Events with Purpose: Using experiential to elevate the voices of underrepresented or minority groups

When a brief comes in from a client, the first question the team will ask is, “What is the impact of this project?” It’s usually a brand activation; an opportunity to connect business to consumer using the power of experiential. But when there is a deeper purpose to the project, that’s when our eyes really light up and the fire in our bellies starts burning. 

We frequently collaborate with Appear Here, and their annual Space for Change competition gives us the opportunity to really flex our creative muscles and work with up-and-coming, purposeful brands.

The winners of the 2020 Space for Change competition were Sisterhood, led by friends Rebecca and Rachita. Sisterhood School works with girls (aged 13-18) across the UK on creative social action projects. Their programmes are anywhere between 15 weeks to 1 year long and during this time, girls are equipped with skills, tools and opportunities to use their voice, build their creative confidence and design a solution that creates a positive impact on a particular issue that impacts them or their community. 

Our challenge, then, was to translate this powerful message and purpose into a physical space. 

When speaking to Sisterhood, it was clear that representing and elevating the voices of underrepresented girls was their primary focus. They also wanted to use the space as a bookshop, to sell their latest anthology publication – comprising of stories from teenage girls from Stratford, London. “The publishing industry is known for its lack of diversity in authors and narratives that reflect the world around us, plus we rarely see young teens writing about their own experiences for other teens to read – so this programme was to get these voices and stories onto our bookshelves”, say Rebecca and Rachita.

Whilst the ground floor of the pop-up shop in Covent Garden acted as a bookshop and networking space, the top floor was designed with workshops in mind. The female-led sessions are building a more equal and equitable world for girls, through inspiring them to express themselves and harness the power of their own voices. The Sisterhood team also pride themselves on offering opportunities to young people that particularly struggle to access confidence-building workshops. 

“At Sisterhood we always say ‘Be Her, so we can See Her’ and our whole approach is to create a safe space for girls to explore who they want to be. It’s about handing over the baton and this can be done in many ways, some of the things we do at Sisterhood are: 

  • Including more diverse references and resources in the curriculum 
  • Bringing multiple perspectives and ‘sides’ into any issue or topic we are exploring 
  • Bringing on people and experts who reflect the girls we work with, so they can see themselves in different roles and careers 
  • Giving plenty of space and opportunity for the girls to drive the conversation and creation of projects”

The Sisterhood anthology, which was available to purchase at the pop-up throughout the two week activation, explores issues of race, identity, belonging and equality, so we wanted to give Sisterhood the opportunity to showcase work with similar powerful themes. “We chose a physical space because we wanted this to be experiential for those walking through the doors”, say Rebecca and Rachita. “It wasn’t only about reading stories, but telling them as well – so a physical space in which we can gather to do that and celebrate the girls’ work was really important.”

Marble are also particularly proud of this project because of the longevity of the concept and how this can be implemented into future retail spaces. The Sisterhood pop-up is a shining example of how something as simple as a bookshop can be extended into a community hub, a workshop space, a social space for friends to gather and share ideas, or for experiential activations. 

So, in light of this, we asked Rebecca and Rachita was their ‘dream project’ would be in the future. “We would still love to host a Sisterhood Summer programme with a space in the high street, and over the weeks the space changes and evolves to fit the girls project. Could you imagine a shop that goes from workshop space, to installation to retail as a project develops (perhaps we should copyright that!). But honestly, the dream is to have an ever changing space that can accommodate all the opportunities we want to offer, from programmes to summits and everything in between.” 

Our experiential work provides human connection and leaves a lasting impact on the community, and the Strong Lead pop-up is only the beginning of a rich future in spaces which elevate the voices of underrepresented groups in our society.

Images courtesy of Appear Here.