Brixton poet creates charity to empower young people

Brixton spoken word artist Ragz-CV, real name Ryan J. Matthews-Robinson, has founded a new charity to help young people with his business partner Sinclair Farrell. Poetic Unity intends to encourage personal development of young people through poetry. The Brixton Blog spoke to Ragz-CV to find out more.

Local poet Ryan J Matthews, aka Ragz-CV
Local poet Ryan J. Matthews-Robinson, aka Ragz-CV

How did Poetic Unity come into being?

I started doing workshops back in February 2015. When we started, it was just a platform for young people, but then we wanted to take it another level and we registered as a charitable company in November 2015.

What does your charity hope to achieve?

Our goals are to teach alternative ways of learning, to supply events for young people, and to create a friendly environment for them to express themselves in. There are lots of places for young people closing and the government is cutting lots of services.

Young people at one of Poetic Unity's workshops
Young people at one of Poetic Unity’s workshops

How do your workshops work?

We cater each workshop for the young people we’re working with – we want to get to know them. We try to get them to see the importance of creativity, asking them questions like “imagine if someone tried to make the shard without being creative?” We work around the curriculum and what their school is focused on. We’re coming from a similar place – they engage with us because we’re a lot like them. It’s a powerful way of getting people to express themselves.

Why is poetry so effective?

Poetry is therapy. Say if someone got raped, it’s a lot harder to say it than put it in a poem – it’s a way of opening up.

What kind of poetry do you focus on?

It’s spoken word, it’s very performance-based. When you’re just reading a poem out you don’t have to be a good performer – with spoken word you have to learn it by heart and deliver it well to your audience.

Smiling faces after a Poetic Unity workshop
Smiling faces after a Poetic Unity workshop

How are you funded?

When we started we decided that we didn’t want to rely on grants. They’re unreliable and hard to get. We’ll go for them of course, but we want to make sure we can function without them. We charge schools to run our workshops – but they’re always free for the young people that attend. We’re also holding fundraising events – we have a big event coming up in Croydon at Croydon Conference Centre on Saturday 9 April called ‘Good Times’.

What’s your top tip for a young person in Brixton today?

The most important thing is to find out what you love to do – when you find out what your passion is, that’s where life is. I found music when I was 16 but didn’t take it seriously until I was 20 – I never thought I’d be running a charity. Because I followed the passion it took me there. It may take a while but if you’re looking for it you’re more likely to find it.

What inspired you to set up Poetic Unity?

I volunteered a lot for the Alzheimer’s Society when I was younger, then in 2012 recorded an album with my grandad Robbie Robinson, who was a reggae artist, raising nearly £10,000 for Alzheimers. I learned a lot about the charity sector and decided I can do more through my own charity.

Find out more about Ragz-CV’s charity by visiting Support them by heading along to their next fundraiser event ‘Good Times’ in Croydon on Saturday 9 April.


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