Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
I am twenty one years old; I am entering my last year of studies at the Reykjavík School of Art at a Gymnasium level. I am rather a creative person and my hobbies include photography, illustration, film making and food. I have lived in Iceland my whole life, but have a bad case of wanderlust.
Tell me about the first time you met Óli, what was your first impression?
I remember really well! Óli was not like the other adults at the school where the youth centre was based. It was clear to me he was not a teacher just by the clothes he was wearing and his attitude. He was wearing a red baseball hoody, he had a couple of earrings, and his attitude was one of fun for fun’s sake. He just gave off this air of being friendly and approachable. He carried himself differently and he was smiling.
Why did you first go to the youth centre, what did you know about what they did there?
The youth centre was not really something my friends and I were aware of until they started setting up “the game room”. The room had a comfy sofa, gaming consoles, and a bright-orange wall covered with large stickers from the video game Mario. This definitely caught our attention, it was impossible to miss as you walked past the room. It looked so different to the other parts of the school, much more youth friendly.
I remember hearing that there were dances which were held by the youth centre, but they were definitely not my cup of tea, so I never really thought of going along. Then I saw on Facebook that the youth centre was going to show a movie, and the poster was something I immediately recognised. It was a movie called Brain Donors, which I had often watched as a child but did not know the name of, and I had been trying to find it for quite some time. This meant the first time I went to an open house night the youth centre was on a whim and I went all by myself. So I ran down to the youth centre to watch it.
When I arrived, they had not started the film yet, but the group were watching something else on television, which was nice, because I did not have to suffer the embarrassment of the whole room staring at me, what I call the ‘head-swivel’ of the newcomer. I remember Óli was there with a few boys, some of which I recognised but didn’t properly know. I think I talked to them a little, but I remember feeling relaxed enough to end up laughing hysterically at the film by the end of the night.
A way that often meant I took part without ever having to worry about being accepted or signalled out as different.
How did you become more involved in the youth centre?
After the film night, my involvement with Fönix increased. I got involved in a number of workshops, activities and competitions. I ended up competing in a nation-wide youth centre song contest (twice), I also participated in creative workshops with other young people, and this led to me entering my design for the Fönix logo contest which I won, and is still being used today!
I really just remember enjoying the fact that I could do the things that interested me in a place that was relaxed and informal with a worker like Óli who was relaxed but good at getting stuff done and in a fun way, a way that often meant I took part without ever having to worry about being accepted or signalled out as different.
So in terms of your participation in the youth centre and your relationship with Óli what has stayed with you? Do you think it might have had some impact on where you are now?
I believe a lot of what I have achieved is down to being involved in the youth centre and I am really proud of it when I look back. I would not necessarily have had the confidence to try out different challenges had it not been for my involvement in the youth centre. For example, the fact my design is the logo for Fönix gave me confidence in myself and assurance that my art is just as valid as other peoples, so I applied to art school. This was always a passion of mine, and I was able to test out my creative side at home as well as at the youth centre I was given space just to be me.
I think the most important thing the youth centre gave me is that it helped me realise that all the creative things I had been doing at home; drawing, painting, and writing, I could also do in the outside world; that creativity is not constricted to the home. It enabled me to see beyond my own experience, it broadened my horizons.
Óli helped me in ways that it is hard to describe, but if I say he was an adult who believed in me and supported my ideas at the same time as being a bit fun and silly does that make sense? It is the small things, the fun times, the time that is taken for granted that I look back on and realise my experience in the youth centre really helped shape who I am today… I continue to pop in and Óli is still as fun.
by Pauline Grace (2016)
Pauline Grace is a youth worker and head of the MA programme youth work at Newman University in Birmingham/UK.
Photos: Portrait, Logo Fönix © Ingigerður Ósk Gunnarsdóttirn