, it felt like the perfect fit. A zine could combine everything I wanted to achieve, experiences and skills in the creative journalistic field on an individual level, and an impact on understanding what young people really have to say on a greater community level. Making the Zine was just as beneficial and rewarding as sharing it. Having those conversations with other young people revealed how much awareness, empathy, intelligence and promise there was in a generation whose future is blatantly being tampered with now more than ever. I felt pretty privileged to be given many different views and feelings as ink to draw with.

A Lot to Learn
‘No School, Time to Study Ourselves’ was the title for one of the first spreads in the zine, and everything about the project stayed true to that. I was asking other young people to share what they learnt about themselves and society in lockdown, and my own answer evolved as the project helped me to discover more about myself too.

Having spent months with education cancelled, having a regular catch up with Kevin (my Creative Coach) and the YCLF group gave me that sense of motivational community I, and so many other young people, had been missing. Those hour or so video calls helped me feel like I was a part of something bigger than a few doodles on a screen. In the non-time that was hardcore lockdown, keeping afloat and sticking to a regimented routine became difficult. I learnt that order can be overrated, and so instead embraced the chaos and the rare opportunity to discover what creating without examiners, strict briefs or limits was like – wonderful.

I had very little idea what the zine would reveal about what we had learnt and what it would teach to others once it was finished, but as it was being created I discovered that the ‘I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT TO DO’ feeling was always temporary and no matter what the result was, the young people I reached out to (many who I hadn’t spoken to in years) are so much more in touch with society, nature and themselves than is often given credit. Lockdown, with all its discomfort, allowed for a decompression every generation needs at some point in their lives, to find what simply being is like – with all the fun and the not so fun parts. The words and images in the zine aimed to really capture that.

So What?
Ah that daunting question. With around 20 young interviewees and 290 reads online, I feel so grateful to have this project invested in so that the young people and readers could feel a little more listened to and a little less alone – thank you. See why they thought it was worth it.

“I really enjoyed seeing that other young people feel the same as I do at the moment.” – J
“I love what you’ve done and I can’t possibly thank you enough for including me in this beautiful experience” – K
“It made me really reflect and I suppose that was your goal.” – G
“Important, amplifying, refined, skilled and needed.” – M, AAC