Wellingborough photographic project shows schoolboys how to express emotions

The Smile project has helped male pupils share experiences, thoughts and feelings

Thursday, 5th May 2022, 6:00 am

Portraits of boys at a Wellingborough school have been used to launch a project to encourage young men to feel able to share emotions and experiences.

Students and staff at Sir Christopher Hatton Academy hosted an evening to address the perceptions of young men in Wellingborough.

A display of 620 black and white photos of pupils were exhibited at the Smile Project event with 15 male students from across the school speaking on gender, race and sexuality.

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Smile Project: Sir Christopher Hatton Academy students

The Smile Project: ‘Setting the record straight about young men in our local community’ was the brainchild of Sir Christopher Hatton Academy’s diversity lead, Laura Stewart.

She said: “I am incredibly proud of all the young men who became advocates for both themselves and their peers. It so important that we consider the way we view young people in society and I hope that all who attended have felt inspired by our incredible students.”

The students from Years 8 to 13 took to the stage to share their experiences, thoughts and feelings on what it means to be a young man in today’s society.

Thought-provoking topics covered by the students were how to break stereotypes, society’s expectations and how to create their own futures filled with diversity, inclusivity and kindness.

Kwawe Darko

Head boy, Niyam Patel, said: ”Every boy in the school had their picture taken. Nowadays we are allowed to smile. Sometimes we feel we are not allowed to show emotions.

"It’s about toxic masculinity – the weight of expectations and how we feel how we should be. I think I reflect more on my emotions now.”

Kwame Darko, 15, said: “It’s a good way of starting to uplift young people. It’s being able to express to others and to show love. I’m from an African background and traditionally you are supposed to be the strong one but can you feel like the world’s on your shoulders. This project has been good for me.”

It is hoped that the photographs taken by volunteer project photographer, Jay Bapodra will be used for a permanent display in the school.

George Rumney

George Rumney, 14, read a poem he composed to express his feelings.

He said: “No-one has it easy. I’m hoping others find their voices. I’m happy to cry but I feel I might be challenged – we have to conform to gender stereotypes. It might change at this school.”

Bijal Davé, the school’s vice principal, said: “The Smile Project was a huge success and we would like to thank all those that attended. We are immensely proud of our students and the exhibition gave them the perfect opportunity to show their courage and commitment to creating positive change in our local community. Students across the academy have had the opportunity to view the exhibition and have commented on how important it is for young men to have their voice heard in today’s society.

"We will continue to create opportunities for the young people in our school community to flourish and become the change makers of tomorrow.”