Quiet Rebels

With Hackney’s Young People

Young People at Hackney Quest

After a sold-out tour in autumn 2022, the journey of Quiet Rebels in the community continued in Hackney, our London home, where the spark for young people’s storytelling was firstly ignited with Creative Futures’ artists at Hackney Empire.

Drawing inspiration from the research and stories unearthed in the theatre play, writers / directors of Quiet Rebels, Julie McNamara and Hassan Mahamdallie, led a programme of weekly creative workshops with and for young people at Hackney Quest, a local youth organisation.

Together with young people they explored ways to search and discover forgotten stories in their families and community, remember and celebrate people that have shaped Hackney’s history and what this means to them.

Guest facilitators Awate, Musician / Composer, and Deni Francis, Actor / Improviser, who had been involved in the development and the tour of Quiet Rebels, added their unique touch with creative approaches to storytelling.

You Can’t Kill an Idea!

At the heart of the process was a group of young, emerging creatives from Hackney Empire’s Creative Futures artists, who led the design of the framework for Quiet Rebels workshops across the country.

They were determined to create a safe space for young people to:

  • bring normalcy back (after COVID)
  • understand their own voice
  • explore stories emerging from Quiet Rebels through activities
  • look for modern day activists
  • provoke forbidden stories through art

The group visited the At Home in Hackney exhibition at the Hackney Museum and browsed through objects and photos of the local community’s history from the 1950s to today.

Young people interacted with the exhibits, such as re-enacting a day at the barbers and getting ready to become a chef!

They also closely examined a big replica of the Holly Street Estate flats, shared stories from their families in response to some of the exhibits and noted how the photos told the history of Hackney people’s rebellious response against racism in the past.

  • Group in an exhibition space attending a staff briefing. Framed photos hang on the walls behind them.
  • Three young people re-enact a day in the barbers.
  • Young person is putting on a chef's hat with the help of another, older, person.
  • Two people closely examine a replica of a big block of estate flats

Recording your own story

Hackney Quest’s young people started writing down every day stories and talking about themselves.

A couple of screenshots from their diaries:

Diary screenshot with manually written text that reads 'School's hard I'm in my yard, playing football, playing no red card'.
Diary screenshot with manually written text that reads 'My heritage: I was born and raised in London. My mum was born in Uganda, Kampala (capital city). My dad also born in Uganda, except in a much poorer place, but they both moved to London where they got married.

The next step was to create photo-memories: an instamatic camera was the creative tool of choice.

Young people experimented with taking photos, having them instantly printed and added to their diaries.

Resisting digital-only photo records may be a novel, rebellious act these days. Or maybe not. It was definitely immensely enjoyable!

  • Diary screenshot. Manually written text reads: In my story i'm going to be sucked into the comic, would meet new friends and tried to get out. Underneath a printed insta-photo of a young, smiling person.
  • Two printed square insta-photos of a young person wearing a hoodie. They cover their face with their hands
  • Two printed insta-photos. On the left, a young person smiles to the camera, showing a blank and white photo of a crowd in concert. On the right, the same young person with an adult person on a sofa, smiling to the camera. Behind them a sign reads Hackney Quest.
  • Screenshot of diary entry. Manually written text reads: Stories are fun because we are going and learning new things and convey. My story is about my family. Underneath the text is a printed insta-photo of a young, smiling person.

Telling your own story

Awate in the recording studio at Hackney Quest

Drama session with young people at Hackney Quest

Young people at Hackney Quest, together with Youth Workers, recorded a song capturing the stories they had been sharing in the workshops, in their own voice, as they wanted these to be told and shared.

Click below to listen to the song, mixed by Awate:

After the workshops with JulieMc, Hassan, Deni and Awate, young people wanted to do more…

So, they made a music video out of their song! Watch it below via Hackney Quest’s YouTube channel:


Quiet Rebels is a Vital Xposure and Dervish Productions co-production.

Supported by Arts Council EnglandGarrick Charitable Trust (2021 – 2022), City Bridge Foundation. (2018 – 2023), Unity Theatre Trust (2022), the National Lottery Community Fund (2022) and made possible  with The National Lottery Heritage Fund, with thanks to National Lottery players (2022 – 2024), and with thanks to Queen Mary University of London.

Arts Council England logoCity Bridge Foundation logoCity Bridge Trust logoTeal coloured circle stamp of the National Lottery Heritage Fund. Centre: crossed fingers with a smiley face formed across the folded fingers and the inside of the palm. White letters around the symbol read 'Made possible with Heritage Fund'.Logo of the National Lottery Community Fund. Left: crossed fingers in black and white with a smiley face formed across the folded fingers and the inside of the palm. Next to it, the words 'Community Fund' written in magenta and black respectively.Garrick Charitable Trust logoBlack and white logo of the Unity Theatre Trust. Black letters that read 'Supported by Unity Theatre Trust' encircle a cog in the middle of the image. On the right of the cog, there is a black theatre face mask.