Thursday, 31 January 2013

Interview with Ben Freeman of FYFT

Hello Ben, would you like to introduce yourself and FYFT to my readers?

Hello Portis Wasp and all his lovely readers! I’m Ben Freeman, a 25 year old with a passion for people. Alongside my compadres Jared, Janine and Grant, I’ve been building and sharing the teachings of FYFT for over a year now – a company that genuinely cares. FYFT is our weapon in the battle against prejudice; we’re a company created from the founders’ shared passion to stamp out extreme bigotry.

Talk me through an average day in the life of you?

I wake up around 8am and work out for about an hour. Because I spend the rest of the day sitting about on my arse, I try to squeeze some exercise in every weekday to compensate! Then I’ll eat, Jared will arrive and we’ll have our first meeting of the day. We’ll talk shop until lunch, surfing the net for relevant current affairs we can draw from, tidying up any smaller issues, making plans for the afternoon and answering emails. We always make time for a nom nom re-fuel – without it my energy levels burn out pretty fast! After, we concentrate on the pressing issue of the day – whether it be editing, translating or meeting with school representatives/freelancers. Whatever the issue is, we’ll regularly work on it until late. It’s not uncommon for us to finish up around 8/9pm – that’s the negative about starting your own business if you’re a hardcore workaholic! After if I’m on my own I’ll cook up some dinner and purposefully zombify myself. The subject matter we work with can be tough emotionally, so when I relax in the evenings I like to indulge in tv comedies, have a bath, catch up on celeb goss (thanks Portis Wasp!) or chat with my friends before snuggling up in bed with my cat Pebbles. Come on, who doesn’t love a nap with a cat?

I’d like to hear some more about From Yesterday, For Tomorrow?

FYFT is our way of fighting prejudice; we pride ourselves on providing inspiring and innovative educational resources to schools. Our big guns are emotional education for young people of high-school age – something that Jared and I take on ourselves in school visits. The idea behind our visits is to educate future generations about social tolerance by drawing from the mistakes of the past – or as we say, learning from the story of prejudice. Our founding project concentrates on the story of prejudice behind the Holocaust. It may appear a really extreme issue to investigate, but it’s an incredible resource about human nature that we can’t turn our heads from – we miss life-affirming lessons about ourselves when we do.

So why set-up a platform like FYFT when you already had quite the enviable background working in fashion from what I’ve heard...

It was actually my experience in fashion that was the prompter. Now, I don’t want to make any sweeping statements about fashion and it’s notoriety for bitchiness, but sadly my own experience did ring true to the stereotype. And it was this negative experience that prompted me to really think about people and how we relate to each other – not just within the fashion industry, but widely; generally; how the world relates to one another. I began to think about why we behave the way we do, and more importantly, how that behaviour impacts on other people. I came to the conclusion that prejudice was the single underlying factor that lay at the heart of cruelty. Prejudice was an evil – and not a necessary one in our supposed, evolved society. Before I moved into fashion, I worked as a youth leader for a charity, and my philosophising brought me back to my start – and it was there I met Jared, who had taken over my position when I left. We realised we shared the same feelings on the subject of prejudice, and given our shared experience in youth work we understood the impact that prejudice had on young people – how even the smallest act of prejudice; an aside mean comment or an act of selfishness impacts on the fragility of youth twice as hard as it does on a wisened old adult, hardened to the world.

We realised that if we ever wanted to have an effect on lessening prejudice, we needed to start with those whose minds are eager to soak up new ideas and dream big in a way cynical adults find hard to do. And it was from this basis that the seeds of FYFT began to grow.

Your first documentary was on the Holocaust – which featured interviews with 7 holocaust survivors. What prompted you to tackle such a weighty subject and are you able to sum up the whole experience in a few sentences? Probably not I guess

The Holocaust is a vast and complex subject, and sadly one that many are too afraid of or upset by to tackle head on. We wanted to translate it for a modern audience whilst simultaneously taking a new approach. Our shared background in Holocaust education let us see the failings of some current approaches and how they make students unable to relate to the tragedy – we wanted to remove the numbers, the historical context and in doing so allow others to see the Holocaust for what it is, and how we came to experience it ourselves throughout years of educating about it and in our journey around the death camps – a human tragedy worthy of human attention.

What did you take away from the experience and how do you hope viewers will respond to the documentary?
We took away so much – both personally and professionally, but the big discovery for us was the stories we learned. Stories about people – both inspirational and awful – who suffered through so much and yet, still stood. Or about people who faced despair and created hope – or sadly, about people with great potential who fell into a blackness of cruelty. We hope that our documentary will teach the viewers that at essence we are all the same, and what is important is not what others perceive you to be, but how you behave towards others and the impact you have on their life. We want our viewers to challenge themselves and ask not only, ‘Have I been a victim of prejudice?’ But also to ask ‘Have I been prejudiced?’ And take responsibility for their answer.

Your next project will focus on homophobia. Tell me a little about what you have planned for the project?

We plan to draw from another extreme example of prejudice to reveal aspects of human nature once more. We can’t give too much away, but let’s just say we won’t be skirting around the issue; we plan to give a real education about what it’s like to be homosexual in today’s world. We want to show people how we (either wittingly or unwittingly) contribute towards prejudice which can have a very real detrimental effect on peoples lives. 

And your third project will be on Portis Wasp, yeah?

Obviously; we could go into some depth about the prejudice of the media! Just joking, we love you Portis.

Do you ever see yourself ever returning to fashion? I can’t imagine you would now...

I don’t think so. I’ll always, always respect the incredible artistic abundance within the industry, and there’s no doubt I’ll be an obsessive fashion consumer for the rest of my life, but as the industry for my profession, it wasn’t the ideal tailoring. I’m incredibly lucky to have found a niche for myself in a campaign I feel so passionately about. 

Lastly, where do you hope FYFT will be in five years from now?
Hopefully in all school resource rooms and assembly halls up and down the country – or if we’re lucky enough that others share our passion to stamp out prejudice; the world!!

Thanks Ben! 

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