This blog is all that remains from the former website which was closed after 8 years of providing a 'wiki' of urban street gangs in London.

An unfinished history of modern urban street gangs in London has been used to replace some of the content of the original site, beginning here

Monday, 30 July 2012

Summer youth events to mark riots anniversary

Ealing Gazette

Jul 30 2012 By Poppy Bradbury

ALMOST one year on from the Ealing riots, community figureheads have got together to put on an exciting and varied programme of free summer events for young people.

A few months after yobs stormed through Ealing’s high streets, conscientious adults in Greenford were determined to engage with bored youngsters - many of whom were swept up in the moment last summer.

Members of Ravenor Park Residents Association and officers from Greenford Broadway Safer Neighbourhood Team raised £2,500 from a successful music concert in April.

A further £3,500 from Ealing Council’s youth offending teams, Grand Union Village developer Taylor Wimpey and the estates’ community development trust will pay for three weeks of free entertainment.

The Summer Activities for Youth aimed at eight to 16-year-olds runs from August 13 to 31 at the Grand Union Village community centre in Higham Mews, Northolt.

The bumper programme includes boat trips, sports and games, arts and dance, photography and filming, DJing and environmental activities.

Jackie Sear, chief executive of charity EASE - Empowering Action and Social Esteem - managing the project, said: “We’re trying to meet local needs and one of those is a lack of activities for children and young adults in the area, particularly in the summer.

“Anti-social behaviour has been a concern and we wanted to tackle this in a positive way by giving the children activities which they can engage in.

“We have made sure that there is at least something of interest for everyone each day.’’

Entertainment will be provided by local groups including Brentford Football Club Community Sports Trust, West London Floating Classroom, Cuban Boxing Academy, Quins Rugby Club.

Archie Ross, chairman of Ravenor Park Residents Association, behind the project, said: “It’s a great scheme and it gives young people something productive to do during the summer, instead of staying out on the streets. Hopefully initiatives like this will tackle the causes of last year’s riots.’’

To sign up email or text your name and address to 07773 341 832.

Friday, 27 July 2012

The Man Inside - review

Evening Standard

A promising British thriller about tough urban life from writer-director Dan Turner

Tunnel vision: Ashley Thomas plays a boxer who is dragged into gang culture

Derek Malcolm

27 July 2012

Writer-director Dan Turner has partly based his promising British thriller about tough urban life on his own experience. That promise may be weakened by an over-reliance on melodrama but better may follow.

Clayton (Ashley Thomas) is a young man with a fearful childhood. His father (David Harewood) is a brutal gangster who robs a Pakistani store owner, stabbing him to death in the process, and then demands his young son watch as the man dies.

The boy is traumatised and carries the incident with him past adolescence. He becomes a boxer, trained by a seen-it-all old slugger (Peter Mullan), who wonders why his charge holds back in the ring. Clayton, of course, is fearful of becoming like his now imprisoned dad.

Things don’t get any better for Clayton. He can’t shake off his early troubles and slowly but surely gang life overwhelms him. Will he ever escape an environment that can only lead to violence?

That’s the story, and it is told with some flair, even if the melodrama doesn’t really allow for smaller, quieter moments that might have underlined the parable better. We need more from Harewood, an excellent actor, than this grinning psychopath. And it would have been a stronger tale if the powerful Mullan, as a kind of surrogate father, had been given more to do.

As it is, The Man Inside is well made but pushes us towards a kind of hyper-realism that pays decreasing dividends.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Life in the South London estates portrayed in hard-hitting play

This is Local London

8:10am Thursday 26th July 2012 in On Stage By Nick Hitchens
Life in the South London estates portrayed in hard-hitting play

A hard-hitting new stage play is coming to Croydon.

Conflict was written by a team of youngsters from the area and tackles topics such as gang culture, teen violence and sex, and looks at how the wrong decisions can affect people’s lives.

Written by Tre Young and directed by Marlon King, the play depicts the lives of two families and the various conflicts they face.

It also focuses on the contradicting, rebellious and hard lives of teenagers, which can lead to unfortunate circumstances with potentially devastating consequences.

A spokesman for the production says: “According to New Scotland Yard figures, knife crime in London has increased by almost 10 per cent.

“The Metropolitan Police has documented that more than 250 different gangs are engaged in battles across London’s poorest areas and gang members are getting increasingly younger.

“It is evident they are caught up in a separate fight for survival as they encounter various challenges in what are arguably the greatest challenges they will ever face.”

Conflict; Fairfield Halls; September 8, 7.30pm, tickets £15; call 0208 688 9291

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Showcase of rappers, singers and poets at 'Undiluted Talent' concert

Jul 19 2012 by Ian Proctor, Harrow Observer

RAPPERS, poets and singers took to the stage in a showcase designed to bring young adults from different postcodes together.

Ten acts, whittled down from a shortlist of 20 who had sent internet videos of themselves to the organisers, were chosen to perform at a free family-friendly community concert.

Undiluted Talent was held at The Unity Centre in Church Road, Stonebridge.

Over three months, the team, all aged 16 to 20, met once a week to plan the event with the help of Addaction, a specialist drug and alcohol treatment charity based in Cobbold Road, Willesden, and a £700 grant from Harlesden’s ward councillors.

The charity’s youth substance worker, Davis Williams, said: “The remit was to show that young people can do something in their community and challenge the negative stereotypes that young people have and organise a performance for young people to experience.”

The content of all the lyrics sang or spoken had to be positive and inspiring rather than talking about subjects such as drugs, money and women.

Mr Williams added: “What was good about it was that it brought people from different postcodes in one space, which you’re not usually able to do.

“We had some spoken word artists – poets – and rappers and singers as well. We had performers from South Kilburn, Harlesden, Willesden and even south London.”

Organisers intend to hold another event in the October half-term and some of the young people have been invited to perform on Bang Radio, based in Harlesden.

Brent mayor Michael Adeyeye opened proceedings on Saturday, July 7, and performance poets Chris Preddie and George The Poet gave their time free to join in the day.

YouTube music video tribute to shooting victim Aaron McKoy aims to show gang members how killings affect families of victims

Islington Tribune

Aaron McKoy was killed on New Year’s Day

Published: 19 July, 2012

THE cousin of a young man who was shot dead on his birthday has released a music video tribute to him in a bid to urge gangs to think how “mentally it kills a whole family”.

Yolanda Lear penned the rap lyrics just weeks after Aaron McKoy died close to an estate in Holborn in the early hours of New Year’s Day, but found it too painful to release the song on video-sharing website YouTube until now.

Along with her sister Chavon, the 17-year-old told the New Journal how Aaron’s death had “ripped apart our lives” nearly eight months ago and that the song had helped her to cope.

In the song she warns: “One bullet may kill one life physically.

“But mentally it kills a whole family. No matter how old I get, the memories will stay in my heart forever.”

She called for violent offenders to also consider the loved ones of their victims before acting but insisted that the song didn’t “reflect anger” but instead “how the family has changed”.

Yolanda, who grew up with Aaron, also known by the nickname “Twin”, his identical twin brother, Lee, and his older sister in Hackney, said: “Aaron had a heart of gold. He was very family-orientated and would give support to all of us.

“In the early days the anger that we lost him like this used to get too much.

“I spent weeks just wondering how he could be gone, we all felt lost.

“But I didn’t want the song to reflect anger but show how the family has changed and how we are coping.”

She added: “The song is to show people how families feel when someone dies like that.

"I don’t think the people who do this think about how it damages families.

“His death ripped our lives apart for a long while and we still have our off days, and this song helps me remember him in a positive way.”

Aaron died of a gunshot wound to the chest after paramedics battled to save his life for more than an hour at the Bourne Estate in Portpool Lane at 4.10am on January 1 this year.

Six men aged between 23 and 27 are due to stand trial for his murder later this year.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

My son was shot dead. Now I help families of murdered children

Evening Standard

Two women responded to personal tragedy by launching voluntary groups that have made a huge difference to young people caught up in gangs. David Cohen meets the hidden heroes awarded grants by the Standard’s Dispossessed Fund

Sparking change: Tracey Ford
Picture: Nigel Howard

David Cohen
17 July 2012

The last time Tracey Ford saw her son Andre was five years ago when he poked his head round the door, said, “see you later Trace”, and left home to attend a friend’s party at Streatham Ice Rink.

A few hours later, Ms Ford, a financial adviser, got a hysterical call from Andre’s girlfriend. “All I could hear was the word ‘shot’,” she said. Her only son, a Croydon-born boy, had been shot twice by a group of youths and would never see his 18th birthday.

That same year Eliza Rebeiro, a 14-year-old also from Croydon, visited her close friend on life support after he had been stabbed in the neck. He survived, but by 17 Ms Rebeiro had witnessed three stabbings and lost two friends, including Wesley Sterling, an innocent 16-year-old who was knifed at a friend’s birthday. Ms Ford and Ms Rebeiro both responded to tragedy by starting voluntary grassroots groups in Croydon. Extraordinarily passionate and brave, they are among London’s hidden heroes, helping young people caught up in gangs and founding small organisations that have already made a big difference.

Ms Ford, 49, launched the JAGS Foundation — an acronym forged from her son’s name James Andre Godfrey Smartt-Ford — to support families of murdered children and to empower teenage girls involved in gang culture. “My son was killed in front of hundreds of people, yet his killers have never been caught because the witnesses were too afraid to speak up,” she said. “Even Andre’s girlfriend was silenced. That was a big disappointment to me. Our programme helps young women develop the confidence and self-esteem to have their voices heard and to avoid gangs altogether.”

Ms Rebeiro, 18, started Lives Not Knives on her 14th birthday, after she had a T-shirt printed at Camden Market with the slogan and it made a big impact on her friends. Today Lives Not Knives has taken over her life and she deploys 76 volunteers to deliver workshops in 37 schools, with demand for their services growing exponentially.

The Evening Standard Dispossessed Fund has made grants of just under £20,000 each to support the JAGS Foundation and Lives Not Knives. They are two of 66 grants — amounting to £1 million — that we are giving to support community groups tackling poverty across the capital.

This extraordinary lifeline — the second time in six months that our award-winning fund has handed out £1 million — comes from a million-pound windfall given by Sport Relief. It brings to £4 million the amount given to charitable projects by the fund since its launch in July 2010.

Ms Ford, a single mother who was the first in her family to go to university, said that losing her son had turned her life upside down. “I had started my own mortgage-broking business, but I found myself at community meetings seeing distraught parents whose children had also been killed. It was horrible.

“When I was growing up, I only ever remember one child murdered by other children and that was Jamie Bulger. But in the month Andre died, three other children were killed by other children. That year 28 youngsters were killed in London and 27 the next. I had done well financially, buying my first house at 25, and I decided to give up my business to create a place for families living with child murder to support each other. That’s how JAGS came about.” The group has evolved and Ms Ford and half a dozen volunteers go into schools where they do peer mentoring with teenage girls caught up in gang culture. They also take referrals from agencies helping vulnerable young women. “At the last school, we spoke to 850 students over two days.

MANY girls are at great risk because of boyfriends, brothers, or cousins, and some have been gang-raped or sexually exploited but are too frightened to seek help. We tell our stories and it creates a space for the girls to open up. It’s about helping girls understand what is unacceptable and that they don’t have to be silenced.”

Josie Hedhli, 21, a single mother of three-year-old twins, told how JAGS turned her life around after being in a gang and becoming pregnant at 17: “I had reached breaking point when a women’s refuge referred me to JAGS. Tracey was the first adult I could talk to. Now I have become a JAGS volunteer.” Ms Rebeiro started Lives Not Knives after she was kicked out of school at 13 for disruptive behaviour and ended up in a pupil referral unit. A talented cello player and actress who’d won a coveted place at the National Youth Theatre, her rebelliousness was a shock to mother Monique, 45, a milliner. She said: “Eliza had been a top student at a high-achieving middle-class school, but suddenly she was bringing home hoodlums and our happy-go-lucky life was shattered.”

Ms Rebeiro recalled life with the “wrong crowd”: “We would do little robberies and drugs and after a while I thought it was normal for people to stab each other. Then it got to a point where people weren’t just stabbing, but killing each other, and that’s when I had the T-shirt made. It had a big impact because the community responded and it became a campaign and then a formal group with trained mentors. We go into 25 primary and 12 secondary schools and tell our stories.”

Lives Not Knives works alongside the police and fire brigade providing citizenship days for schools, as well as one-to-one mentoring. It has addressed 7,000 children over two years. Ms Rebeiro has won a Diana Award, a Philip Lawrence Award, and a Community Champion Award. Until this year, they operated on a voluntary basis, but they recently got funding from the Home Office and now a Dispossessed grant.

“The schools call us because they don’t know how to help their gang-affiliated pupils,” said Ms Rebeiro. “There is a huge demand for our services. We’re working with children as young as nine and 12-year-olds who sell drugs. I want to catch them before they use a gun or a knife, and the Dispossessed grant will enable us to reach more pupils before it’s too late.”
Group profiles


Founded by Tracey Ford in memory of her teenage son, JAGS helps girls caught up in gang culture.

Amount awarded: £18,820

Where: Croydon

How cash will be used: To fund their programme called CARE — Choosing Another Route, Empowerment. It will train 50 at-risk young women to become advocates for themselves and peer mentors for others.

Lives Not Knives

Eliza Rebeiro started the group in 2007 at the age of 14 in response to stabbings among friends. Today it deploys 76 volunteers

and delivers workshops and

peer-mentoring in 37 schools.

Amount awarded: £19,918

Where: Croydon

How cash will be used: To provide mentoring and workshops in schools that expose young people to the reality of gang membership.
Also receiving funding

Straight Talking

(£19,961 grant)

Straight Talking peer education seeks to reduce teenage pregnancies in Hounslow and help teenage parents back into education, employment or training. This grant will be used to train and employ 15 teenage parents to go into schools and deliver peer-to-peer workshops to 600 pupils on the reality of having children at a young age.

Yellow Submarine Holidays


This group provides short-term breaks for adults with learning disabilities in the Ladbroke Grove area of Kensington and Chelsea. They will use this grant to offer residential respite breaks for up to 40 people, including those with autism and Down’s syndrome, helping them become more independent and allowing their carers to recharge their batteries. Priority will be given to families in financial hardship.

The Women’s Empowerment Project


This project, begun in 2003, provides marginalised women in Sutton with business skills and supports them to set up consortiums. This grant will fund a 10-week course taught by tutors from Sutton College to help 30 women with an interest in cookery and childcare to become self-employed or set up a business.



South Hampstead and Kilburn Community Partnership is situated on the Rowley Way estate in the deprived Kilburn ward of Camden, and trains disadvantaged people to help them into work. The grant will be used to employ two music tutors to run accredited courses in sound engineering and music technology for 60 people aged 16 to 19 who are not in employment, education or training. It will also help with CVs, apprenticeship placement and job search.

Options 4 Change


Operating in Lambeth, it has a seven-year track record working with hard-to-reach young people caught up in gangs and criminality. This grant will deliver the Turnaround Project, a 16-week intervention for 15 young offenders referred by Coldharbour Ward’s Safer Neighbourhood team.

It will work with their parents, too, and follows a pilot programme with five people who are still out of trouble.

Street Talk


It provides a therapy and advocacy service for women caught up in street-based sex work. This grant covers the costs of a counsellor, therapist and supervisor to provide support to 50 women to help them break the cycle of addiction and exploitation.

The project takes referrals from hostels and day-centres for sex workers and vulnerable women.

Harrow Law Centre


Formed in 2010, the centre provides a free, independent legal service to disadvantaged people facing poverty, debt or homelessness in Harrow. The grant will be used to fund a part-time solicitor who will be able to provide free legal advice and representation for up to 800 people for one year.

*The full list of the 66 recipients from this grant round can be found on our website at

Monday, 16 July 2012

Awards night celebrates black youngsters

Ealing Gazette

Jul 16 2012 By Jane Harrison

AN AWARDS evening celebrating the achievements of black youngsters was described as a resounding success by organisers and families.

Sixty young people of African and Caribbean descent were nominated by schools across Ealing borough for the Dr John Roberts awards.

The awards are run by Descendants, a black youth group based in Acton, and the presentations were made at the Ramada Jarvis Hotel in Ealing Common on Friday.

Nearly 200 people turned out for the prestigious black-tie event, named after the UK’s first black QC, where young people from primary and secondary schools received trophies and certificates for their outstanding achievements over the year.

Organiser and Descendants founder Margaret Noel said: “From the feedback we had it has been the best yet, although some children did not come, which was a shame, but there were some outstanding nominations.

“It took a whole day just to choose the primary schools. We normally do both in one day but because the quality was fantastic we had lots to debate.”

She praised all the young people but said Kunle Babinson, aged 11, really stood out.

She said: “He was a good all-rounder with a lovely smile and had produced some amazing music which we listened to on the CD the school sent in.

“We could hardly believe it was by an 11-year-old. What will he be like when he is older?"

Kunle’s mother, Funke, said the family were amazed when he scooped the Lord Boateng award, the first time it has been presented to a primary school pupil.

She said: “He is a very active and creative child and is very eager to have a go at lots of things, sport as well as music.

“He has written his own work which is exceptional. I was overwhelmed for my son to win this and he was so pleased.

“He took his certificate to school and they will show it in assembly. For my son to win an exceptional award, I am still in shock.”

The event included a three-course dinner and entertainment from upcoming group Primrose Hill and singer Leyton Benta.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Young Islington gang members helped to turn life around

Islington Gazette

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Young gang members were persuaded to change their lives and get away from crime at a ground-breaking event.

Islington Council held one of London’s first “gang call-ins” to educate the youngsters and their parents about the risks of being involved with crime, including eviction, prison, life-changing injury and even death.

They heard from specialist youth workers, housing officers, community safety staff and Islington police, and were invited to chat to a bereaved young person, an ex-gangster who turned his life around and a London paramedic who spoke about the stab injuries he has seen.

Chief Insp Claire Clark, from Islington police, said: “It was hard-hitting and clearly informed the young people that they had a choice, and that if they chose not to change their behaviour or take the opportunities that were being offered, then they would see the consequences of that choice.”

Five of the young people who attended have signed up for a business start-up course and another has secured a job from a contact made at the call-in.

Cllr Paul Convery, Islington Council’s executive member for community safety, said: “The gang call-in offered young gang members the chance to move away from a life blighted by crime and anti-social behaviour.

“It was also clearly explained that if young gang members do not change their ways, they risk very serious consequences.”

Young gang members or parents wanting help with gangs call 020 7527 2000.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Councils told to get more involved in youth justice

Children & Young People Now

By Neil Puffett, Friday 13 July 2012

Councils must play a more active role in youth justice in order to drive necessary changes to the system, the chair of the Youth Justice Board (YJB) has said.

Done: "There is a huge amount of work to do". Image: Tom Campbell

Speaking at a Centre for Social Justice and Prison Reform Trust conference, Frances Done said that councils must become a “partner” to the YJB, helping to push for change.

She argued that while “extraordinary” achievements have been made in youth justice since 2000, funding cuts for youth offending teams mean local authorities must take more responsibility for early intervention and prevention work.

Done said that despite progress on bringing local government into the youth justice system through plans to devolve the cost of custody, local government involvement in services for young offenders must be wider.

“Local government must be much more a local and national partner in youth justice, driving the changes we need,” she said. “There is a huge amount of work to do.”

Explaining her other key priorities for the future of youth justice, Done said she no longer wants the prison service to be responsible for staffing and overseeing the youth secure estate.

“I want our prison service run in a way wholly focused on the needs of young people,” she said. “My aim is for the youth estate to be outside the prison service.”

She added that youth unemployment is a major issue for the youth justice system. “How can we expect young people not to offend if they are not in training or a job,” she said. “It is a huge priority to make sure they get help.”

Jaee Samant, director of the Home Office Crime Directorate, said she believed the government’s troubled families programme can be an important tool in addressing youth offending.

“It is drawing in a lot of initiatives that have worked such as the family intervention projects, but they are also trying to take a holistic view of families and particular individuals.”

She added that the Home Office is considering improving service provision for young offenders once they reach the age of 18.

“It troubles me that there is quite a shift from youth justice to adult justice,” she said. "It goes from a reasonable framework and a reasonable degree of support to having much less. It is quite a cliff edge for some of them and something we have to think about.”

Party to celebrate best of South Acton Estate

Ealing Gazette

Jul 13 2012 By Michael Russell

A PAIR of friends are so fed up with their estate’s poor reputation, they are organising a party to prove its real community spirit.

Priscilla Mensah, who used to live in the South Acton Estate, and Angela Thompson, who still does, are organising the gathering on July 28 to bring together neighbours and succesful former residents.

Ms Mensah, 43, of Rothschild Road, on the Acton and Chiswick border said: “I lived in the South Acton Estate, in Bollo Bridge Road, from the age of six to 13 when my family moved to Ealing.

“It was a great place to grow up. There were so many good people and there still are but the estate gets such bad press.

“People brought up on the estate have gone on to do good things with their lives. They’ve become doctors, school teachers, musicians, barristers and things like that.

“People think just because you’re from a council estate, you’re not going to achieve anything in life but it’s not the case.

“All you hear about are all the stabbings and crime and madness but there is a lot of love for the place for a reason.

“If all the kids hear all the time is the estate they’re living in is a bad place that gets into their psyche. It would be much better to tell them they should be proud of where they live."

Ms Thompson, of Maugham Way, also grew up on the estate. She left after her block was demolished in 2004 but missed it so much she moved back when she got the chance about five years later.

The mother-of-three said: “I missed the community feel and am so pleased to be back.

“I think people who say such bad things about the estate are the people who don't live here, I’ve never had any trouble.

“My neighbours have my door key in case I get locked out and we look out for each other. My youngest son, who is nine, plays out and I know the neighbours look out for him. We’re like a family.

“Bringing back the people who used to live here is going to be amazing.”

The event will be held at the South Acton Working Men’s Club in Strafford Road from 6pm on July 28.

Email Ms Mensah at or call her on 07538 811 418 to find out more.

Stonebridge Boxing Club celebrates a knock out year

Kilburn Times

Tara Brady, Senior reporterFriday, July 13, 2012

More than 50 youngsters now train at the gym and around eight are taking part in competitions

A boxing club that was on the brink of closure has came back fighting and is celebrating a knock out year.

Stonebridge Boxing Club, in Kassinga House, Winchelsea Road, helps to fight against gun and knife crime by keeping kids off the streets and out of trouble.

More than 50 youngsters now train at the gym and around eight are taking part in competitions.

The club was set up by Aamir Ali, 39, from Wembley, and his former boxing coach and life-long friend Sharon Bennett, known as Ben.

Mr Ali, a father-of-two, said: “We have shown how a community can come together to save a sports club and help its youngsters.

“We’ve had a great year with lots of the young boxers taking part in competitions and doing really well.

“From where we were two years ago, struggling to stay open, we have came a long way.”

A campaign begun to save the boxing club in 2010 after it was revealed it could not pay the rent.

Stars from the boxing world, Aamir Khan and Audley Harrison, threw their weight behind the cause and the club was given a life-line by Sauerland Events, one of the biggest boxing promoters in Europe, as well as the John Lyon charity, just in time for Christmas.

Kreshnik Qato, a champion boxer who lives nearby, now trains in the gym and is a role model to the younger hopefuls in the ring.

Mr Ali said: “We want to show the community what we have achieved here in such a short space of time.

“This club can change kids’ lives. It has big future here in Brent. All of the young people who come here are local and there is a great atmosphere. There is a great feeling of being part of a team, we are like a family.”

If you would like to join Stonebridge Boxing Club then call Aamir on 07951 425 804 or Ben on 07985652507.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

‘Your father’s not around? Neither was mine but I still made it’

Evening Standard
NFL star Ray Lewis tells London youngsters there’s an alternative to gang culture

Nick Szczepanik

12 July 2012

When the London Warriors American football team were looking for a guest coach or player to help inspire the youngsters in their squad, one name kept coming up in their deliberations. But surely there was no chance of persuading one of the greats of the NFL to visit SE25?

And yet on Tuesday night Warriors head coach Tony Allen found himself introducing a very special guest to a school hall in Croydon full of aspiring young American footballers. He only had to mention “number fifty-two” to bring the house down.

Ray Lewis, the Baltimore Ravens linebacker, is a legendary tough guy in a tough sport, but he handles words as easily as he hands out pain to opposing quarterbacks.

And when the roar of delight and disbelief had subsided, he held the 100 or so members of the Warriors squad spellbound with his message of personal responsibility and hard work — then joined them for training on a scruffy council-owned artificial surface.

As well as winning games, the Warriors aim to offer an alternative to the capital’s gang culture. That had struck a chord with Lewis, who does similar work with youngsters in Baltimore, the setting for TV drama The Wire — in which he received a mention.

Even so, the players were not the only ones pinching themselves at the idea that the 2001 Super Bowl winner and two-time NFL defensive player of the year had crossed the Atlantic to spend three days coaching them in football and life. “We thought there was no way,” Allen said. “But we sent an email, told him about our programme and the next day he got back to us and said he wanted to come.”

Lewis said: “I had to come and be with the Warriors. These kids’ story appealed to me, led me here. I share their stories, or their pain or their mistakes.”

The pain includes being abandoned by his father at birth and seeing his mother beaten by his stepfather. Among the mistakes was being at the scene of a double stabbing in 2000, for which he initially faced murder charges before being convicted of obstruction of justice.

Lewis, 37, has spent his entire career at Baltimore, establishing a reputation as a leader and uncompromising tackler. “Most of these kids will never share their pain with anybody,” said Lewis (above). “But by opening up to them, sharing my vulnerability, I can say, okay, you made a mistake — bounce back and keep going. There are always are alternatives to the wrong path. I’m going to put that message out and not sugar-coat it. When you know something is right, don’t take a break from it. Your father wasn’t around? Neither was mine. You can still make it. You don’t have to find some alternative family in a gang.

“The Warriors are solving problems. Take football away and 50 per cent of these guys are doing something they ain’t supposed to be doing. This is one way to change that and that’s why this story captivated me so much. I’m here to help, any way I can.”

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Riots film shows ‘life-saving attempts’ on Mark Duggan in Tottenham

Tottenham Journal
by Tim Lamden

Friday, July 6, 2012

A powerful new documentary about last summer’s riots features never-before-seen footage of attempts to save Mark Duggan’s life moments after he was shot by police marksmen.

It is the result of four months’ filming by a team of 14 budding young film-makers from Fully Focused Community, a Haringey-based youth media group set up by Hornsey-born director Teddy Nygh, who began interviewing rioters and those affected by the disorder just four days after it began.Riot From Wrong received its world premiere last night at Rio Cinema, in Dalston, as part of the East End Film Festival, and will now be shown at film festivals across the country in the coming months.

Retracing the origins of the project, Mr Nygh said: “Young people felt they were really being demonised and a deeper story wasn’t being told. We made the decision we had to get out with cameras and do a bit of looking deeper ourselves.”

Starting in Tottenham, the group followed the spread of the disorder across London and then England - filming in Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham.

Mr Nygh said: “What we wanted to achieve was to look deeper than the riots, at the issues in our society that have got us to a position where something like this could happen, and to ensure that society doesn’t sweep these issues under the carpet.”

The documentary team also spoke to a brother and aunt of Mr Duggan, whose death sparked the nationwide disorder, as well as a number of his friends, one of whom was in a house near to where the 29-year-old was killed in Ferry Lane on August 4.

From there, he filmed what he claims is police officers performing CPR on Mr Duggan in the moments after his shooting - footage which features in the documentary.

Mr Nygh said: “We spoke to some of his closest friends who hadn’t spoken to the media and that meant the film has some really personal accounts of what had happened.”

To find out more about the film, visit

Hornsey Carnival brings ‘community spirit’ to the streets

Hornsey Journal
by Tim Lamden

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Crowds lined the streets last Saturday to cheer on dancers and performers taking part in this year’s Hornsey Carnival.

The annual event kicked off with a performance from the marching band of the Wood Green and Hornsey Air Training Corps in Priory Park, off Middle Lane in Crouch End, ahead of the parade which wound its way through Hornsey and Crouch End from Alexandra Palace.

The parade route saw perfomers, from martial artists and Latin American-inspired Zumba dancers to Kurdish drummers, stop in succession for a short display in the shadow of the clock tower in The Broadway.

The parade then looped back along Tottenham Lane, passing through Priory Park to Alexandra Palace.


Organisers raised almost £600 from street collections which will be split between a number of charities, including the Haringey branch of the Multiple Sclerosis Society and Action4Kids.

Gordon Rathbone, chairman of the organising committee, said: “The carnival is something that really adds a community atmosphere to Crouch End and Hornsey.”

Miriam Bracewell, vice-chairman of the organising committee, said: “The procession was wonderful and the support marvellous.”

‘One-on-one, you realise that young offenders are just kids’

North London Today

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Fighting youth crime: Charity founder Hillary Thompson

LAST week the Advertiser investigated the problem of youth knife crime in the borough.

It came in the wake of the convictions of the murderers of Leroy James and Steven Grisales, both of whom were stabbed to death in Enfield last year.

Although it is clear that there is no simple solution to stopping young people’s dangerous attraction to crime and violence, one woman is doing everything in her power to break down gang culture.

Hillary Thompson set up the Life Youth Resource Centre in the wake of a spate of gang-related murders in the borough in 2008.

She is focused on turning young people away from gang activity through intense, one-to-one mentoring.

According to the chief executive of the charity, it has made “quite an impact” on young people.

She told the Advertiser: “We have young people who have turned away from gang life and gone back into college.

“We have worked with young people who were at one stage really low achievers in school, but one young man then went on to became a prefect.”

Talking to Hillary, the stark reality of working within gang culture becomes clear.

“A lot of the young people we work with have friends who are still in gangs,” she said.

“We had a boy who was trying to get away from the gang and someone still in it took a dog around to his house and attacked him.

“The parents had to move out of the area practically overnight,” she added, explaining that while in theory, for a young person to turn their back on a life with gangs is quite simple, the reality is that they have to reject their street families.

Despite the fact that within the last two months two teenagers from Enfield have been convicted of the murders of other teens, Hillary is still optimistic about helping more young people in the future.

“With all these young people, when we are in a one-to-one environment, you realise that they are really just children,” she said.

“There is always a root cause and when we get to the root of why a child is behaving like this, then we can really make a difference to their lives, their families’ lives and their future.”

Email: By Ruth McKee

Friday, 6 July 2012

Mother of murdered teenager Martin Dinnegan plants a tree in his memory at peace garden

Islington Tribune

Lorraine Dinnegan dedicates a tree in the Martin Dinnegan Peace Garden in Cornwallis Park

Published: 6 July, 2012

THE mother of murdered teenager Martin Dinnegan dedicated a tree to his memory during a Peace Walk in the garden named after him in Holloway.

The event in Martin Dinnegan Peace Garden in Cornwallis Park marked five years since Lorraine Dinnegan’s 14-year-old son was stabbed and killed by a gang of youths.

She said: “This tree represents the peace, safety and community spirit which we want to see growing – in this neighbourhood, in our city, and in the world.”

Islington Council Labour leader Catherine West joined the anniversary walk, which started at St Mellitus peace garden, Tollington Park.

They stopped at Wray Crescent park to remember all young victims of violence, and in Elthorne park, peace campaigner Bruce Kent described the achievements of Olympic medallist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Lord Philip Noel-Baker, in the peace garden named after him.

The walk ended at Holy Trinity peace garden, Granville Road, which commemorates residents killed by a bomb in Second World War.

Parish priest Father Patrick Henderson told walkers they were making peace visible by the signs they carried, and by taking a stand against violence at every level from local to international.

The walk took place during the “100 Days of Peace” which runs from June 8 to October 28 – 50 days either side of the Olympics and Paralym­pics – inspired by the truce in conflict that was part of the ancient Games.

A 'delighted' Archbishop Tutu makes hush-hush visit to Finsbury Park to meet youth workers on Andover estate

Islington Tribune

Archbishop Tutu chatted to young people about ‘their struggles

Archbishop Tutu and Mary Robinson in the bus that visits the estate every week

Published: 6 July, 2012

ONE of the world’s most famous freedom fighters, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, made a secret visit to Finsbury Park on Wednesday to meet youth workers on the Andover estate.

The visit, accompanied by Mary Robinson, first female President of Ireland, was so low key that even Islington’s most important dignitaries, Town Hall leader Catherine West and MPs Jeremy Corbyn and Emily Thornberry, were not invited.

The Archbishop asked for no publicity on the day so that he could concentrate on talking to young people from the estate “about their struggles, challenges and hopes for the future”.

The Archbishop and Ms Robinson are members of The Elders, a group of independent leaders currently in London working together for peace, justice and human rights worldwide.

They met young people, volunteers and staff from the Christian-based charity, XLP, who use a double-decker bus to take youth projects around schools and estates in London.

They aim to provide positive support for young people.

There’s help and space for children who want to do homework, advice on crime and gang culture and support for people looking for work.

Their bus is parked on the Andover estate once a week for two or three hours.

Patrick Regan, 38, founder and chief executive of the charity, said it was a great honour to meet the man who had played such an important part in the removal of the old apartheid regime in South Africa.

During his visit, the Archbishop said that no one person or organisation could effectively address the complex challenges faced by vulnerable young people living in the inner city.

“Only by coming together and standing with each other can we expect change,” he said.

“Only then can we give the next generation a fighting chance.”

The Archbishop was interested in what had happened in the capital since the riots, Mr Regan said.

He wanted to know some of the key challenges facing the Andover estate.

Mr Regan added: “But he was very upbeat when he talked to the youth.

"He told them to remember that where you come from does not determine where you end up.”

The visit was organised in celebration of Mandela Day on July 18.

It calls on people to celebrate the former President of South Africa’s life and legacy by serving their communities and taking action to build a better world.

Ms Robinson and the Archbishop commended the volunteers and XLP staff and encouraged young people to aspire to make a difference.

The Archbishop told Mr Regan as they were leaving: “I am incredibly thrilled by all the things you do here at XLP and I believe that XLP makes God smile.”

To find out more about XLP, visit

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Ex-offenders enlisted to tackle youth reoffending

Children & Young People Now

By Neil Puffett, Wednesday 04 July 2012

Peer mentoring projects for young people leaving custody are being developed at two young offender institutions (YOIs), youth justice minister Crispin Blunt has revealed.

Mentors must have been free from substance misses and offending for two years. Image: Arlen Connelly

Answering questions in parliament, Blunt said ex-offenders are “uniquely placed” to offer support to offenders, alongside other professional services, and “can connect with them in a way that many other agencies cannot”.

He added that peer-mentoring services using ex-offenders are being developed at Ashfield YOI in Bristol and Cookham Wood YOI in Kent, with help from the Prince’s Trust.

Blunt’s statement came in response to a question by Conservative MP Steve Brine, who said MPs on the justice select committee, of which he is a member, had recently heard evidence from a group of young people from User Voice, a charity which utilises ex-offenders to help young people and bring about reform.

“It was striking to hear them say that having respect for the status and position of a youth offending team worker is not the same thing as connecting with them and having them make a reasonable difference to their lives,” he said.

He added that there should be “a much greater role” for offenders and ex-offenders in steering young people away from offending and reoffending.

The peer mentoring projects being developed by the Prince’s Trust are an extension of previous programmes run by the organisation in adult institutions.

Young people receive 12 months support from a volunteer supporter which involved visits and correspondence while in prison for six months before release; meeting at the gate on the day of their release; followed by meetings in the community for six months after release.

Volunteer supporters must be former offenders with experience of prison, but who have been free from offending and substance misuse for at least two years.

WALTHAM FOREST: 'End the killing' pleads mother of murdered teen

Waltham Forest Guardian
4th July 2012

By Daniel Binns »

THE mother of an innocent teenager who was stabbed to death in a tower block has made an emotional plea for an end to knife crime.

Barikisu Iddisah with a photo of her son Wahab Zaaki.

It comes after two youths were convicted last week of killing her 18-year-old son Wahab Zaaki in Atlee Terrace, Prospect Hill, Walthamstow, back in March 2009.

Kai Shannon, who was found guilty of murder, and Abubakar Alawi, convicted of manslaughter, both aged 20, will be sentenced on Friday (July 6).

Mr Zaaki’s grieving mother Barikisu Iddisah, 40, has endured a tortuous wait for justice, with the killers only being arrested in 2011 – two years after the murder.

She told the Guardian: “I knew one day the truth would come out and we do have justice at last.

“But what I’m going through I don’t wish for any parent. I don’t want to hear of any more murders or victims.

“We need to stop the killing. It’s destroying people. They haven’t just taken one life, I’m dead alive, my life has been ruined.

“I have my daughter but she’s not herself after this.”

Ms Iddisah, of Peach Grove in Leytonstone, said she hoped the killers, who she accused of having a lack of remorse, would get lengthy sentences.

She said: “They need to stay in jail for the benefit of other youths out there.

“They don’t have morals, they don’t know how it feels to lose somebody. Killing people doesn’t solve anything.”

Mr Zaaki, of Old Church Road in Chingford, was with his friend Reece Williams in the stairwell of the block when they were suddenly attacked by the duo.

Prosecutors were unable to establish a motive for the killing but believed Mr Zaaki must have been in a row with the duo prior to the murder.

Shannon, of Elmore Street in Islington and Alawi, of Essex Road, Leytonstone, were also convicted of wounding with intent.

Contrary to previous reports, there is no evidence Mr Zaaki was in a gang himself.

His mother also said reports that he was drinking prior to the attack are untrue, as no alcohol was found in his system during a post mortem.

Family life will never be the same for mother of murdered Steven

North London Today

Wednesday, 04 July 2012

Devastated: Jasmid Grisales, in front of a picture of her son Steven, who she said was

By Mary McConnell

THE mother of murdered student Steven Grisales has told the Advertiser about the devastating effect her son’s death has had on her family.

The 21-year-old, who was attacked by a 15-year-old boy in August last year, was the third young person to be knifed to death in Enfield last year.

He was stabbed as he walked down College Close, Edmonton, after delivering shopping to his grandmother.

The teenage killer, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was sentenced to ten-and-a-half years in jail last month, after being convicted of murder in May.

Steven’s mother Jasmid Grisales said that her whole family had been left devastated by the attack.

“It had such an awful affect on my 12-year-old daughter,” she explained. “She doesn’t want to talk about what happened to Steven. It has made us all scared and my mother is devastated. She was a very strong woman before, but now she says that she doesn’t want to live any more.

“Steven was an exceptional human being. He was out of this world and I am not just saying that because I am his mother.”

Jasmid said the law must be toughened up if young people are to be made to think twice about carrying knives.

“This boy took a knife and stabbed my son,” she added. “He definitely needed a longer sentence. He didn’t show any remorse. He was looking at us and laughing, saying that they can’t do anything to me. That was horrible.”

Jasmid, who has three younger children, said that her son’s killer should not have got off lightly because of his age.

“If you take a knife from your home, you know what you are doing,” she said. “You know if you are 15, my three-year-old son knows what is right and what is wrong. You have to teach your children from an early age that hard work is the only way to get somewhere in life. They need to be taught how to be good human beings, about love and about courage.”

When asked why she thought so many killings happened in the borough, Jasmid said she did not have any answers. “Years ago you never saw these things happening in Enfield,” she added.

Teens carry knives for many reasons, says youth mentor

North London Today

Wednesday, 04 July 2012

Complex issue: Adria Bennett

By Ruth McKee

IN the wake of the convictions of the young murderers of Leroy James and Steven Grisales and with Negus McClean’s killers still at large, questions are being asked about what drives a teenager to take another person’s life.

Enfield’s Youth Engagement Panel, which was set up in 2008, after a spate of youth violence resulted in the deaths of four youngsters in street attacks, works with young people in the borough.

Adria Bennett, mentoring co-ordinator, stressed the complexity of the issue.

She said: “There isn’t just one reason why young people carry knives – whether it’s drugs, a postcode rivalry or for protection.

“It’s not just Enfield either – it’s south London and east London, anywhere really where
there’s a large amount of social housing and social problems.”

With so many commentators shocked that young people seem able and equipped to end another person’s life so easily, Ms Bennett is adamant that young men do not feel they are “untouchable” by the law as they can only be tried as juveniles.

“A lot of young people are actually very scared of jail and they know that these days it’s not a case of being tried as a juvenile,” she said.

Working with young people on a daily basis, she sees what is going on at street level and believes some of the borough’s problems stem from a street culture where young men are unable to articulate their feelings and frustrations over opportunities lost.

“It’s also a question of services available to young people,” added Adria. “For example, schools need more money to provide more people to go and speak to young people.

“Maybe some of these lads need to be placed on a reduced timetable. For whatever reason these young boys are not academic so maybe we need to look at getting them into skilled training.

“Many simply stop going to school because at some point during the lessons they fall behind. Threatening them doesn’t help, shouting at them doesn’t help and fining their mum for them not attending doesn’t help.”

Monday, 2 July 2012

Fund for girl crippled in gang shooting reaches £172K

This is Local London

9:20am Monday 2nd July 2012 in News

A fund for a schoolgirl who was crippled by gangsters in a shooting at her uncle’s shop has hit £172,000.

The money raised by Scotland Yard detectives will pay for vital equipment to support six-year-old Thusha Kamaleswaran, who doctors fear may never walk again after being shot at the Stockwell Food and Wine shop.

Anthony McCalla, 20, from Streatham, was one of three gang members to be jailed for the attack in March last year.

Thusha remains paralysed from the waist down and her parents have made several appeals for donations towards her care.

Detective Constable Richard Williamson, one of the Trident officers who investigated her case and who is embarking on the Three Peaks challenge in September in a bid to boost funds further, said: “The generosity that people have shown has completely blown us away.“We have already been able to pay for things like a wheelchair that she needed and now we are looking at setting up a trust fund for her.“It is amazing that the money has already gone towards making Thusha’s life easier. If we are able to get to £200,000 that would be great.”

Anyone wishing to donate can do so via: The Thusha Appeal, HSBC Bank, 5 Wimbledon Hill Road, London SW19 7NF. Sort code 40-07-30 and account number 12239108.