Mum of two teenage girls. Co-Founder & Strategic Director, Liberty842, and Brighton5 founder.
Over a decade's experience in TV and social media. 20 years' experience in branding, including Head of Digital at brand experience agency, Imagination. Digital specialist on the Board of Trustees for the Brighton Fringe from 2010 – 2015.

Mental Health Awareness week was celebrated across the UK – hurray. We witnessed some pretty spectacular things, not least the axing of The Jeremy Kyle show. Our management team all worked in TV prior to setting up Make (Good) Trouble and we wonder if this is the start of a media revolution, to create content with GOOD intention instead of this bear-baiting, revolting chase for ratings. Axe Love Island? We live in hope.

We are working flat out on our radio show Raising Teens. This week we heard teens, parents and experts talk about Relationships: friendship groups, access to porn, whether parents had the all-important ‘sex talk’ with their kids – they were all subjects under discussion. Our teen roving reporter, Lola, delivers candid, surprising and delightful interviews with her peers every week on various topics including resilience, sleep, school stress, body image and social media.. It really has been an amazing series and journey for us. As one listener said: I loved yesterday’s show… it really struck a chord… What you are doing is desperately needed… I think your lifebelt thrown to a sea full of struggling parents and children will have many takers.

If you have any feedback, please drop us a line here. It means a lot.

Raising Teens radio show: on stress, resilience and relationships

We have some amazing new work coming up, including a series of podcasts in partnership with Public Health and the Clinical Commissioning Group; a film about PTSD in women in the First World War and what that means to teenagers today; a project with Sussex Police (watch this space!); a set of parent talks through schools, given by our teens (we’re kicking off with a talk about device addiction and social media); and of course our Brighton5 films (I’ll write a post about the progress on that next week, promise).

Finally, I’ll be on our very last radio show of the series on Thursday 30 May, which is all about teen language. And on that note, as the young folk might say, tune in, stay woke, *cringe*.

On Saturday we filmed our crowdfunder video in Brighton. I hadn’t slept properly all week I was so nervous. In my head we only had one shot of getting it right, despite being told by all around me that we can edit or re-shoot if necessary. It would be the first time I would hand over control to strangers, when I had been the only person living and breathing this project on a full time basis for the last six months.

In the planning phase, I researched successful crowdfunder videos and then, after talking to the Brighton5 teens wrote a script which I felt would resonate. My nephew Ellis (our music producer) mentioned his mate Javier was directing and producing ads, and was about to shoot Drake’s next music video. He suggested we all meet up in London. When we met I realised Jav did not rate my script at all. “Yeah – we don’t need that. We’ll shoot it for ya” – it was all very casual and easy going. I came away from the meeting absolutely terrified but knew if we were to make something that the teens think is cool, and want to be part of, I, at the marvelous age of 49 shouldn’t be the one to do it! Jav sent me links to his suggested Director’s work, Michael Holyk, and when I got home I watched some of the videos with my two teenage daughters. “YES MUM”. Obviously.

Then the wait began – we needed to get a date in the diary that all involved could do. Finally, Saturday April 21st was set. There were no pre-production meetings, no call sheets. Nothing. On Friday night about 11pm, I got an email from Jav with a list of questions – “why are we making this film?” etc. The answers to his questions were easy. This was the sum of our pre-production planning.

I was up at 5.30am on Saturday and a few hours later my house began to fill up with wonderful adult and teen contributors. By 9am, Director Michael Holyk and Camera Op Raja Virdi arrived. This was the first time we had all met. As soon as they entered the house I knew it was going to work. They both have a rather beautiful and calm aura about them. As Jav said – “Stop worrying, we do this in our sleep!” (not that they seem to get much of that). The three of them sat in my garden and talked. Meanwhile, I sat with Tayler, Saba and Jane in the kitchen worrying for Britain. The teens were busy being teens, sorting out what they were going to wear etc. while our stills photographer, 18 year old Mose, was already clicking away recording the proceedings.

Then filming began. Michael and Raja filmed the girls walking to the beach, goofing around, chatting. The weather was glorious. After about three hours we came back to the house for the one-to-one interviews. We filmed each girl in various rooms, where I asked them questions about their experiences of anxiety and depression. Their answers spilled out – eloquent, brave and beautiful. As one expressed, “I have never done this before – it feels so cleansing!” Thank you to Lola, Lotti, Ella, Chloe, Molly, Grace and Maya. HUGE respect.

Next up and about two hours later than planned we filmed our adults – parents and experts in the field of teens and pastoral care. I can’t thank Lorna Marsh, Fiona Paterson and Saba Ali enough. Their drive to help make positive change bowled me over. Once again eloquence and passion shone through.

Finally it was my turn. To appeal direct to camera to express why we need “YOUR” donation. I had printed out prompt cards the night before to be sure to remember everything. But unlike the other contributors to the film, I was not eloquent. It felt like my brain had fallen out and I couldn’t get my words out. We were eight hours into filming and I had completely forgotten how to speak. Director Michael politely stopped my pain. “Just tell it to me”. I went on a passionate rant about why it’s so important – being a mum of two teens; my worry about device addiction and why giving teens something TO DO and MAKE themselves is key. He smiled as I was ranting and then said “That’s it right there, we don’t need the other stuff”. Done. It’s a wrap. Knackered and over the bloody moon, the party began.

Michael and Raja had to get back to London as soon as the filming was complete, we didn’t want them to leave. Michael flew to Vietnam the next day to shoot a music video and is then flying on to LA for another project. That’s what success looks like.

Jav stayed and partied with us, a well earned end to a very very industrious day. Javier Alejandro is a kind, generous spirit. He pulled many favours to make this happen and invested his company cash too. A big thank you goes out to him.

Brighton5 is all about collaboration – bringing together great minds, creativity, passion and determination. Now, we wait for an edit date. But having worked so intensely with Jav, Michael, Raja, Ellis, Mose – all of our brilliant adults and teenage girls – we know it will be worth it.

I have just read Molly Ringwald’s article in The New Yorker where she revisits the John Hughes teen flick through the #MeToo lens. The Brighton5 (adult) team had already started commenting on it on our WhatsApp group – comments like “it’s great to think about the content (for BTN5) in terms of legacy and how it might be interpreted in years to come.” It got me thinking about John Hughes’ ability to write content that so accurately reflects what it’s like being a teenager, and how hard it is to write scripted content and get it spot on.

The Brighton5 project is unconventional in so many ways – in meetings I often describe it as being just like teenager: it doesn’t work in straight lines (development), it has suddenly grown and bolted off down the road and I am constantly trying to catch it up! One thing I am learning as we go through the development phase is the power of listening. Our Brighton5 teenagers NEED to be heard. At the moment, Brighton5 seems to be writing itself, with careful guidance and positive spirit.

So, what about ‘The Breakfast Club’? My teenage girls LOVE that film. If I put it on the TV they are guaranteed to join me on the couch (a rare thing!). I asked my eldest teen why she loves it? “It’s relatable, Mum, it’s about kids accomplishing things without adults. At the end of the day, it’s a feel-good film.”

So there you have it. Three goals for Brighton5. Sorted. So far the development has been the most exciting and terrifying experience of my working life. But who said any of this would be easy? One thing is for certain, we will listen, so they can make.

Everyday I find stories that involve teenagers, device addiction and mental health. They are all over the press, as rates of depression and self-harm soar in youngsters.

One article that caught my eye, by Tech journalist Moya Sarner was about Belinda Parmar – who “was a passionate advocate of the digital revolution – but has started keeping her family’s smartphones and laptops locked away to protect her loved ones”

I then had a very interesting discussion with my 17 year old daughter about confiscating devices. She said “if the kid is trusted with the device it shouldn’t be confiscated.” And there lies the problem. It is not necessarily our kids we don’t trust but the social media giants who have deliberately created addictive platforms and the unregulated content that is published on them. Try explaining that to my 13 year old. Do I trust her to discern which content is suitable for her? I am afraid not.

To quote the article – “These experts agree that abstinence is not the way forward: instead, we need to build what they call digital resilience, and learn to use technology in a measured, controlled way.”

One of the five core pillars of Brighton5 is to teach our kids fearless enquiry. To teach them how to discern, to question, and to ultimately understand the ramifications of their digital activities. This should be done in ways they can relate to – younger teens are heavily influenced by older teens, so Brighton5 aims to empower teens to change their behavior for the better, by helping them help themselves.