On Monday 4th of January, viewers across the country were welcomed into the new year with that all too familiar shot of Boris Johnson sat in front of the mantelpiece at number 10 Downing Street plastered across our screens. England is to go into a third national lockdown, we were told, similar in rigour to the first one we experienced nearly a year ago. While there is not a single demographic who was not immensely disheartened by this announcement, and the prospect of an extension on the period of economic, mental, and social instability we have been living through, one of the most overlooked of these social groups is the young .
The disregard for this group was addressed on Wednesday 6th of January as Radio 5 Live Drive got young people involved in the national conversation regarding the new lockdown regulations. Involved with the discussion was 19-year-old Eleanor Keegan, host of the Northern Power Futures podcast and digital content assistant for Northern Power Women. Eleanor described how, on the podcast “we offer advice to young people who are in their early careers and also in education”. Once questions have been collected from young people, Northern Power Futures ask their “huge network of business professionals and organisations who have experience for these young people” to offer solutions to these specific questions. The advice offered has also been adapted to support every aspect of life, not just work or school related. “We’ve been having lots of questions about loneliness and mental health struggles during lockdown and what you can do to keep yourself motivated”, said Eleanor. Anna Foster, host of radio 5 Live Drive, also celebrated Eleanor Keegan sharing her voice on national radio as a young person articulating her experiences of covid-19 and national lockdowns. Of this heightened media diversity, she said, “it’s so much more diverse than when I started out, which is fantastic […] of course, there’s still a way to go, but at least we’re moving in the right direction”.
Northern Power Women have been working hard to fulfil this need for a more inclusive and representative media, launching the #BeHeard campaign back in August 2020. The campaign encourages people from all backgrounds and experiences to volunteer their unique perspectives to be shared in debates and discussions across all media platforms. By getting involved in the campaign, young people can have their voices lifted as they describe their concerns and questions around being plunged into a third national lockdown.
These concerns can also be addressed by listening to our Northern Futures Podcast, mentioned by Keegan on Radio 5 Live Drive. As Eleanor described, “we’ve been giving advice on things like whether they should stay on the course that they’re on, whether it’s unprofessional to zoom from your bedroom”. Even though many of the younger generations will be able to call upon the life experience of older family members and friends to answer professional questions, as Keegan pointed out, “a lot of young people don’t have someone close to them who they can ask these questions to, so being able to rely on our podcast is a really good resource for them”.
With university students having missed out on nearly a year of traditional teaching, question marks hanging over summer exams for A-level and GCSE students, and the instability of securing an internship or apprenticeship, young people are having to make adult decisions. Despite the lack of preparation that younger people have had to prepare for these conditions of extreme adversity, Northern Power Women have equipped them with the tools to voice their frustrations and concerns using the #BeHeard campaign, and the chance to have their individual questions answered on the Northern Power Futures podcast.