Front Lounge

Our 9/11 – How Dundee’s Front Lounge Turned Tragedy to Hope

By Chika Inatimi, Project Leader, Front Lounge, Dundee

Published here

Chika Inatimi, Project Leader, Front Lounge

Most people remember September 11 for the unforgettable image of a fully laden plane flying into a skyscraper.

September 11 2001.  A day like no other, and the beginnings of a very different world.

They say it takes a village to raise a child. What kind of a village raises someone prepared to commit mass murder?

All that potential. Wasted.

That’s what Front Lounge was reacting to when the seeds of our Dundee-based organisation were first sewn.

Our concern was bright young people leaving school with low grades that did not reflect their true ability.

Mike Brown, Gerry McGarry, Jacqueline Whymark, Chris White and I decided to harness the power of the arts to engage and inspire.

We believed doing nothing was not an option.

And so, the paperwork to register Front Lounge, then Pure Media UK, was filed at Companies House on September 11 2001.

That date is our constant reminder of what is at stake.

It reminds us what happens if we exploit rather than educate, put down rather than listen, spew hate rather than teach love.

The world has seen too much of what can happen when we limit people’s life chances rather than generating possibilities for the future.

And here in Dundee, Front Lounge has embraced the challenge, along with countless other individuals and organisations who work tirelessly to ensure ours is a model village.

Celebrating Dundee’s young people – Brooke Burns whose mum Chelsea Bruce helped shape the hugely successful Kindred Clothing project. Pic Alan Richardson

Consider the ongoing pandemic and its reverberations across our society.

Yes, the impact of Covid-19 and consequent lockdowns on access to services, mental health and wellbeing, social mobility, poverty alleviation, employment opportunities particularly for young people, has been overwhelmingly negative.

But some of the responses have been incredibly encouraging.

A decision was made to clear the streets and find beds for the homeless.

In Dundee, we largely succeeded in that venture.

Those who were vulnerable were “shielded” and the powers that be made sure they received the help and support they needed during their enforced isolation.

Food poverty was another pressing concern, so food parcels were distributed to all who needed them.

With the pivot to online, plus the increasing reliance on remote service delivery, many of us became aware of digital poverty for the first time.

So, computers and MiFi routers were distributed to households that needed them and Digital Champions instituted to make sure they could use their new equipment.

This all speaks to the kind of village I want to be part of.

These are worthy achievements but I wonder why it took a global shut down for us to collectively express the better part of our nature.

Perhaps all is not well in our village.

I also worry that, as the push to reopen gathers real momentum, the drive to build back better, stronger and fairer slows to a crawl as our need for ‘normality’ takes over.

Back when Front Lounge started, we were a youth arts charity that ran music, film and art projects with young people all over the world.

We have transformed into a community empowerment organisation that exists to help people find their purpose in life.

In 2021, 20 years on from our founding, we are more invested than ever in the things that can lever meaningful change.

We are motivated to explore how we can help build a village that nurtures and inspires its people to be empathetic, forward looking and resilient.

These are the qualities we all need to overcome the shortcomings of the past, and to build a society where everyone can discover and express their full potential, and where nobody is left behind.

For us, September 11 2021 is a day to reflect on how far we have come in 20 years, and how much we all still have to do.