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The Teens' Speech


On Christmas Day this year, teenage Britain delivered its own message to the nation. Find out more

The girl who silenced the world for 5 minutes

In 1992, at the age of 12, Severn Suzuki raised money with members of ECO, to attend the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.

Along with fellow ECO group members Michelle Quigg, Vanessa Suttie, and Morgan Geisler, Suzuki presented environmental issues from a youth perspective at the summit, where she delivered an impassioned and articulate speech to delegates. The video of the speech has 1,924,973 views on YouTube and is popularly known as "The Girl Who Silenced the World for 5 Minutes".

I'd never seen the video before - clearly coming to it rather late. It was sent to me by someone who put 'Good Teens' Speech' in the subject header. Perhaps she thought that the Teens' Speech film would be shot along similar lines. It's not, you know. It's something else entirely - it's a visual poem, documentary in style, but artistic at its heart. It's also quite serious, but maybe it's time we took young people seriously.

Anyway, on Christmas Day, head over to MySpace at 3.10pm, toggle fullscreen, settle back and enjoy a little bit of history.

The ramblings of a cheshire cat

The cheshire cat, aka Frank Stacey, is 31-year old artist. She stumbled upon The Teens' Speech via MySpace and has been sufficiently moved to contribute her own video in which she imparts a simple philosophy delivered in her own, very special way. Strangely hypnotic.

How well do you know young people?

Over the last 50 days of The Teens' Speech, we've learned quite a bit about young people in the United Kingdom. Now it's time to check who has been paying attention. Take a deep breath, furrow your brow and dive into our pocket-size teenage Britain quiz. The answers may surprise you. Keep a count of your score and we'll let you know how in tune you really are with the lives of young people. And let us know how you get on in comments.

1. What percentage of pupils overall achieved five GCSEs at grade A*-C?

A. Between 40 and 50%
B. Between 50 and 60%
C. Between 60 and 70%
D. Between 70 and 80%

Click to reveal the answerC - 69.7 per cent of pupils overall achieved five GCSEs at grade A*-C.

2. What percentage of teenagers think their teachers believe in them?

A. Between 40 and 50%
B. Between 50 and 60%
C. Between 60 and 70%
D. Between 70 and 80%

Click to reveal the answerD - 71% of teenagers thought their teachers believed in them

3. What percentage of children aged 14 are being bullied?

A. Between 10 and 20%
B. Between 20 and 30%
C. Between 30 and 40%
D. Between 40 and 50%

Click to reveal the answerD - 47% of 14 year-olds are bullied

4. What percentage of girls aged 11 to 16 would consider cosmetic surgery to make themselves thinner or prettier?

A. Between 10 and 20%
B. Between 20 and 30%
C. Between 30 and 40%
D. Between 40 and 50%

Click to reveal the answerD - 46% of girls aged 11 to 16, and 50% of girls aged 16 to 21 would consider cosmetic surgery to make themselves thinner or prettier.

5. 23% of all deaths of young peopled aged 14-24 are due to...

A. Knife crime
B. Traffic accidents
C. Drug taking
D. Suicide

Click to reveal the answerD - 23% of all deaths of young people aged 14-24 are suicides

6. How many children in Britain have families with no savings?

A. Under 1 million
B. Between 1 and 2 million
C. Between 3 and 4 million
D. Between 4 and 5 million

Click to reveal the answerD - 4.9m children have families with absolutely no savings

7. How many British children live in poverty?

A. 1 in 2
B. 1 in 3
C. 1 in 4
D. 1 in 5

Click to reveal the answerB - 1/3 of British children live in poverty

8. What percentage of young offenders are from single-parent families?

A. Between 30 and 40%
B. Between 40 and 50%
C. Between 50 and 60%
D. Between 60 and 70%

Click to reveal the answerD - 70% of young offenders are from lone parent families

9. 1 in 3 children carry...

A. A knife or gun
B. A mobile phone
C. An mp3 player
D. A book

Click to reveal the answerA - One third of children admit to carrying a gun or knife

10. What is the age of criminal responsibility in the U.K.?

A. 10
B. 12
C. 14
D. 16
E. 18

Click to reveal the answerA - The age of criminal responsibility in the UK is 10 years old.

How did you score?

1-3 Click here
You're way out of touch. But it's not too late to take more interest.
Watch The Teens' Speech on Christmas Day.

3-5 Click here
Looks like the youth are a mystery to you. Change it. Watch The Teens'
Speech on Christmas Day.

5-7 Click here
Not bad. You're pretty in touch. We're sure you'll be watching The
Teens' Speech on Christmas Day.

8-10 Click here
You're clearly in touch with young people. Stay that way. Watch The
Teens' Speech on Christmas Day.

Will the real Harry Potter please stand up

The story of Harry Potter is actually the story of countless numbers of young children who struggle to make something of their lives in the face of overwhelming odds.

For the first ten years of his life, Harry Potter, an orphaned boy, suffered domestic abuse at the hands of an uncaring adoptive family. He is nothing. In fact, most of the time, he is locked under the stairs.

His latent magical abilities are a metaphor for the potential all children possess - regardless of their upbringing. The potential to be something more. His magic is his voice (X-Factor), his boxing skills (Rocky), his specialness.

In spite of his difficult upbringing, he's taken to a place - Hogwarts School - where his potential is given the opportunity to develop and flourish. Hogwart's is effectively an outreach centre where other abused and alienated children have the chance to develop into something - regardless of their upbringing or privilege.

Now, as the Harry Potter film franchise draws to a close, the co-stars are beginning to consider their own futures and wonder whether they'll fulfill their potential - and how.

For some, the future is something to embrace without reservation, for others, excitement about what's next is tempered by the ennui of leaving something behind. But, the desire to meet the challenges of the future remains irresistible.

Bonnie Wright, 18, played Ginny Weasley since the first film in 2001and has just begun a degree course in film and TV in London.

"Although it has been massive," she says, "personally I think a greater project is out there. That's what makes me keep working, knowing that there's this project out there that I'm yet to do."

Is this it?

In November, The NME released its top 100 albums of the decade, at its summit was the instant classic, Is This It? by The Strokes. As we approach the end of the year and the end of the first decade of the 21st century, it seems a timely winner - I mean, is this it? Do we keep calm and carry on or are we going to collectively leap into the limitless possibilities of an unwritten future?

For the remaining weeks of The Teens' Speech project, we're going to turn our attention to the future. We'll be asking teenagers where they see themselves, their family, community and country in the coming years. It's always been at the heart of this project and something we feel connects older generations to what we are doing. At its core, The Teens' Speech is a chance for us to glimpse the future through young peoples hopes, aspirations and personal sense of opportunity.

As Barack Obama recently demonstrated, harnessing and articulating the hopes of the young can be a powerful force for political change. His presidential campaign focussed specifically on the young and by tapping into their optimism, he was able to radically renew a staid and moribund political landscape. It's undoubtedly something which British politicians will seek to emulate in the months leading up to next years general election.

So, as we rip the last page from the calendar year and turn to the future to ask what it holds, we're not just engaging in a romantic notion - although that's also a part of it - we're doing something that carries tremendous potential for personal and social change. Because if we can see it, imagine it and believe it - then we can make it happen.

The Teens' Speech thrives on participation. If you're aged 13-19, head over to YouTube or MySpace and tell us what the future means to you. If, like me, you're a tad older than 19, then subscribe to our Twitter feed or friend us on Facebook. Hell, you could even leave me a message on the blog. My door is always open.