Fire alarm. Are you kidding me? I was happily sprawled out on my bed, lamenting a wonderful night’s sleep and the comfy warmth the bed beholds for me and the annoying chirp of the alarm sounded. Firstly, it made me jump out of my skin; I legitimately almost died with fright (up north, it’s an absolute NO to wake a man up.) Secondly, I really couldn’t be bothered trekking all the way outside in my night clothing, especially considering it was raining pretty badly. What a glorious morning setting, huh?
Luckily our leaders were nice to us, and rather than assembling outside in the cold, rainy courtyard, we gathered in the upstairs common room area. It was actually pretty humorous seeing the mixture of tired people, just-came-out-of-the-shower people and the ones that had quite literally dragged themselves from their beds, duvet and all *cough cough* William.
Breakfast soon came round, and boy was I disappointed. There was no worthy hot main, rather a bowl of mushrooms. I don’t know what kind of savage enjoys such a meal, certainly not me, so I snubbed my nose and moved onto a much more simpler option; chocolate croissants. Thank the heavens they were warm, because it made all the difference. As always, I also took my mandatory bowl of yoghurt and my cheeky glass of the luscious and ever so beautiful orange juice. If there’s one thing that I’ll miss the most, it’s that tiny glass of orange liquid-filled gloriousness; the cold and slightly bittersweet taste of the southern orange juice hitting my taste-buds.
Following on from the meal, we received our morning plenary, which included a video of world-famous and viral internet star, spoken word artist, Suli Breaks. We were also given a brief summary of what the day entailed, including details of the photographs to be taken later in the evening.
Our first session was a drama/ confidence sort of workshop. I’m confused as to which one of those two words it was mainly focused on, but I assume they go hand in hand. This session was probably the most enjoyable of the quadruplet on offer that day. We began by playing a synchronisation name game, wherein we had to say our name in sync with everyone else. We also did the same for clapping our hands and saying our partner’s name. We then played a sort of space occupation game, aimed at proving the importance of eye contact and intense focus. We then played a creative sort of game, where we were given 10 seconds in a group to create a letter or an object; our letters were ‘W’ then ‘S’ and our object was a washing machine. I have to say, our portrayal of a washing machine was on point. If we had to take a key thing from the Leaders programme today, it’s that we make a pretty badass washing machine. We then played a partner co-operation game, trying to make a rhythm in tune with each other, which was destined to fail. I was pitched with a fellow northerner, and it’s just northern etiquette to never look a man in the eyes when that close. We finished on a public speaking sort of demonstration, both explaining our lives in 2 minutes to a partner and then sharing 3 representative words of ourselves to each other. I out-sassed our speaker as she drilled into us how important eye contact is, yet she didn’t hold it with us. I called her out on this and she made she change; see, I’m making a change even WHILST on NCS Leaders!
Following a short 10 minute break, we made our way to our next media session; branding. I say branding because I don’t have a clue what the intention was. My best assumption is that it was branding, but don’t hold me to that. This was, regrettably, the lowest point of NCS Leaders. You see, the message we were being delivered was strong – of course holding a good brand and online presence is vital to success in today’s world, but none of that is useful if the person teaching us looks and sounds bored as hell. That’s what we had, an individual who was passionate about her subject but not so passionate about sharing it. As I’ve said before, I’m certainly a visual learner. Therefore, I didn’t appreciate a one and a half hour lecture about stuff I not only know, but stuff I know more about (thanks, Tangerine PR and Co. for that!)
Thank lord lunch was next, because I probably couldn’t have held up much longer after our second media session. Luckily, lunch was absolutely incredible. Seriously, by far the best meal yet. We were treated to the most amazing lasagne ever, and more importantly, I’d had an abundance of both cheese AND beef. A man couldn’t ask for anything more, I was being truly indulged in greatness. I also took a cheeky carrot cake and I think I took more yogurt, but yet again, don’t call me on that one. The fact I can’t remember must be testament to how amazing the lunch was. The way to my heart is through my stomach, a saying that couldn’t be truer. Lunch was also the time we sadly departed from one of our team members, who took the strong decision to leave the Leaders programme to make things better within her own home environment. Although it was a sad time, we were happy she was strong enough to decide her own fate.
After lunch, we set forth for our third media session of the day. This one seemed much more ‘my style’, as it was film making. In some ways it was, I guess, as I learned about certain frame types on video format. However, it was all well and good being taught it, but we weren’t actually shown HOW to utilise this newfound knowledge until a 5 minute time space at the back end of the time allotment. Poor time management perhaps, but who am I to complain. When we were actually recording, it was quite an enjoyable experience. It’s always nice changing media, as I’m so used to still photography.
During the break, I was actually given an impromptu interview about my NCS life; why I partook in this wonderful journey, how it changed me and my goals in life. That was nice, actually being on the receiving end of an interview for once. It also made me happy that I was specifically chosen out of the few NCS Leaders here.
Our fourth and final media session soon shot round, which was all about mainstream media, specifically televised interviews. Firstly, we played a game centred around a lemon. Yep, you read that right, a lemon. The task was to say the lemon was anything you wanted in the world, from a sorcerer’s stone to my suggestion of it being 2-Pac. We then played something called the ‘Facebook’ game that is actually pretty hard to explain via this media, but it basically ended up in a lot of bumps and bruises. It’s safe to say that we were passionate to win. We then moved onto the main body of the workshop, the interviews. We were given the task of being interviewed/ giving an interview about NCS and our specific moments. I winged it, and evidently this was noticeable as I quoted, “When I was in school, back when I was a member…” How awkward.
Following this session, we all gathered in the assembly hall once again. This was the part of the day we were all anticipating, to finally see who our ‘special guest’ was. In the past it has been Tinie Tempah and YouTubers, so we were all excited to see who could top those. Luckily for me, it was indeed Suli Breaks himself. I say ‘luckily’ because as a writer, I resound with his messages, especially during his Q/A when he explained how he overcame writer’s block, where he drew inspiration from and as far as what his favourite poem is, to which he replied, “I prefer stuff like 2-Pac and Biggie to be honest.” A much better answer than I expected. He then gave us the pleasure of an upload to his Snapchat story, a few dozen selfies and even more photos. Altogether, it was an incredible ambassador to bring forth, so congratulations NCS Yes Live team!
After the excitement of that assembly, there could be only one thing to top the mood; dinner. Now this dinner made me happy, jacket potato with cheese and beans. Up north, we have little potato stands that sell that, so this was a true throwback to my younger days in the sunny streets of Preston. Thankfully, everything was hot, and above all else, absolutely perfect tasting. I was a happy Benjamin. I also took some sort of raspberry and ice cream cake thing, which was also incredibly nice, other than the fact I had to rush to eat everything. This was because of the upcoming photo shoot.
The photo shoot, we were told, was a combination of individual shots, team shots and then entire group shots. The individual shots were mainly great, except one pose I was made to make with my hair. The other poses were on point, though, so I wouldn’t be surprised if I was the next face of Aldi. The team shots were more cute than anything, everyone fitting into the tiniest photo frame and creating print –outs to keep safe (aww.) The large group shots were where it was at, though. I got with all my ‘lads’ and we began our typical chants, from team based chants all the way to football chants. The atmosphere was absolutely incredible, and it all felt like absolutely everyone acted in unison. There will be one stand out memory from NCS, and it will very likely be that moment when I was arm-to-arm with my new-found guy friends, chanting at the top of our voices without a care in the world. I smile whilst even thinking about it.
Team time soon came after, which was mainly me creating our group talent show performance. I settled on the idea of speaking a poem, as the rest of the team somehow acts it. I’ve never really written a poem before, so at the time of writing this, I hope the show goes well! The poem is about 6-8 blocks long, with each alternating line rhyming. Its cringe-worthy stuff, but I guess that’s what our team is good at. I also created a ‘little bit’ (super exaggeration) of a surprise for later as well, but shh. I was also told to give a shoutout to John Cooper, so, umm, enjoy?
After yet more chanting, singing and general happiness, we once again headed back to our rooms. I settled down, pulled out my laptop and began writing the days summary. Much to my surprise, I heard someone barreling down the corridor outside, and then followed by a number more. I’m assuming they were being hyper, especially since a team leader wasn’t here to tell them off. So if a team leader is reading this, please don’t tell them off. It was all enjoyable in the end and no-one died! Plus it was really funny hearing this random 15 minutes of noise out of no-where, surrounded by one guy shouting, “Shh they’re coming,” then silence for the night. Ahh, teen innocence, huh?