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

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Anti-knife crime group hosts gang conference


4:48pm Thursday 27th December 2012 in By Bruce Thain

People from around Edmonton have taken part in an anti-knife crime conference on the impact of gangs in the community.

MP David Burrowes, police officers, campaigners from group Mothers Against Violence and Pastor Pat Agdomar discussed issues surrounding gang violence at the Angel Community Centre in Raynham Road, Edmonton, on Saturday.

The aim of the conference was to discuss the impact of gangs and how to address the issue with members of the community, giving people the chance to ask questions about gang violence.

Pastor Pat, of the Young Soldiers group that organised the event, said: “It was really great and it was so good to see so many people getting involved with the forum.

“What we really wanted to do was to get people involved with the issue. It was important for people to have their voices heard and I think the people on the panel got a lot from it as well.”

Nearly 200 people attended the event from around Edmonton, and after the conference youth choir Young Soldiers, led by Pastor Pat, performed a number of songs.

Pastor Pat added: “There are still a lot of issues in Edmonton contributing to gang violence but I really think conferences like this are a step in the right direction.”

Following the success of the conference Pastor Pat said the Young Soldier will host more events to help tackle gang crime.

More funds to tackle youth violence

News Shopper
December 27, 2012 Thursday

FURTHER funds are to be pumped into tackling youth violence as part of a wider push to stamp out gang and knife crime, it has been announced.

An additional £500,000 will be used to support young people at risk of becoming violent offenders and those already involved in gang and knife crime, to encourage them onto a different path, the Home Office said.

It will also expand its Ending Gang and Youth Violence frontline team, which already covers Lewisham and Greenwich along with 27 other places.

Home Secretary Theresa May said: "Serious youth violence has a devastating impact on communities and needs to be stopped. We need to change the life stories of the young people who too often end up dead or seriously injured on our streets or are sucked into a life of violence and crime."

Ms May said the new package of support would help police "protect communities" as well as boost the work done by charities and voluntary groups.

The Home Office previously announced £18 million of funding until 2013 to support the police, local agencies and voluntary sector to tackle knife, gun and gang-related violence and prevent youth crime.

The additional £500,000 will go to the £4 million Communities Against Guns, Gangs and Knives Fund, which supports 189 voluntary and community sector organisations.

Recipients of the Communities Against Guns, Gangs and Knives fund will be announced in the new year. The four new areas to receive support through the Ending Gang and Youth Violence team are Hammersmith and Fulham, Merton, Leeds and Bradford.

The Government's Ending Gang and Youth Violence report was published in November 2011 in the wake of the August riots.

Gang injunctions were made available for under 18-year-olds and new offences of threatening with a knife in a public place or school were introduced, among changes brought in by the Government.

Anti-knife crime group hosts gang conference

Enfield Independent
December 27, 2012 Thursday
Bruce Thain

People from around Edmonton have taken part in an anti-knife crime conference on the impact of gangs in the community.

MP David Burrowes, police officers, campaigners from group Mothers Against Violence and Pastor Pat Agdomar discussed issues surrounding gang violence at the Angel Community Centre in Raynham Road, Edmonton, on Saturday.

The aim of the conference was to discuss the impact of gangs and how to address the issue with members of the community, giving people the chance to ask questions about gang violence.

Pastor Pat, of the Young Soldiers group that organised the event, said: "It was really great and it was so good to see so many people getting involved with the forum.

"What we really wanted to do was to get people involved with the issue. It was important for people to have their voices heard and I think the people on the panel got a lot from it as well."

Nearly 200 people attended the event from around Edmonton, and after the conference youth choir Young Soldiers, led by Pastor Pat, performed a number of songs.

Pastor Pat added: "There are still a lot of issues in Edmonton contributing to gang violence but I really think conferences like this are a step in the right direction."

Following the success of the conference Pastor Pat said the Young Soldier will host more events to help tackle gang crime.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Dog care lessons lead gang members from a life of crime

The Evening Standard (London)
December 21, 2012 Friday

Justin Davenport

HARDENED gang members are being diverted from crime with a pioneering scheme that teaches dog-handling.

Two former gang members, who both served jail terms, have so far completed the intensive 23-week course, and neither has reoffended since then.

During the "military-style" scheme, funded by Enfield council, participants learn a mix of animal welfare, academic law and dog handling. They also spend time with Army and police dog units, and in animal shelters. After training, they work in the community and in parks, teaching young people about the impact caused by dangerous dogs and "irresponsible or unaware" owners.

Those taking part in the pilot project had committed crimes including robbery, weapons possession, and drugs and driving offences. The course was run by Paul Alison of Parkguard, a company that works withpolice and councils on security. Operations director Lee Hutchings said: "We saw a dramatic change in them over the 23 weeks.

"This course was aimed at older and more entrenched gang members, but what was interesting was that they had just had enough and wanted things to change. The aim of this course is to prevent reoffending, produce positive behavioural change, give them the skills they need to progress, and ultimately result in employment. This is a no-nonsense, uniformed, hands-on course, delivered using military ethos.

"These lads were warned that this was a chance for them to turn their lives around and any misbehaving would result in them being shown the door."

One of the participants, Jordan, 26, from Enfield, said: "I've done some things in the past I'm not proud of and this scheme has helped me turn my life around and keep away from negative influences. I've learned how to handle and train dogs and it's helped me keep out of trouble."

One of the men is now joining the Army while the other has part-time jobs in dog training and youth work. Christine Hamilton, Enfield council's cabinet member for community well being, said: "This is an innovative and effective way of reducing gang crime."

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Duo are recognised for their community spirit

Enfield Independent

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Actress: Joelyn Morrall

Young achievers represented borough at awards ceremony

By Koos Couvée

TWO young achievers represented Enfield at an awards ceremony celebrating positive young role models.

Tom Prior, 20, of Princes Avenue, Enfield Lock, and Joelyn Morrall, 21, of Lowden Road, Edmonton, were nominated for Spirit of London awards.

The awards ceremony, which was held at the 02 arena in Greenwich on Monday last week, celebrated the positive contributions London’s young people make to their communities.

Both narrowly missed out on awards.

Joelyn, who was nominated in the arts category, said the awards show, which included performances from pop acts McFly, Noisettes and Angel, was “absolutely inspirational”.

Joelyn, who has been performing with Chickenshed Theatre, in Chase Side, Southgate, since the age of four, used her background in theatre to help combat knife crime.

She started to campaign against knives after losing her 14-year-old cousin Shaquille Smith, from Hackney, in an unprovoked attack in 2008.

Joelyn is currently touring London schools, encouraging teenagers to engage with issues surrounding violence through Crime Of The Century, a play she has written about Shaquille’s tragic

She told the Advertiser: “You do sometimes feel the spirit of London is waning and that’s why it is so important young people know about these awards.

“For me, art is the perfect way to tackle gang violence because on stage you have to support and trust each other – the rivalry disappears.”

Singer-songwriter and rapper Tom was nominated in the music category.

The 20-year-old transformed a shed in his parents’ garden into his own studio when he was 14 years old and has been tutoring a group of teenagers there for some years.

The group is called Clockwork and nominated him for the award. Tom, whose songs No Church In The Wild and Heartbeat can be watched on YouTube, told the Advertiser: “I was very happy to just be there – there was so much positivity in that hall.

“It felt amazing to be recognised in this way and made me feel proud. “It’s good to have a positive message coming out about youth in Enfield.”

Joelyn is currently starring in Chickenshed’s Sleeping Beauty – Dream On production, which is being performed until January 12.

Tom is working on a new EP entitled Route 279, which is expected to be released next year.


All content © of North London Press unless stated otherwise.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Police officer awarded for setting up support group for mums

Harrow Times
December 18, 2012 Tuesday
Natalie O'Neill

A police constable has been awarded for her "pioneering" work setting up a gang-crime support group for mums in Harrow.

PC Sonia Ong, 37, was congratulated by Chief Superintendent Dal Babu at a commendation ceremony held at Harrow Central Mosque yesterday.

PC Ong, who has been an officer for three-and-a-half years, was handed a commendation for her dedication, enthusiasm and pioneering work in the implementation of Mothers Against Gangs.

She said: "The group came about after there had been loads of stabbings at the beginning of the year.

"As part of our investigations we had to force entry into a lot of homes, which had a negative impact on some families who were quite annoyed about it.

"Some parents felt they were almost to blame for what their child had done and they had a lot of questions that needed answering."

As a result PC Ong set up Mothers Against Gangs in July as a way for mums to come together and share their concerns, as well as detect the signs of gang culture in their own homes.

PC Ong, who is a mother-of-two, said: "They're almost like a Samaritan's group for mums worried about gang related crime.

"It's also a way for us to empower mums and educate them about gang culture."

Speaking about her award she said: "I feel very honoured. It's lovely to be acknowledged for such an exciting and worthwhile scheme."

Monday, 17 December 2012

What is GOTG?

Get Outta The Gang (GOTG) is an organisation which advocates on behalf of young people who are directly or indirectly affected by gang related issues in areas of London where gang culture is not seen as substantial.


Raise awareness in London boroughs (where gang culture is not as substantial as in other areas of London) of the effects that gang culture can have on young people both directly and indirectly.

Highlight the reasons & lifestyle choices which lead young people to become involved in gang related issues; challenging the common misconceptions and stereotypes.

Create a support network which will guide individuals who are actively involved in gang culture. Through a workshop scheme these young people will have the opportunity to develop the skills to reason and make lifestyle choices as well as consider their future prospects in depth for example: university & career choices.

Target young people who are at risk of becoming involved in gang related issues in the future and create a scheme of prevention workshops to enable them to develop some key skills which will help them to deal with any future problems they encounter in this respect.

Unlawful killing conclusion urged in Azelle Rodney shooting

Evening Standard

Inquiry: a Police forensics team searching outside The Railway Tavern at the scene where armed Police shot Azelle Rodney dead in Edgware

17 December 2012

A retired High Court judge has been urged to conclude that Azelle Rodney was unlawfully killed as a long-running inquiry into his shooting drew to a close.

Leslie Thomas, for Susan Alexander, mother of Mr Rodney, claimed he had been the victim of "naked, violent aggression" on the part of the police officer, named only as E7, who shot him dead when the car in which he was travelling was stopped in Edgware, north London, in April 2005.

"This was naked, violent aggression on the part of this officer. He used extreme violence against Azelle Rodney and took his life," Mr Thomas said in a closing speech to the inquiry.

Addressing Sir Christopher Holland, chairman of the inquiry, Mr Thomas said the circumstances of Mr Rodney's death were unlawful and there had been "certainly" no need to shoot at him eight times, including four times in the head.

"There was no lawful reason to deprive Azelle Rodney of his right to life on April 30, he should be here today," he said.

The inquiry has heard that the police team believed 24-year-old Mr Rodney was part of an armed gang who were on their way to rob Colombian drug dealers.

Anne Studd, QC, for the Metropolitan Police, warned against using the benefit of hindsight against police officers she said were making "difficult split-second dynamic decisions" in fast moving situations.

"Police were in a position where in order to comply with their duties to protect life, they were authorised to deploy with a firearms team to seek to apprehend a group that intelligence suggested were arming themselves with automatic weapons in order to achieve an unlawful and violent end," she said.

Samantha Leek, QC, for E7, highlighted her client's "distinguished" record as a firearms officer.

"There was reliable evidence to suggest that they (the men in the car) were in possession of fully automatic firearms, that they were prepared to use them and that they were already in the area where the planned robbery was to take place," she said.

The 11-week inquiry concluded today. Sir Christopher is expected to publish his findings in spring next year.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Haringey Shed youngsters show off talents on stage

Haringey Independent

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Hands up: Vocal and dance group Zephyr take to the stage

A GROUP of 30 young people from Tottenham showed off their talents and launched an album alongside professional musicians and producers last week.

The event in Finsbury Park on December 4 was organised by Haringey Shed at Platform, Islington Council’s arts venue for young people.

Haringey Shed is an inclusive music and theatre company that gives all young people from the borough the opportunity to shine in a professional performance environment.

Young people aged 12 and over performed original comedy, spoken word poetry, and dance, alongside vocal groups and sets from Haringey Shed’s house band.

The Shed Band is an group of youngsters aged 11-18 who write their own songs with the support of professional musicians in a safe and inclusive environment.

The band played live renditions of original songs from its new album Coming Through The Purple Speakers, which was launched at the event.

Dexter Hercules, a drummer for JLS, Rita Ora and Little Mix, played an exclusive set, while Britain’s Got Talent finalists and dancers Twist and Pulse gave their support to the event via video.

Dexter said: “It was inspiring seeing the young people doing what they love.”

Haringey Shed offers a range of performing arts activities to children and young people from across the borough.

For more information call Bizi on 020 8801 7209 or visit

All content © of North London Press unless stated otherwise.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Bob Marley's granddaughter screens new Rasta film

Dec 10 2012 by Hannah Bewley, Harrow Observer

A RELATIVE of Jamaica’s most famous son presented her new film in Stonebridge.

Bob Marley’s granddaughter, Donisha Prendergast, hosted a question and answer session after one of the first screenings of her documentary, RasTa A Soul’s Journey, ahead of its release next year.

More than 100 people turned up to see the film on Saturday, December 1, at the Stonebridge Centre, Hillside.

Ms Prendergast was born in 1984, three years after Bob Marley died. Her family kept alive his beliefs and ideals.

She was raised in the USA by a Catholic father and Rastafarian mother and started to pursue Rastafari beliefs in 2003. Since then she has made a film about her personal and Rastafari history.

The documentary is described as “an illuminating, authoritative and affectionate account of Rastafari as popularised by reggae’s best-loved and best-known icon. In 2003, Donisha answered the call of Rastafari by locking her hair and embarking on a spiritual quest. Although she has been surrounded by Rastafarians, she had not been drawn to the ideology and lifestyle”.

The film deals with the shift in the image of Rastas over the past few decades and the current view of Rastafarians in society and travels from Jamaica to Washington, Toronto, London, Mumbai, Tel Aviv, Cape Town and Addis Ababa.

Bob Marley and the Wailers lived in a house in Neasden in 1972 as they worked to export their reggae music, already popular in Jamaica, to the rest of the world.

A blue plaque was unveiled at the house in September to mark this part of reggae history in Brent.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Knife crime campaigner has spirit of forgiveness

Evening Standard

Tireless: playwright Joelyn Morrall

Kiran Randhawa
07 December 2012

The cousin of a murdered teenager has been recognised for her tireless work to prevent knife crime since his death.
Joelyn Morrall has campaigned relentlessly since 14-year-old Shaquille Smith was killed in an unprovoked attack.

Miss Morrall, 21, from Enfield has now been nominated for an award after writing a hard-hitting play which has been performed across the country to raise awareness of the devastating effects of gang-related crime.

Shaquille was sitting in a park only yards from his home when he became the innocent victim of a stabbing in Hackney four years ago. The schoolboy and Army cadet had been chatting to friends on a summer’s evening when he was attacked by a gang, who have since been jailed.

Miss Morrall wrote Crime of the Century as a way to deal with her “overwhelming” grief. It has since been performed in 160 venues and has also been turned into a short film. She has also run workshops in schools educating students about the causes and effects of knife crime and how it can be prevented.

She said: “I have always felt guilt and carried around this burden thinking Shaquille wouldn’t have died if I had done more before his death.

“If knife crime doesn’t affect your family, you don’t pay attention to it. I was one of those people before I lost my cousin. That’s where the guilt comes in.

“Now every time somebody dies, I think to myself, I’m not doing my job well enough.”

She added: “Through the play I gained an understanding that the people who killed my cousin didn’t value their own lives so why would they value someone else’s? They are so desensitised to human emotion. That’s society’s fault, that’s my fault.

“It is easy to hate but anger just blurs things. These people aren’t evil, they are young people who need to be helped.”

Miss Morrall — who said her cousin had “the biggest smile you’ll ever see” — has been nominated for a Spirit of London Award for Achievement in Arts. Winners of the awards, which celebrate the triumphs of young people across the capital, will be announced on Monday.

For tickets to the Spirit of London Awards on Monday 10 December and more information go to

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Gang leaders aged NINE in Hackney blamed on ‘lack of male role models’

Martin Bentham
06 December 2012
Evening Standard

Children as young as nine are taking over the leadership of gangs in London because of a lack of positive male role models, a former Home Office minister has warned Parliament.

Meg Hillier, the MP for Hackney South and Shoreditch, told MPs that “youngsters aged nine and ten” had started to act the “big man” after the jailing of older gang members following the London riots.

She blamed the problem, on Hackney’s Pembury estate, on the low number of male primary school teachers and nursery staff and the absence of other good male influences in their lives.

Ms Hillier’s warning came during a parliamentary debate on gangs and youth violence. Other MPs warned that the “shocking” level of black youth unemployment risked triggering further problems. Concern was also expressed about “stop start” funding for anti-gang programmes and the failure of the Home Office to guarantee that money awarded to schemes in the wake of the riots would continue.

The most striking comments came, however, from Ms Hillier. She said that crime had fallen “dramatically” in Hackney over recent years and that education standards had risen, but warned that the lack of positive male role models was a “big concern”.

“An eight-year-old boy will typically look for a male role model,” she told MPs.

“On the Pembury estate when older gang members have been put in prison, the youngsters, aged nine and 10, have sometimes begun to act the big man and to act as the leaders of their groups.

The lack of male role models in schools, communities and, often, homes can therefore make a real difference.

“We need to have a serious adult discussion nationally about what is happening, particularly in our primary schools.

"I always add up how many male teachers there are in primary schools, and, sadly, there are far too few. In under-five settings, too, there are generally far too few male role models. That is a real issue, which has a long-term effect.”

Tottenham MP David Lammy echoed Ms Hillier’s concerns and said improved action over “younger brothers and cousins who take over the turf” after the arrest of older siblings.

He added: “There are question marks over the work needed to ensure that young people do not follow in the footsteps of their brothers and cousins following arrest. As a society, we must underline the importance of men, and particularly fathers, in our communities.”

Karen Buck, the MP for Westminster North, said “catastrophic” youth unemployment was a serious concern, particularly among young black men aged 18 to 24 who were twice as likely to be out of work as their white counterparts. She said this was a “shocking” statistic that could not be ignored because of its role in fuelling gang and serious youth violence. Mr Lammy added that the jobless rate among young black men was worse than in the United States.

Home Officer minister Jeremy Browne said the government was spending £3.75 million on a communities against gangs, guns and knives scheme, plus more money on other initiatives and had achieved “reasonable” progress upon which it hoped to build.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Peckham in the movies

Evening Standard

South-east London’s flourishing district has a starring role in the big-screen adaptation of Bola Agbaje’s Gone Too Far! and E4’s new urban comedy-drama, Youngers, billed as the the new Skins or The Inbetweeners. Liz Hoggard goes behind the scenes

Teenage kicks: Shavani Seth, Ade Oyefeso and Calvin Demba play three 16-year-olds with a passion for music in Youngers. Picture: Cathal Macilwaine

Liz Hoggard
05 December 2012

Not since sitcom Desmond’s has Peckham been the centre of so much film and TV attention. It can’t be the first location that springs to mind for scouts looking to film on the streets of London, but shooting is just about finished on E4’s eight-part urban comedy-drama, Youngers, in which the jerk chicken shack on Peckham High Street plays a starring role. Writer Bola Agbaje, meanwhile, is a couple of streets away with another film crew, shooting a big-screen version of her award-winning play, Gone Too Far.

Set in modern-day Peckham, both projects are about teenagers, their hopes and dreams, loyalties and allegiances. And both aim to give a truthful, funny representation of the area. Although there are gritty storylines, neither has drugs or violence as the backdrop.

Billed as a cross between Skins and The Inbetweeners, Youngers follows a group of 16-year-olds with a passion for music. They are trying to make an impact on the UK urban music scene from their bedrooms, showcasing their creations on the internet. Jay (played by Calvin Demba) has skills as an MC but has failed his exams and is likely to end up fixing boilers; Yemi (Ade Oyefeso), the producing talent, is a straight-A student on his way to college; and the romantic complication comes in the form of singer Davina (Shavani Seth).

Written by Levi David Addai (another playwright who like Agbaje cut his teeth at the Royal Court, with Oxford Street and 93.2FM), each episode features comic asides from the “yungas”, who sit on a wall in Peckham dispensing wisdom. In real life they are YouTube heroes Mandem on the Wall (aka recent BRIT school graduates Joivan Wade, Percelle Ascott and comedy actor Dee Kartier), who have created a very successful online comedy brand.

Youngers is made by Big Talk Productions, which brought us Rev, Spaced and Black Books. The three young leads are very charismatic and early footage makes Peckham look stunning. It was important to Addai that filming took place in Peckham rather than a newly gentrified east London, the more popular end of town for contemporary British drama. E4 held open auditions to cast rappers and musicians in the series so locals felt included. “Everyone’s had the same goal — they wanted to get it right,” Addai says.

Peckham has its challenges (for years it battled a reputation for poverty and crime) but these days it’s a flourishing community. Money has been spent on regeneration. The worst tower blocks have come down; independent shops and galleries have grown up organically. You can shop for plantain in the African market, or buy vintage furniture on Bellenden Road.

Agbaje, 31, regards herself as an “ambassador for the area”. Her family moved to Nigeria when she was six, then came back to the UK two years later to live on an estate in north Peckham (her mother still lives in Camberwell). Gone Too Far, the feature film of her 2007 Olivier-award winning Royal Court play, about a day in the life of two newly met brothers (one British, one Nigerian), is one of the first projects to get backing from the revamped BFI Film Fund, with a budget of under £1 million.

Last summer, Belong, her political satire about a British MP who moves from London to Nigeria, was staged at Peckham’s Bussey Building, as part of the Royal Court’s Theatre Local Project. It was important to pay back. “Growing up here, in a positive way, is what inspired me to go off and write. There was such an eclectic mix. It made me want to tell a story that had 3D characters,” she says. Some of the scenes are filmed in her childhood hairdressers, Julia’s in Rye Lane, and Will Alsop’s library.

Addai, 29, who grew up down the road in Lewisham, is also keen to reflect Peckham’s diversity. With Youngers, his aim is to capture the street language of inner-city teenagers in a warm, humorous way “that’s not issue-based or dark”. He admits that when E4 first approached him about writing an urban drama, he was wary. “I thought, what’s their motivation? When I went in to see them, I said, ‘I can see the potential but these are the things I would do: make it fun, make it real’.”

Gang culture has no place in his scripts. “Channel 4 already has shows like Top Boy [Ronan Bennett’s drama about gangs in Hackney] which show one side of the culture. But I didn’t feel there was enough showing the other side — everyday life. In Youngers you’ve got two 16-year-old boys who really believe music can be a way to make something of themselves and I wanted to tap into that ambition and youthful optimism. I had it as a kid; you think you can do anything.”

Born in south London to Ghanaian parents, Addai planned to act (he studied drama at Brunel), but realised his potential was limited. “I looked in the mirror and thought: ‘Okay you’re 5ft 8in from Lewisham, you’re never going to play James Bond. You’re going to be Thug Number 2 in The Bill stealing the old lady’s bag’. I knew I couldn’t do that. But then I saw a poster for writer Roy Williams’s Fallout [a 2003 drama about a 16-year-old boy stabbed to death by a local gang] and that’s how I found out about the Royal Court’s young writers’ programme, Critical Mass, for black and ethnic writers.”

He submitted his first play, 93.2FM (set in a pirate radio station), and the Royal Court put it on upstairs in 2005. Then came his comedy about the ambitions of high street shop workers, Oxford Street, set in a West End discount sports store and starring Ashley Walters. The move into TV came when BBC3 commissioned him to write My Murder, the dramatisation of the “honey trap” murder of 16-year-old Londoner Shakilus Townsend.

Agbaje, who trained as an actress, was equally frustrated by the lack of strong roles and also enrolled in the Royal Court’s free 10-week Critical Mass programme in 2006. It was there she wrote Gone Too Far — a comedy-drama about cultural identity and the experience of second-generation African and West Indian teenagers.

“Although the backdrop is Peckham it’s not about characters who go, ‘Oh woe is me, look where I live, look at my life’. It really is a comedy, and it’s selling the idea that you can grow up in this area and just be a normal teenager with hopes and desires,” she says.

Like Addai she is thoughtful about urban drama fixated on knife crime. “I guess TV programmers think that’s what audiences want. But the reason why loads of kids watch shows like Top Boys is because when you want to see a representation of yourself so desperately, anything is good enough — just seeing a black kid on TV in an area you grew up in will make you tune in. But what we all have to do as creatives and film-makers is go, ‘It’s fine to have that sort of representation but it’s also okay to do comedies and stories that focus on the positive’.”

Gone Too Far is the directorial debut of Destiny Ekaragha; Agbaje says Peckham schoolchildren were transfixed to see a black woman in charge.

The film will be saturated with colour and reflect Peckham’s cosmopolitan identity. “From young to old, rich to poor, there’s a whole mix of society that’s never been presented on screen before. You’ve got the Chinese shop, the Asian hairdressers, a Persian deli, all of these accents and cultures living together.”

Her dream is that cinema audiences watching Gone Too Far will want to come and visit Peckham. “I’d love it to be like Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing. Watching it you thought, ‘I want to go to Brooklyn’, because he made it look so fun and vibrant.”

Youngers is on E4 early next year. Gone Too Far will be released later in 2013.

Hanwell artist wins London Peace Prize

Ealing Gazette
Dec 5 2012 By Jane Harrison

A CHAMPION of young people has nominated an Ealing mural artist for an award celebrating peaceful actions.

The London Peace Prize is the brainchild of Charlie Wiseman, who wants to recognise efforts to unite communities after the riots swept the capital last summer.

The latest recipient is Hanwell artist Peter Jonas, who inspires young people through community art projects.

The Westcott Crescent resident last year painted a mural in the Copley Close Estate with the help of youngsters aged from four to 19.

He said: “The community really pulled together and it’s really respected by people on the estate. There’s no graffiti, which is really surprising. It illustrates if you give kids the opportunity to express themselves creatively they will make sure it’s looked after.”

Mr Jonas has also taken Acton teenagers to paint a mural outside Wembley Stadium and plans to work with Northolt High students to create a mural on a scruffy wall near the school.

“The mural projects seem to be the thing everybody recognises,” he said. “We do it in the half-terms when kids are off. It keeps them out of trouble and it’s a great outlet for them.

“They love doing it and they immerse themselves in it.

“We involve kids from local high schools and that’s something I want to continue doing.

“I hope Charlie’s award will engender more support.”

Mr Jonas, who trained as an art teacher in his home town of Cape Town, South Africa, is also production designer and co-producer of an environmental short film to be shot in Perivale Wood next spring.

He and his partner, Sina Bowyer, are looking for donations to help build a tree house set in ancient woodland, which will be used as a canopy hide by school children long after filming.

Ann Pavett was the first London Peace Prize winner after stepping down as editor of Neighbours’ Paper this summer. As leader of Ealing Arts Centre she helped set up West Ealing art initiative Open Ealing in 2010.

Mr Wiseman, of Leighton Road, Hanwell, has worked on grassroots theatre projects from Brazil to New York and most recently with a group of girls in Croydon, and plans to extend the pilot award across London.

He said: “I first came up with it after the riots. I want to recognise people that do stuff in the community and create peaceful actions. It was so galling to see that happening, especially when many young people are trying to get their lives together. They all get tarred with the same brush which is so frustrating.

“I’ve always been interested in how art can inspire more peaceful community activities. It’s astonishing to see how young people can change when they have something to give.”

For more information, visit

Ending Gangs and Youth Violence: One Year on Report

Please follow link to Home Office report entitled Ending Gangs and Youth Violence: One Year On

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

I was homeless and suicidal but Prince's Trust saved my life

Evening Standard

Inspirational: Naima Swaleh’s presentations have reduced gang members to tears

Anna Davis
04 December 2012

A woman who used to be homeless and with a history of self-harming told today how Prince Charles’s charity transformed her life.

Naima Swaleh, 21, who suffered from depression and made suicide attempts as a teenager, now has a full-time job and works to inspire other young people with her story.

She has been nominated for a Prince’s Trust award, which is supported by the Evening Standard, to recognise young people who have turned their lives around against the odds and become role models for teenagers in London.

Ms Swaleh, from Stratford, is now a Young Ambassador for the Prince’s Trust, and travels the country helping to raise money and awareness of the charity. She said: “Without the Prince’s Trust I would be on the dole somewhere, sitting around sleeping all day. It changed my life in so many ways and gave me so much confidence.”

Naima was born in Somalia and moved to Britain at the age of four. Her home life was strict and she began self-harming. At the age of 15 she took an overdose. She became depressed and made a second suicide attempt.

At 16 she ran away from home and ended up sleeping on the streets. At her lowest ebb she almost attempted suicide again, but was persuaded to get in touch with the Prince’s Trust by a youth advice service.

She said: “I was feeling very depressed and hopeless. I couldn’t see a future for myself. I was sitting there just crying and thought, ‘I need to change my life’. ” Ms Swaleh enrolled in a personal development course run by the charity which was the turning point she needed. She was so successful she was asked to be an ambassador and the presentations she gives have reduced hardened gang members to tears. Ms Swaleh, who now works in a clothes shop, said: “I don’t want people thinking they are the only ones going through something. They can always change their lives.

“I was born in a tent in Somalia. My mum had to do everything for us. I thought I would never be anything.”

Dermot Finch, regional director for the Trust in London and the South-East, said: “The Standard shares our ambition to tackle youth unemployment, helping disadvantaged young Londoners into work.

“We are thrilled that the Standard is supporting the Young Ambassador Award at this year’s Prince’s Trust & Samsung Celebrate Success Awards. All of our incredible finalists prove that it is possible to achieve great things, no matter what background you’ve had.”

The winner will be announced at a ceremony in Southampton today and will go on to a national final.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Boroughs United

Boroughs United is produced and managed by young volunteers from Hackney youth charity, The Crib. It brings together young people and their familes from across London’s 33 boroughs to campaign to stop gun, knife and hate crimes being experienced by London’s young generation...see more at

Tackling the rise of female gang members

Girls are often seen as the victims of gang crime but a new play performed by Birmingham teenagers aims to explore a hidden truth; that girls can be offenders too, writes Louisa Peacock.

Exploring the impact of gangs on girls: A new play encourages girls to break their silence on gang culture Photo: Graeme Braidwood

By Louisa Peacock Telegraph

03 Dec 2012

At 21, Ukeila Prophet describes herself as being a "hard shell cookie". Growing up in Birmingham City Centre, she was affiliated with gang culture as far back as she can remember and adopted a hard-shell exterior to protect herself.

Although never a gang member herself, Ukeila had male and female friends who were involved and she was "caught in the middle", mixing with people from different areas and diverse backgrounds; all with some experience or connection to gang culture.

"You may not be directly involved but you could have a brother or a friend who is; I grew up around gang culture," she explains.

At 16 and unsure of who she was, Ukeila got into a fight. The bust up led to her getting a caution, which to this day haunts Ukeila. "Even to this day, on application forms [for jobs] I have to list that I got a caution," she sighs.

But the young woman from Birmingham says that was also the day she chose to follow a new path in life. "I knew I wanted a career and I never wanted to end up in that position again. It was the day I changed," she says.

Ukeila is now a successful performing arts and dance student at theBirmingham School of Acting, part of Birmingham City University. She is proud to be taking part in the school's latest play, which explores the impact of gangs on girls.

The 45-minute play, which is being shown to Year 10 female students from schools across the City for free throughout November and December, is part of a series of projects taking place in Birmingham to raise awareness about girl crime and the effect of gangs on teenage girls, in collaboration with Birmingham Community Safety Partnershipand Birmingham and Solihull Women's Aid.

Gang culture: These teenage girls are performing in "She" to tackle the myths and stereotypes around girls in gangs

Following the riots that swept Britain last summer, Birmingham City was awarded some £1.3m from central government to explore gang culture and address what Ukeila describes as the increasing "blurred boundaries" between male and female gang members.

Birmingham was one of 29 cities awarded funding from the Home Office – which set aside a total of £10m following the riots – and has set up a series of projects aimed at preventing teenagers from joining gangs and offering support to those already involved. The play is one of six initiatives taking place in the city to help prevent boys and girls from joining gangs; although a large chunk of the money has gone towards what is seen as an increasing problem for the city: female gang members.

Called "She", the theatrical performance is a mixture of drama, dance, music, singing, film, animation and poetry – Ukeila's favourite – including real stories of teenage girls focusing on their relationships with gangs.

"The aim of the play is to attract young girls and try to stop them getting involved with gangs at an early age. We hope to spread awareness in an 'in your face' way that makes an impact, that says it's OK to say 'no' to boys in gangs," Ukeila says.

As well as exploring the still-taboo concept that girls can join and lead gang crime, the play also unveils the nasty side of sexual exploitation of girls in gangs, "which is a very real situation" in Birmingham, according to Hannah Phillips, course director of applied performance at the BSA and director of "She".

Ms Philips says the focus on gang culture in Birmingham has been on men for a very long time. She explains: "The relationship of girls with gangs and the sexual exploitation of girls, which is a very real situation in our city, have remained invisible for a long time.

“We aim to raise the awareness of teenage girls and inform them of the dangers of being associated with gangs. Young women need to be empowered to make choices and to value themselves."

Ukeila says the subject of "girl gangs" is still hardly spoken about, making it harder for young women affiliated with gang culture to choose a way out. "I grew up around gang culture but the subject has never been approached, it's swept under the carpet. There is a myth that people who are in gangs choose to be there but that's not the case; some young girls join because they don't know there's another way," she says.

A male member of the cast of "She", a play to tackle the myths around girls in gangs.

Ukeila explains that girls are often "used" by boys in gangs to initiate meetings with rival gang members. When the girl meets a boy from another gang, her fellow male gang members will take over and start a fight. Girls can also be exploited sexually by their male gang members, she says.

"We want to say to young girls, 'don't be afraid to stay alone'," she says. "It's OK to say no to a guy."

Hasan Wazir, of the Birmingham Community Safety Partnership, says part of the problem of trying to tackle gang violence is that there are no hard facts on the number of women involved in gangs.

"Nationally, girls and young women aged 10 to 29 are often seen as the victims of gang violence, but they can be the offenders too. We are doing work at the moment to see how involved girls are in gang cultures and what their motivations are," he says.

It is possible that girls are motivated for the same reasons as boys to join a gang: to feel as though they belong to something; because their family members or friends are already members; to make money; to project a "macho" image and last but not least, "peer pressure", he says.

There are no official statistics on how many girls are involved, although anecdotally, the Birmingham Community Safety Partnership hears of plenty of cases of girls joining gangs, he says.

The play is just one way of reaching out to young girls across schools to help them understand that there is another way of life and support out there for them should they choose to escape gang culture, he says. But it will also help the authorities to get a grip on what is seen anecdotally as a huge problem for the city.

Following the play, which is being shown across schools, the Partnership and local Women's Aid immediately runs workshops with young girls to discuss some of the issues raised in the hard-hitting performance, from sexual exploitation to domestic violence.

The aim is to enable young women who may be watching the play and are affiliated with gangs to speak up and get support through one-to-one mentoring and counselling, says Mr Wazir.

Although some girls can be reluctant to come forward, Mr Wazir insists the objective is not about "grassing" on other gang members but more about offering support to help young people choose a different way of life.

Longer-term mentoring programmes and education and awareness sessions are available for those young girls who need it, he explains.

One of the most memorable images of the London riots, a woman is seen jumping from a burning building into the arms of passers-by.

Birmingham City received the biggest amount of funding from the Home Office to explore gang culture following the riots, because it has the biggest number of young people, Mr Wazir said. The other 28 cities, including Manchester, Salford, Wolverhampton and London,where the riots started, are also exploring gang culture but won't necessarily be looking at girls in gangs.

The Home Office report said: "In focusing on the male perpetrators and male victims of gang violence it can be easy to lose sight of the role that young women and girls may have in gang-related activity, and the hidden impact of serious youth violence on them. Research by the organisation Race on the Agenda (2010; 2011) has exposed the significant harm that women and girls can experience as a result of their relationships with gang-associated male peers and family members.

"In taking forward our programme for ending gang and youth violence we will make sure our response identifies the needs of girls and young women involved in youth violence – as perpetrators as well as victims."

Ukeila says: "My personal view is that the gender boundaries have merged for who is joining gangs. Boys may use girls to get at other gang members, but the girls are in on it – they are out to save themselves. Sometimes you have girls who are 'butch', like the men, but it's so easy to join. Growing up in these areas, you [join] to protect yourself," she says.

‘She’ is being performed for public audiences on Monday 3 December and Tuesday 4 December at The Drum, 144 Potters Lane, Birmingham, B6 4UU. Tickets for public performances cost £5 (£3 concessions) and can be purchased online at by calling 0121 333 2444.

‘She’ has been marked as suitable only for audiences aged 14 and over. For enquiries regarding school performances, please call 0121 303 6175.