The Challenge 2009: case study
Email interview with Daryl ‘Dottz’ Brown

I’m from Southwark, South East London and have lived here all 17 years of my life although my family originates from Kingston, Jamaica. I used to go to St.Thomas Apostle College in Nunhead, but now I’m attending City of London School’s Sixth Form, Blackfriars and am having an awesome experience.

I want to become an architect before I’m 25 so I have a long road ahead of me, but I’ve have never backed out of a challenge – that’s just not my style. To pass the time I dance. I have been clownwalking and breakdancing for about a year now, which has led to quite a successful youtube channel on which I produce loads of dance videos when I have some spare time.

What inspired you to take up The Challenge?

When I first heard about the Challenge it seemed intimidating and something I’d never throw myself into alone. Benny Goodman showed up at my school and told my tutor group about the challenges we would undergo if we applied: it seemed like an experience I really didn’t want to miss. Optimistic about the idea of adventure, I decided with a couple of friends that break time that we should sign up and see what happens. Next thing I knew, all of my friends were going on The Challenge with me. Luckily half of them were in my media group so I wasn’t going alone. I knew it would be full of fears, effort and hardship – and it was. But I don’t regret a bit of it.

Which parts of the programme did you enjoy most?

Probably the times of the programme I enjoyed the most were those times about half way through a week where you’d find yourself in a tent on a hill in Wales, or cleaning up your own apartment room in Kingston University, and you wonder, “What am I doing here?” The Challenge took me so far out of my norm, I would wake up to the same song on my phone and just keep going day after day never knowing what to expect. It made weeks of summer into weeks of excitement and vastly productive experience. I never could have enjoyed it as much if I hadn’t gone with my best of friends and met some of my newest best of friends on the way. It’s weird because it’s an experience you experience alone – your friends are right there with you – but an experience to remember.

What do you think you’ve learnt from The Challenge?

Many of the things I have learnt have been about myself. Looking at the leaflet about the weeks ahead, it was all pretty daunting. I was not very confident I’d be able to hike miles and climb hillsides or manage teams and participate with people I’d never met before. But as the days went by I gained a new independence and became confident about the future. Since the Challenge, I haven’t said no to any new challenge that’s arisen: I’ve been elected a prefect in my new college by my peers, I’ve done several break dance shows to raise money for charity and now I’m independently applying for universities.

How has the Challenge changed you?

The Challenge has made me a new person. Seriously. I now have an optimistic outlook about my future. I can honestly say nothing seems as intimidating or daunting as it would have before. I can face exams with confidence in my knowledge and preparation. After The Challenge, I became more organized – ready to take on education.

How has the Challenge changed the way you think about your community? Has your experience of the Challenge made you more optimistic about the future, whether that’s in school or when it comes to getting a job?

A year ago, what I now perceive as a community was non-existent. Growing up surrounded by gang-culture and crime around the area of my school, it would be dangerous to travel after certain hours and I’d deliberately take certain routes home to avoid conflict with other schools. Now I don’t judge people by where they’re from and who they know: I try to see everyone equally as a person of value and conscious mind. People in my community are no longer scary and hazardous, I can look at the public and smile, letting them know I am not a threat and just a person on his way home. My community is one of the most valuable things I am a part of, if I can’t feel comfortable there, I can’t feel comfortable anywhere, I now see how I am a part of my local area and how easily I can effectively help it.

What sort of things did you do on The Challenge?

For the first week, I went to Wales where after a rendezvous at the cabin-site, we all put our bags into our rooms and met at the entrance where we met up with our groups and our mentors. From there on it was managing our own rooms, meeting up with our groups to take on physical challenge after physical challenge, hiking mile after mile with heavy rucksacks to a campsite where we sat around a fire and laughed at our days. Washing our faces in springs and waterfalls, fighting up the steepest hills with ropes only to climb up steeper hills…

Then, after a much-needed weekend at home, we packed our bags for a week in the residential area of Kingston University, by day working on projects at the BBC studios, by night entertaining other groups in the student halls.

That was the week where after meeting some of the most amazing people to date we had a week to work with them, making short films that earned rounds of applause. We ended achieving so much and doing things we could never have imagined attempting, breaking our own barriers, and building bridges with people we now see on a regular basis.

What did you think of the other participants and staff?

The staff I met over the weeks were amazing, these were people who took time out of their summer holidays to go on an adventure and learn from us just as we learnt from them. On paper they were just our mentors, but when things got tough, they were more like friends keeping us together and keeping us going. They were full of smiles and stories worth listening to, some of the most interesting people on the trips we took. They all came with a feeling of security and reassuring as I’m sure, half the time, we would have gotten lost without them.

What did you make of the other people on your team?

My team had its weaknesses and its strengths; not everyone was capable of everything, though together, as one, we were perfect for any task. Some of us were fearless, running into any high-flying, pole-climbing task, and others were logical minded, solving puzzles that seemed impossible to me. My team was full of kind souls worth every second I spent with them.

Could you tell me a little bit about Diametricz, please?

Diametricz is the company (and future charity, I hope) that we founded as a collaboration of our thoughts and perception of our community. We all felt that our community was as challenged as we were, there was this invisible force that would repel people from interacting with each other out of a fear of conflict and negativity. We aimed to break this barrier and build a bridge between our generation and other generations, particularly older ones, those who we could directly influence and whose opinion personally affects us. We came up with the idea of using clothing as a medium to spread our message that not all youth are as depicted in the media, lazy, immoral, criminals all out to harm others and destroy environments. Our hope is that those who wear our clothes are youths of noble mind and logical action, taking care of their community and helping us to help others. Diametricz clothing is currently a clothing range of black and white t-shirts with coloured designs on them, each design flaunting an influential message like “I’m just like you but younger” and “Making you Love Me for who I am”.

Is the project still running?

Yes – we meet on a weekly basis to discuss stock and opportunities we should consider like applying for grants to spend on entertainment for elderly homes and maintaining our connections with the Southwark council.

How are Envision helping?

Envision is one of the main factors that have kept Diametricz going on for so long. Zoe Fishel works with Envision and she attends our weekly meeting to help us talk about events we can set up and bring in people who can help us, and organizations founded on helping projects like ours. We have previously attended Envision events around London to help others with their own projects, telling them of our own experiences and to disperse our shirts along with our message of influence and change.

What was your role in the team?

My original role in the team was Head Designer as I have experience using Adobe Photoshop. Though I only used to use it to produce backgrounds and themes for myspace pages and bebo pages for myself and my friends, I began using it to design shirts and other clothing. My team and I came up the several phrases that we wanted on the shirts and then I would come up with designs. I would come up with about 5 lines before we chose one to take forward. Apart from the designing, I regularly act as a spokesman or representative of my team, chairing meetings every now and then and attending youth courses to talk about what we’ve done and how we did it.

What do you think the effect of your project has been on  the community? What have people said about the project?

The main effect our project on the community has been bringing people together. We’re only a small team and I don’t want to exaggerate but I’ve seen our messages spark conversation and heard people say amazing things about our work. It has a positive effect on people when they see someone of my generation who obviously, on sight, isn’t a threat or dangerous to interact with. Over time I hope that our work will result in a viable identity so that people can identify youths nation-wide who are peaceful and – most importantly – a part of the community.

Do you think you’ll go on to do more voluntary work in the community?

The Diametricz and Challenge experience has encouraged me to do so much for my community. I have been recently using my dancing talents to the best of my ability, holding shows in my college, one at a conference at the UEL (University of East London) and contributing to charity flashmobs in Trafalgar Square. These things I’ve been a part of have shown me how easily I can get involved in charitable work and how easy it is to help others with all that I’ve received. Now, almost every holiday away from college I get involved in a media project or a presentation or a dance meet-up/show or a mix-tape. I can’t see reason to hold back what I can do and if I can ever help, that’s exactly what I will do: be helpful.

Daryl with one of his designs for Diametricz, promoting trust between generations

Daryl with his team after the Team Challenge

Diametricz at The Challenge graduation ceremony in December 2009

With the help of the BBC, one of our many local partners, teams were given media training during the Week 2 Team Challenge. You can view the Diametricz films, including their mission statement, on youtube.

You can learn more about Diametricz, their current work and purchase one of their many t-shirts by visiting their website.

Daryl speaking to journalists after meeting with David Cameron and Michael Caine at the Globe Academy in April, 2010.


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