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The Teens' Speech


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

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.


43 things - a renowned barometer of human desire - is listing the world's new year's resolutions. Listed above are the most popular hopes for 2010, according to over 120,000 entries (and counting).

They are, I suppose, inevitably predictable. But the things we hope for are often fairly fundamental: happiness; love; comfort; health.

During The Teens' Speech project, we've naturally been exploring the concept of hope. So we've decided to create a Twitter topic to share our own hopes for the future. It's called #hopes2010. We'd love you to take part on Twitter and share your aspirations for the new year, however earnest or frivolous.

If you do play along, please link back to this post so everyone might think about the more sobering aspirations of young people struggling to make sense of the world.