“Hearts of Talent raises awareness, showcases our arts and represents our culture”

·5-min read
 @tashphotography (Natasha Pszenicki)
@tashphotography (Natasha Pszenicki)

The sun is starting to disappear behind the rooftops of this cobbled back yard as I find myself entering a recording studio in north-west London one Sunday evening. Greeted with a friendly hug, I’m finally meeting Jasmine Dale, the inspiring woman behind Hearts of Talent, a growing contest taking on some of London’s biggest community issues. She’s invited me to Cricklewood to observe her mentoring some of this year’s semi-finalists: Molly, 13, Derrick, 20, Nicole, 19, George, 20, and Adina, 25. We all take a seat. One by one, each artist stands to share their personal story – from being victims of knife crime, and seeing music as a way to escape gang violence. Then, with help from her daughter Amoy (who speaks with confidence about her own experience in the music industry), Jasmine plays a range of backing tracks from Mozart to TLC for the contestants to perform to. We watch each ‘HOT’ semi-finalist impressively adjust their vocals and rhythm to suit each instrumental. It was a struggle leaving my two young children with my mum in Hackney to get here tonight, but I’m so glad I came.

Hearts of Talent is an inspiring anti-knife crime campaign that holds annual performing arts competitions for Londoners aged between eight and 30 (Natasha Pszenicki  @tashphotography)
Hearts of Talent is an inspiring anti-knife crime campaign that holds annual performing arts competitions for Londoners aged between eight and 30 (Natasha Pszenicki @tashphotography)

Founded by businesswoman Jasmine, Hearts of Talent is an inspiring anti-knife crime campaign that holds annual performing arts competitions for Londoners aged between eight and 30. Co-founder Amoy tells me, “Mum had a feeling in her heart that things needed to change.” Through strong support from NHS North West and the Metropolitan Police, this X Factor-style competition strives to provide young people with the opportunity to unlock their full potential. With connections in America, Nigeria and India, Amoy sees the business flourishing into a “worldwide” phenomenon.

And this year, the big final of this performance competition will take place at Wembley Stadium on 16 July in front of a panel of four judges including rap artists K9 and Lemzi, and comedian Rudi Lickwood. The charity offers so much more than the music competition - it is a programme that builds trust between the police and the community, giving young people a pathway to education and employment. Jasmine runs support groups and gives help to victims of abuse. She helps people avoid a life of violence, crime and gangs. I am not surprised when Jasmine tells me that she has been awarded the Pride of Brent Award 2022.

Jasmine Dale (Natasha Pszenicki  @tashphotography)
Jasmine Dale (Natasha Pszenicki @tashphotography)

After attending a couple of these Sunday night workshops and interviewing each contestant (a job that Jasmine has given me to improve my writing and create content for the charity), I get to know each contestant well. There is 25-year-old Adina who has overcome many struggles, including homelessness and being a victim of knife violence. “I’ve personally had someone pull out a knife on me. It made me understand that it doesn’t matter what type of person you are, anyone these days can become a target.” But the competition has helped him move on with his life. “Hearts of Talent has given me inspiration again.” Adina sees music to be his “gateway” to a greater movement.

Ky, 23, was introduced to Hearts of Talent through social media. “My mum saw an Instagram post while at work and sent it to me,” he says. Reaching out to Jasmine, this late comer was impressive enough to skip the auditions. “Hearts is a great way to raise awareness, it showcases our arts and represents our culture,” Ky adds.

Some contestants already have experience of the music industry, such as Nicole aged 19. Managed by Scream Management and YCT Productions, Nicole has performed to a crowd on a few occasions, though her upcoming performance at Wembley will enable her to fulfil a lifelong dream. Molly, 13, has taken inspiration from her mother who is also a singer.

Amoy Dale (Natasha Pszenicki  @tashphotography)
Amoy Dale (Natasha Pszenicki @tashphotography)

Zaen, 14, was shopping at Brent Cross when he saw the Hearts of Talent auditions performing in the shopping centre. He approached the team and asked to perform. I’m pretty impressed with his confidence and drive.

George, 20, is a spoken word artist who channels his critical thinking into “trying to portray complex issues such as mental health and the impact social media has on society”, while rap artist Derrick, 23, sees poetry as justice. Growing up in Watford, Derrick, 20, felt nothing could safeguard him from the local gang violence; “Living in the area meant I was affiliated”, he says. Ultimately, Derrick chose literature as his safety net. “Hearts’ is a space where I am offered guidance and support and taught life lessons,” he says.

The next time I meet Jasmine and the rest of the team is at the photoshoot for the Evening Standard. Even the Tube strike and the disrupted transport across London that day doesn’t deter anyone from being there. The energy and excitement in the room is electric. Each contestant gets to stand in front of the camera and feel like a star. It was an incredible day and the happiness and positivity continues on the WhatsApp group for the following week.

Adina Vieillevoye , Zaen , Molly Michaels, D M, Ky Lewis,  (below) George Lomas, Nicole Blakk, L D Lore, Marcel de Oliveria, DeeCien (Natasha Pszenicki  @tashphotography)
Adina Vieillevoye , Zaen , Molly Michaels, D M, Ky Lewis, (below) George Lomas, Nicole Blakk, L D Lore, Marcel de Oliveria, DeeCien (Natasha Pszenicki @tashphotography)

“It is now the big build up to the final at Wembley that we have been working towards for so long,” Jasmine tells me. ‘I can’t wait to see the energy and excitement explode on to the stage for each performance.’ Jasmine’s positivity is infectious and I feel the same. As I watch all the young contestants surround Jasmine on the sofa for the group shot, it is very clear to me that this whole project revolves around her. Jasmine’s warmth and determination is the magic glue that makes this adventure happen.

Buy tickets to the final on Saturday 16th July here.

Photographed by @tashphotography

 (Natasha Pszenicki  @tashphotography)
(Natasha Pszenicki @tashphotography)
 (Creative Team @Cooper_Experience)
(Creative Team @Cooper_Experience)
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