Exclusive! Under Pressure Zine is OUT NOW!

We are very proud to announce that the first completed Shape Your Culture Project is online now in all it’s glory! The Shape Your Culture team at Mulberry School in Tower Hamlets have been working on a zine (below) that engages with the topic of peer pressure and body image in their school and the surrounding community. This zine contains interviews and artwork, opinion pieces, and reflections on the myth of beauty, headscarf and the influence of the media.


To read the zine just click on the image below.

Read Under Pressure

Images from the first brainstorm workshops with our Mulberry School group.
[nggallery id=1]

Read more →

We asked Stephanie what inspired her first project.

Stephasyc_stepahnie2nie Heart is part of the core Shape Your Culture Team, running projects, conducting video interviews, focus groups & leading photo shoots. She is also the presenter for BBC2’s Global Body Film, award winner of the rising star award, the London assistant director for an international documentary, The Illusionist. In the past she has also directed and produced short films featuring twice academy-award winner Emma Thompson, and created the international Model-meter that unites women in declaring 1size does not fit all.

We though it would be good idea to ask Stephanie Heart what inspired her first culture-shaping project, and here is what she said.


I remember a conversation I had that inspired me to make a change in the community that I live and beyond. I was around 19 at the time and was a mentor to a lovely group of girls at my local church. I was on my way home from the youth session I was leading for the girls, and a conversation arose when one of the young ladies who was about 14 at the time shared how she left the house one day with no make-up on. She said that she saw someone she knew in a shop, and so ran and hid. I asked her why and she said because she believed that she was ugly without make-up on.

I thought at that moment: what could make a beautiful young girl at 14 years of age believe she is not beautiful without make-up on? That she needed to purchase a product in order to be beautiful? That beauty was something she had to buy not something that she indeed was?

I thought about the messages that were being sold to women today. Having a look around there was such an emphasis on beauty being seen through the purchasing of a product, beauty being seen only if you looked a certain way. I started to explore these issues further and committed myself to an in-depth study into the effect of the current visual culture on women today; inviting the women in my community to a series of events, focus groups and creative sessions. That was where Stephanie Heart began.

 ‘I first came to the focus groups with a face covered with foundation, false eyelashes, eye liner and left the experience accepting and loving who I am, without having to hide behind the makeup.’

This young woman described taking part in the focus group as the day that she began to open her eyes to the pressure magazines place upon her generation to reach a certain standard of ‘perfection’. She chose to go on a journey to accept and love her natural appearance as a result of it.

Through the sessions, the talks, and the events I worked towards exposing the falsities perpetrated by the media and popular culture as to what defines feminity, womanhood and beauty; teaching girls and women of all ages to be aware and critical of this as well as taking them on a journey through which they learn to appreciate their uniqueness, understand their value and recognise their potential.

I am ever so excited about the projects that the SYC groups across London and the Southeast are embarking on this year. Three months ago the SYC team and I started a conversation with the girls . We asked them 6 questions: What do you love? What do you hate? What do you want to see? What do you want to hear? What do you want to say? What do you want to be able to do?

We are spending time with the SYC groups exploring the way the media generates preconceptions, stereotypes and anxieties, and inviting them to share their own story, start their own project, create their own media.

This year we are going to see these young woman impact the communities in which they live in, in passionate and thoughtful social action. Looking back at the first moment that led me to this work, it is a joy to still be working on these projects, and watch so many individuals find their voice, and begin to break the mould.





Read more →

It is Not a Race

The Shape Your Culture project started because we were talking about how much better it feels to live life when you are focusing on what you are doing, when you make sure that you find a way to do what you love doing, and when you stop being constantly occupied with what you look like while you are going through life.

We thought: what better way to remind people — including ourselves — of all our amazing potential, than to actually put that potential to use!

We thought: what better way to break the mould of derogatory and two-dimensional representations of women, than by being out there doing what we want to do and what we believe in!

We thought: what better way to show that we have a choice in what we want to see, hear, say and do — than celebrating all kinds of work in which women are three-dimensional, funny, clever, have flaws and desires, are alive!

 All around us, awareness is being raised about the negative effects it can have on women and men, and the relations between them, if too much focus is laid on appearance. Especially if the versions of appearance that we are told are ‘good’ are created by companies who have very little interest in all of our well-being, and a great amount of interest in making lots of money from us in whatever way they can.

 But of course it isn’t enough to raise awareness that something is wrong. We need to do something about it. And while talking is very important, we want to do something more than talk. We want to stretch and expand the spaces where women can see, hear, speak and do in ways that feel right for them.

 There is, however, an important thing to remember here:

It is not a race.

It is not a competition.

When we lay the focus on doing, we do not want to add another pressure to all the pressures that already exist.

We do not want to create a sense that as well as being a good daughter, girlfriend, student, employee, as well as looking a certain way and being fit and healthy and all those other things the world seems to demand of us, we now also have to rush around like crazy doing stuff.

No, we want to find spaces where it is possible to breathe. To step away from others’ expectations and ask yourself what you want and need.

To try out new things and not care if you look ridiculous.

To maybe write a poem, a story, a song of your very own, maybe for noone else to see.

To maybe learn how to knit, to make a messy picture, to cook your favourite meal for yourself.

To start to understand that you can use the things that you are good at confidently: maybe to change the world on a big scale, or maybe to explore and shape your personal world.

To not do any of these things in order for them to be seen and judged by someone else, but purely because it feels good or necessary to do them.

Maybe they won’t go on your Facebook page. Maybe you choose to put them in a blog — maybe not. Maybe they won’t win you a competition.

But maybe they will give you an idea of all the possibilities that are inside you, that some parts of our culture are trying very hard to pretend do not exist.

Read more →

The Time-Traveler’s List

The Time-traveler’s list

This is one of the first blogs accompanying Shape Your Culture, and as I sit here
I wonder what on earth someone who is more than ten years older than most of
you can tell you that you don’t already know.

And the answer is: to be fair, quite a lot, but you’re not going to want to hear
most of it. I certainly always preferred to make my own mistakes.

However, I did then make a list, because I love making lists. And this is not a
terribly original idea (see the Dear Me project and book, where famous people
write to their 16-year old selves), but maybe this list will be relevant, in some
ways, to you.

The title of the list is:
If I could go back and visit my 16-year old self, what would I say to her.

And here is what I came up with

1. Have fun! But make sure you are actually having fun, rather than doing
things you think are supposed to be fun.
2. When adverts come on the TV: change the channel.
3. Don’t think you need to already know who you are: you have a lifetime to
find out, and you are changing every single day.
4. Take time to enjoy food.
5. Wear what you want (chances are, there’ll be some really good, and some
really bad choices in there. You win some, you lose some.).
6. Find out about politics! (it’s more important than you think)
7. The people you fancy matter: but really not as much as you think.
8. It is actually legitimately fine not to be able to walk in high heels.
9. Don’t ever let yourself be stopped from doing something because you
think you don’t look good enough!
10. Always fight for what you believe in.

… and 11. Remember that everything you do shapes the culture you live in.

Welcome, ladies. I can’t wait to see you make this thing happen!





Read more →