Last Thursday saw the annual Teen Spirit end of year celebration, a chance for members of Teen Spirit to come together and recognise their achievements and development throughout the past twelve months, to showcase projects that have been worked on and to enjoy a visit from one of Body & Soul’s patrons, doing what he does best. We asked one of the newest members of the Teen Spirit volunteer team to give us her perspective…
Body & Soul has been transformed into a winter wonderland. It’s the night of the Teen Spirit Christmas party and care has been taken to spread a little sparkle everywhere. The top floor twinkles with snowflakes and is home to a roaring ‘fire’ (courtesy of a tv screen and a pretend fireplace, bedecked with holly), which really does seem to generate warmth. A few members of the house band are rehearsing a new song for the night. ‘I’m going pick up the pieces and build a lego house. If things go wrong we can knock it down.’
This boy’s voice is so soulful! C tells me he’s worked with Dom in the music classes at Body Soul all year and has put on performances before, though he says tonight’s show ‘really means a lot to me. ‘
In come the girls! Tottering on sky-high heels and hugging each other warmly, squealing with excitement. There’s so much affection here: the guys high-five or shake hands solemnly, little splinter groups sit in corners giggling over their mobile phones.
People keep streaming in! The team have worked hard to make sure as many teens as possible know about tonight’s party and it’s a busy one. As they’re all fed, crackers are pulled and silly hats sat atop heads. It looks so much like a great big family Christmas!
The serious part of the evening starts with a round-up of the year. First up, K & A, impeccably turned out, share with the group about a recent speech they gave at a World AIDS Day event in City Hall. A tells us her life has changed completely since joining Body & Soul a year ago. Back then, she was depressed and self-harming. Thanks to the support offered at Teen Spirit, she realised that she’s not alone, and tells the group she hasn’t self-harmed in six months, and has been sticking to her HIV treatment too; something that had been a real struggle. K picks up, choosing heart-felt words to thank everyone at Body & Soul – ‘we’re in it together, and we’re stronger together’ he says. He has so much love for this family – the people he’s met at Teen Spirit inspire him every day.
Now on comes Soulful C with his band and Lego House song. ‘… I’m outta touch, I’m outta luck, I’ll pick you up when you’re getting down…’
A real little showman this one, he has the whole room singing alone, hands waving in the air.
The next talk is from M, who is involved in the Life in my Shoes campaign and film. She explains how she’s helped to educate people about HIV, to learn what it’s like to live this life. She says she’s grown in confidence and can now open up to her friends about HIV in her family. Next B & F talk about how they have visited hospitals and schools to talk about life with HIV and support anyone who may be affected, as well as encouraging them to come to Body & Soul. They sense how vital this work is and hope to do more of it next year.
The teenagers are wriggling now, ready to be downstairs, banging it up with my man Tim Westwood, who’s DJ-ing for the evening. Plus a special guest: who could it be?!
The big finale is from the house band, complete with three rappers and seven girls doing stunning backing vocals on a song they wrote themselves for Life in My Shoes. It’s rabble rousing: the teens love it. The band’s proud faces beam – they know they nailed it.
Streaming, running downstairs and throwing mad shapes while Westwood shouts out from his decks. Guest stars (they’re big names!) Lethal Bizzle and Sway – have them going completely wild on the dance floor. Music unites so much - every soul in this room knows every word to every song, and looks euphoric, dancing along.
The teens get set to steam out into taxis in the icy winter night, slapping backs, wishing each other Happy Christmas and ‘see you in January, yeah?’, and again, it just feels like the reluctant end of a big family party, so full of warmth. As I walk home, the words of Soulful C’s Lego House are ringing in my ears:
‘It’s dark in a cold December but I got you to keep me warm. If you’re broken I will mend you, and keep you sheltered from the storm’