Jane Slowey at the SMK awards

The SMK foundation and awards were set up in honour of Sheila McKechnie and her work supporting activism and campaigners in society.

Those people who know a thing or two about the Foyer Federation, will be aware of the role Sheila McKechnie played in our development. In the early 1990s, as Director of Shelter, she played a key role in setting up the Foyer Federation to promote and develop a different way of working with young people who had dropped out of education, were unemployed and in housing need.

20 years on, we are reconnecting with that radical and innovative vision, through Open Talent, which challenges the deficit based nature of so many services for young people.

We’ve continued that relationship with the foundation and can happily recommend their website Campaign Central for advice and support for young people & Talent Champions who want to campaign. Our campaigns assistant Alastair Lichten also blogs on the site and this year our chief executive Jane Slowey was invited to present the Shout Out award, a category Foyer Federation director of innovation Colin Falconer has judged in the past

“I was honoured to be invited to present the Shout Out Award at the Sheila McKechnie Awards. The Shout Out Award, sponsored by City Bridge Trust, goes to young campaigners in London. What a brilliant event! Campaigners come in all shapes and sizes and the room was brim full of campaigning energy.The finalists included young campaigners on Citizenship Education in schools, recycling, Safe Spaces on the streets for young people and domestic violence in teenage relationships. And the winner was an amazing 14 year old from Croydon, Sahela Akhtar. Sahela has been campaigning to raise awareness of trafficking and its impact on young people.But, for just about everyone, the star of the show was feisty suffragette and peace campaigner, Hetty Bower. Just two weeks away from her 107th birthday, Hetty held the attention of the room as she presented the Take Action Award, sponsored by Age UK for campaigners over 60.It was interesting that 5 of the 6 awards had gone to women. Perhaps a campaign story was being traced out in that room – that linked Hetty, through Sheila McKechnie to Sahela and, through her to the future. And I thought about the campaigning heritage that links my suffragist grandmother through me to little Ava. I was inspired and optimistic for the future”

Jane at the SMK awards


‘Five Million 4 Ur Mobile?’ – Hendon School, Barnet

Bianca Ilii, Chamodi Kodithiwakku, Chamudi Kodithuwakku, Ruchi Shah & Patrycja Zelezniak

These young people are campaigning to raise awareness of the conflict materials found in mobile phones, particularly a mineral called coltan. Their campaign involves encouraging people to recycle old phones and also encourage companies and the Government to trace the source of materials and to ban conflict minerals.

Watch ‘Five Million 4 Ur Mobile’ talk about the campaign here



‘Fairtrade Action Group’ – Bishop Challoner Catholic Collegiate School, Tower Hamlets

Ameilia Cooper, Holly Cooper, Kaitlene Koranteng, Ammiel Malicdem & Sam Ngue

This group of young people are campaigning to get more shops in their local area to stock fair trade goods and make more people aware about fair trade. Part of their campaign includes turning their school into the first fair trade school in the borough, including the food, sports equipment and uniforms.


‘S.O.S. Earth’ – Central Foundation Girls School, Tower Hamlets

Leena Begum, Olida Kharom, Shemma Mehnaz & Tasmeen Bibi Peerbux

Leena, Olida, Shemma and Tasmeen are trying to make more people aware of the rubbish in waterways, especially of local rivers. Their campaign includes raising awareness by distributing a video they made about the River Lea. They want to people to recycle more dispose of waste responsibly.



‘Excellent!’ – Lister Community School, Newham

Afsana Choudhury

Afsana wants to campaign for the creation of a safe space for children, men and women to turn to if they have been abused. Part of her campaign includes addressing the issues of sex trafficking, violence against children and of creating positive images and role models for young people in the media.


‘Youth Social Enterprise’ – Young Mayor of Lewisham, Lewisham

Kieza Silveira De Souza

Kieza wants to increase skills and financial opportunities for young people through his campaign. He hopes that encouraging young people to set up or get involved in social enterprises would provide young people with opportunities to inspire achievement and create sustainable jobs in a time of cuts.


Inspired to campaign?

If you’re aged between 16 -25 and feel passionately about opening talent in young people then why not become a talent champion, for more information click here or contact talent@foyer.net.