This blog is to capture all articles relating to good work including initiatives and successes with regards to gangs (predominantly in London), but also good news stories involving young people more generally.

If you have a good news story or something positive to promote please get in touch at londonstreetgangs@googlemail.com

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Enfield MP Nick de Bois challenges David Cameron on knife crime funding

Wednesday 27th June 2012 

By David Hardiman

Godwin Lawson was training to become a professional footballer when he was killed.

An Enfield MP has called on the Prime Minister to make sure funding for anti-knife crime work reaches projects run by families of murdered teenagers.

Enfield North MP Nick de Bois asked David Cameron at Prime Minister’s Questions today to “lend his support and encouragement” to groups such as the Godwin Lawson Foundation, run by Yvonne Lawson, whose 17-year-old son was murdered in Hackney in April 2010.

Mrs Lawson, from Enfield, has struggled to secure funding for her work in schools and campaigning to use sport as a way of tacking gang rivalries. Godwin was a promising footballer at Oxford United Academy.


Last year she wrote to Mr Cameron to appeal for more funding for her foundation and to back the Enfield Independent’s Don’t Carry, Don’t Kill campaign, which called for tougher sentences for teenagers caught using a knife in an aggressive way.

Mr de Bois said: “She, like many groups on the front-line of knife crime, can make an extraordinary contribution to challenging that culture, but some authorities are not yet getting behind them by supporting and offering funding to achieve that aim.”

The Prime Minister responded by praising the work of family campaigns, but stopped short of offering more cash for the schemes.

Mr de Bois told the Enfield Independent that he would continue to press for more funding from the Government, but also wanted local authorities to give grants to community groups that work with young people to change the culture of knife crime.

In the wake of huge public spending cuts imposed by central Government, Enfield Council used a grant from the Home Office to run a national first ‘gang call-in’ at Wood Green Crown Court earlier this year, where members of Enfield’s Get Money Gang were given an opportunity to turn their back on gangs, and 15 out of 40 agreed to sign up to supervision and help.

Other initiatives include the families of known gang members being evicted from their homes and the first person in the UK to be jailed for breaching a gang injunction.

Between April 2011 and March 2012, gun crime in the borough dropped by 50 per cent, serious youth violence by 18 per cent, and knife crime by 11 per cent, compared to the previous year, figures released by the Safer and Stronger Communities Board show. 



Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Anti-knife crime campaign steps up in Ilford for school holidays

Lizzie Dearden, ReporterTuesday, June 26, 2012
6:02 PM

An anti-knife crime campaigner from Seven Kings is trying to “make young people think” ahead of the school holidays.

Danny O’Brien, 46, has been working with communities across London to stop young people carrying weapons since the tragic death of 16-year-old Holloway School student Ben Kinsella in 2008.

Now he is offering free posters to schools and businesses across Redbridge to make young people “think again” about knives.

Danny said: “In the school holidays you’ve got six weeks of kids getting bored.

“Do parents know what their kids get up to? Do they know how many knives they have in the kitchen?

“Ilford is quite safe but if you look at the last couple of years there have been a few incidents.”

Last August a 17-year-old boy died after being stabbed at a party in Ilford High Road.

Danny hopes that displaying the posters will influence the way teenagers think about knives.

He said: “People think that if you stab someone they will just get up and be fine.

“They need to realise knives are a weapon and carrying them is not cool.”

One poster shows a baby holding a blade with the slogan “you were not born with a knife in your hand” while another warns “carry a knife and we’ll give you some time to think about it,” showing a man in prison.

Posters are free with £3 for postage. Tweet @sayingno2knives or call 07427261818 to order.

Gangsters should use their 'entrepreneurial' crime skills to start real businesses, says Labour MP for Streatham




Good use: Streatham MP Chuka Umunna said that the business acumen on criminal gangs should be harnessed

26 June 2012

Young gang members display "entrepreneurial zeal" in their criminal activities and should be encouraged to start their own businesses, according to the shadow business secretary.

Labour politician Chuka Umunna will today argue that teenagers involved in street crime demonstrate high levels of business acumen that could be put to good use if channelled in the the right way.

In a speech in Westminster, the MP for Streatham will say the way gangs build their own "brand" through the internet shows a sense of enterprise that despite being "shocking", needs to be redirected and positively harnessed.

He will focus on his own borough of Lambeth as the perfect example of how the skills and energies of young people are being wasted as they become sucked into in criminal life.

Mr Umunna, who is Chair of the London Gangs Forum, will say: "Make no mistake: at the heart of these gangs activities are criminality and very serious violence.

"But if one studies what Lambeth's gangs do in more detail, it is both shocking and frustrating - they put a lot of effort into building up their gang's brand.

"You can find music videos they produce to promote their activities on YouTube. This brand building is shocking because it glamorises what they do.

"What frustrates me is many of these young people are using skills that if channelled in the right way, would provide them with an alternative route to success."

He will add: "In Lambeth, too much of this entrepreneurial instinct is being channelled into totally the wrong thing.

"Their entrepreneurial zeal, used in a legitimate business setting, could provide them with a ladder up.

"We must make legitimate business a more feasible avenue through which our young people can realise their dreams even when all else may have failed them."

Mr Umunna will use his speech to highlight how he sees entrepreneurship as central to Labour's approach to increasing social mobility.

How we are winning war on school crime


South London Press

Tuesday, 26 June 2012


By Ben Morgan

POLICE are winning the war on school-related crime in South London, according to new figures.

The number of crimes taking place in schools has been reduced over the past three years in the boroughs of Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham.

However, girls are far more likely to be the victims of crime compared with boys, as police continue to battle against gang culture.

Figures released under Freedom of Information laws show that between March 2009 and March 2012, there were a total of 1,287 reported crimes taking place on school premises or outside the gates.

Lewisham is the only borough of the three that has seen a slight rise in the number of reported crimes between 2011 and 2012.

Lambeth police’s safer schools partnership and youth engagement officer Sergeant Graham Norman said the borough’s number one priority was tackling youth crime.

He said: “Schools can be enormous crime generators – especially for antisocial behaviour and petty crime.

“The Lambeth safer schools team work in partnership with schools, and when there is an incident, my officers work with them to see how it is dealt with.”

Sgt Norman said restorative justice – where victim and perpetrator and their parents get together and talk about what has happened – was an effective way of reducing repeat offences.

However, police across South London also face the problem of social network websites such as Twitter and Facebook and video-sharing sites like YouTube fuelling petty arguments and gang-related incidents.

Sgt Norman said: “One comment on the internet or on Blackberry Messenger can escalate into a GBH. These networks have had a huge impact and is a big emerging problem.”

Also reflected in the figures are the relatively low number of arrests resulting from crimes.

The figures show that across the three boroughs only 15 males were arrested on school premises in the past three years.

Figures for female arrests were not available.

National Union of Teachers regional spokesman Bob Stapley said that schools often try to deal with incidents themselves.

Assaults on staff do not always result in a call to the police, but can be dealt with by excluding the pupils as a last resort.

Mr Stapley said: “Generally schools are very orderly places, if you compare these figures with the number of children actually in the schools. When incidents do happen, they tend to be extremely serious and we expect them to be dealt with.

“But we have to remember that teachers want to improve the life chances of pupils, so they are not overly enthusiastic about exclusion or bringing in the police.”

Councillor Richard Livingstone, Southwark’s cabinet member for community safety, said police and community wardens visited schools to give presentations on personal safety.

Advice on property-marking phones is also provided.

He said: “In addition to this, the police have dedicated schools officers throughout the borough and have conducted weapons sweeps outside of schools to combat against weapon-related violence.”

Cllr Livingstone added: “As part of our Sher project, we have developed a training and educational toolkit aimed at secondary schools to promote awareness of healthy relationships and combat domestic and dating abuse.”



Email: ben.morgan@slp.co.uk

Friday, 22 June 2012

How West Side Story's Sharks and Jets can help beat London gangs



Stay cool, boy: Jets in a scene from the Sixties film version of West Side Story Pic: Getty Images
22 June 2012

West Side Story could help police tackle gang crime in London, the daughter of Leonard Bernstein, the musical’s composer, claimed today.
The classic Sixties film about feuding New York factions the Sharks and the Jets is already used, under the West Side Story Project, by forces across America and in Berlin to help officers understand and communicate with gangs.

Jamie Bernstein, whose father wrote the score to the 1957 musical and the subsequent film, said the project, which uses the plot as a point of reference, would be “ideal” for London.

It involves gang prevention workshops, dramatic role reversals with officers and theatre games designed to “reduce cultural conflict”.

The musical is inspired by “the original gang story” Romeo and Juliet. Jamie said: “The music and the themes in the film still have an amazing power 50 years on.

“In the project, the film is being used as a way for police departments to better understand and communicate with gangs, and it has been rolled out across the US with some great success.

“It has been all over including Seattle, Los Angeles and New York, and we even recently took it to Berlin. It would be ideal for London and it is definitely something that we’d like to look into further.”

Her comments come as the film’s 50th anniversary is

celebrated through a series of screenings with live orchestral accompaniments. It will be shown at the Royal Albert Hall this weekend, with the score performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

Jamie — who was five when her father, who died in 1990, wrote the score — said: “This new way of seeing the film is incredibly exciting. I don’t fully understand the technology behind it, but they were able to remove the score from the film while keeping the dialogue and sound effects. It’s magic really. I can see that as we pull away from the 20th century, my father’s music just sounds better and better. It’s a terrific movie.

“The combination of the music and dance are both so powerful. And the story itself never goes out of style.”

West Side Story is showing at the Royal Albert Hall from tonight until Sunday. Tickets cost £25-£65.

Outdoor performance explores gang culture

9:28am Friday 22nd June 2012 in On Stage By Alexandra Rucki
Outdoor performance explores gang culture

An outdoor performance exploring the topic of gang culture is literally taking to the streets.

Knight Watch is enjoying a national tour of urban spaces and is set to be performed in Coronation Gardens, in Pirbright Road, Southfields.

Nigerian poet Inua Ellams' magical realist tale transports audiences to a city not unlike London, punctuated by violence and gang warfare.

Protagonist Michael keeps away from the warring tribes, until a passer-by helps him out of a tight situation.

He is instantly pulled into a culture he has tried to escape, as the city spirals out of control while battle lines are drawn and redrawn.


Friendships are tested as the performance explores whether Michael will be able to succeed in the enduring war.

Inua is a poet, writer and graphic artist, with this performance following a sell-out run of Black T-shirt Collection on earlier this year.

He has performed at a variety of venues including the Soho Theatre, Tate Modern, Glastonbury and Latitude.

The writer has also got four books under his belt, with poetry book 13 Fairy Negro Tales being published when he was only 22-years-old.

Knight Watch will be performed at several London venues, including the Southbank Centre, car parks as well as Latitude festival.

Knight Watch, Tara Theatre @ Coronation Gardens, Pirbright Road, Southfields, July 5-7, 9pm, Tickets £13 (cons £9), visit tara-arts.com or call 020 8333 4457

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Desperation is driving Hackney’s young into gangs, warns Leona Lewis



20 June 2012

Leona Lewis has warned that young people in east London are being driven into gangs by “desperation and boredom”.

The 27-year-old star, who grew up in Hackney, has been working with under-privileged youngsters in the area after being moved by poverty levels there.

She called on the Government to give more money to social services and community groups.

Lewis has signed up as an ambassador for a BBC project which aims to help 10,000 Hackney teenagers.

She has been holding mentoring sessions at Radio 1’s Hackney Academy and working with teenagers from a Pupil Referral Unit in Newham.

Lewis, who will perform on Sunday at the Hackney Weekend festival, said: “It’s one of the poorest areas in London and money is the root of a lot of the problems. There is a lack of money in the education system and community projects — things to make the community feel good.

“I have a lot of family members who work in social services and they have seen so many cutbacks. They are working on minimum wages and they’re dealing with some awful social issues. They really need help.

“There is a lot of crime — a lot of it is out of desperation or boredom. There’s nowhere for [young people] to channel their energy so it’s easy for them to become involved in gang culture.”

She added: “I’d like to be more involved. My mum had a community centre for girls in Islington and I’ve always admired her for getting involved in the community. So if there’s anything I can help out with in the future, I’d love to.”

The X Factor winner told how she had to lay down the law while helping four teenagers record their music. “It was hard, I don’t like confrontation,” she said. “They played me their track, thinking it was the best thing since sliced bread. I kind of had to say, ‘No, it’s not that good because you guys weren’t working properly.’ I gave them a reality check and they took it on board.”

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Video: Peace Mix campaign launches to bring young people together through music

London 24

Sunday, June 17, 2012
11:43 AM

A new campaign has been launched in London that promotes peace through music.

Peace Mix was created after the Big Lottery Fund (BIG) and conflict resolution social enterprise the New Day Foundation (NDF) joined forces to give young people across the UK a voice.

At the forefront of the newly formed NDF are former Birmingham gang members who after 10 years of feuding are now focusing on building a more peaceful future and are encouraging others to do the same.

The launch of the campaign at the Westbourne Studios in Notting Hill featured performances from some of the young artists who have been supported by BIG and other publicly funded music studios that exist as positive creative spaces for young people across the UK.

Peace Mix ambassador and lead singer of Noisettes, Shingai, was also at the event to share her music industry expertise and offer some words of wisdom to the young people.

The event also kickstarted 11 Peace Mix Mic Relay events being held across the UK, showcasing each area’s top young lyricists, MCs, songwriters, poets, singers and musicians.

A panel of judges will select one local winner from each event to go forward to the semi-final at the Eden Project in Cornwall on August 16, where one overall winner will be chosen to perform at the finale event alongside special surprise guests at London's prestigious Roundhouse on August 28.

Linda Quinn, from BIG, said: "This is a groundbreaking partnership where BIG acts as more than just a funder, and is able to bring people and organisations together to create a campaign that reaches out to young people across the UK to promote peace and understanding and make a positive difference in their community.

"This is a great opportunity for not only musicians, lyricists, MCs, songwriters and poets to come forward to showcase their talent but for all young people to support their peers and to be part of our peace themed collaboration track, which will be launched later this year on the International Day of Peace."

Friday, 15 June 2012

Hackney sixth formers launch map of safe zones

Hackney Gazette
Sarah Ingrams, ReporterFriday, June 15, 2012
10:41 AM

Young people staged a rally in Hackney last Saturday (June 9) to mark the launch of a map showing the borough’s safe zones.

Over 20 sixth formers, who are members of the Hackney Citizens group, held a meeting at St John at Hackney church in Lower Clapton Road.

They displayed the Citysafe map which shows areas of the borough which they have been working to make safer over the past six months. These include bus routes, shops and businesses which pledged to give refuge to youngsters and report all incidents to the police.

Raquel Hortencio, 18, from Cardinal Pole School, spoke at the rally. She said: “Since I started this project I’ve been very enthusiastic. It’s a very important thing for me trying to get communities together and in peace.”

During the riots in August 2011 she was doing Citysafe work in Upper Clapton and Homerton.

“It was a bit of a contrast what was going on. I think things like the riots happen because people don’t know each other in their own community. The map helps us to know how our campaign is going and what we need to do next.”

Our Lady’s Convent High School student Isobel Wilson, 17, said: “This is something really important for my school because we are a Catholic school putting our faith into action. Serving our community is very important for us. We really try and help the community and others.”

Events across the capital marked the 100 Days of Peace; an initiative based on the ancient Olympic truce where peace was promised for 50 days either side of the Games to let athletes travel safely.

Other celebrations included a youth football tournament in Shoreditch Park and a flash mob at Euston station.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

OBITUARY: Mervin Bentham was driving force behind Camden’s first multiracial youth club


Camden New Journal



Mervin Bentham 'always put the community before himself and was disciplined and determined in whatever he did'

Published: 14 June, 2012
by ANGELA COBBINAH

WHEN Mervin Bentham, who has died aged 84, came to England from Barbados in 1958 he intended to become a doctor. But newly married and short of money, he had to abandon his studies and take up more lowly work at Mount Pleasant sorting office in Clerkenwell.

But a sense of service honed during his work as a churchwarden in Christ Church, Barbados, never left him and, quietly and methodically, he spent his life trying to make the world a better place.

After settling in Countess Road, Tufnell Park, with his wife and baby daughter, he threw himself into the anti-racism campaigns of the 1960s, joining the recently-formed Camden Committee for Community Relations, where he would rise to become an executive member.

Particularly concerned about the lack of job opportunities for black youngsters, he helped set up Camden Youth Workshop in York Way, King’s Cross, where he taught maths.

He was also a driving force behind Kentish Town Youth Club, which moved to a purpose-built centre in Hadley Street in 1971 after starting out at Our Lady Help of the Christians’ church hall near his home some years earlier.

Although still working for the Post Office, Mervin studied youth work in his spare time so he could more fully contribute to the youth club, heralded as the first multiracial centre of its kind in Camden.

In 1975, he became vice-chairman of the Afro Caribbean Organisation, which operated from Gray’s Inn Road, King’s Cross.

One of its early achievements was the Paul Robeson House, a hostel for homeless black young people in Woodchurch Road, West Hampstead, a once-derelict squat that members took over and renovated.

“Mervin made a tremendous contribution during these years,” remembers former Camden youth worker Winston Pinder, who worked with him on all the key campaigns.

“He always put the community before himself and was disciplined and determined in whatever he did, without making a great noise about it.”

After rising through the ranks to become a supervisor, Mervin took early retirement from the Post Office to devote more time to his grandchildren.

But as ever he was drawn to the wider community, working once again as a churchwarden, for Christ Church in Crouch End, where he now lived, a role that saw him visiting the elderly and doing errands for them to the end of his days.

“Dad was a wonderful father and grandfather,” says daughter Rose.

“But he wanted to make the world a better place for everyone and if he saw something was wrong he tried to make it right.”

Mervin died in his sleep at his home earlier this month.

He leaves a wife, Anita, daughter Rose and three grandchildren.

His funeral is at 11am on Wednesday at Christ Church in Crouch End Hill, Crouch End.

He will be buried in Christ Church, Barbados.

Youth worker and ‘son of Hackney’ is mourned

Hackney Gazette
Sarah Ingrams, ReporterThursday, June 14, 2012
10:07 AM

Tributes have poured in this week for the ‘son of Hackney’ who tirelessly devoted himself to getting a fairer deal for young people.

Gary Francis, born in Hackney, lost his battle with cancer on Sunday June 3 aged 45.

A dedicated member of Hackney Council for Voluntary Services (CVS) for nearly six years, Mr Francis worked on the young people’s stop and search monitoring group project until a few days before he passed away.

“To say he was a fighter is an understatement,” said Jake Ferguson, Chief Executive of Hackney CVS. “The list of things he has done is endless.

“He helped to bring understanding about the gang dynamic and the best ways of helping young people out of gangs.”

Mr Ferguson said he was working to hold the police to account about the disproportionate number of young black men stopped and searched.

In 2006 he organised Peace Week, which attracted 100,000 people to a concert in Shoreditch Park.

Jennette Arnold, London Assembly Member for North East London, said: “We have lost an inspirational man and a true and wonderful son of Hackney.

“He was a shining example of the best of Hackney and he will stay with us in our hearts.

“I worked with him through the dark days of Hackney and he never gave in. He just said we have got to find a way.

“He was proud of Hackney, he worked in Hackney and he was totally committed to doing everything he could for young people especially young black boys.”

Gary’s funeral will be held on June 22 at 10.30am at St Peter in Chains, 12 Womerlsley Road, N8 9AE. He will then be laid to rest at Manor Park Cemetery. There will be a funeral reception from 2-8pm at Chestnut Community Centre, The Pavillion, St Anne’s Road, South Tottenham, N15 5BN. All are welcome at the funeral and reception. Gary’s family request that those attending do not wear black.

The CVS have set up the Gary Francis Memorial Fund to help young people facing hardship or trying to develop business ideas to combat unemployment. Donations can be made at http://www.hcvs.org.uk/

Olympic hopeful Nadia Williams helps youths on Pembury Estate realise they can achieve their dreams

Hackney Gazette
Emma Bartholomew, Senior ReporterThursday, June 14, 2012
1:57 PM

An Olympic medallist has taken time out from her busy Olympic qualification schedule to teach triple jumping to young people on the Pembury Estate.


Morgan McMullins who took part in the Pembury Estate art project

Nadia Williams - New Delhi Commonwealth Games Bronze medallist in 2010 and number 2 in England - took part in the art project which encouraged participants from the from the Peabody Pembury Estate Youth Centre to examine their own identity through the lens of an athlete preparing for London 2012.

The title of the project, 14.30, is taken from the distance 14.3m Ms Williams needs to jump to be included in the Team GB Triple Jumpers.

The young people from the Peabody Pembury Estate Youth Centre found her challenge something they could relate and aspire to, and it helped them realise their own ambitions could be achieved through determination and dedication.

They also worked with artist, Faisal Abdu’Allah, who helped them to explore their own identities and create their piece of art.

Mr Abdu’Allah said: “Knowing how to think, compose, scale, colour and physically print, really enhanced their understanding of how art is made. I’m proud of what they have achieved in the workshops over the two months.”

The artworks in the project funded by Insight Investment were shown in an exhibition on Monday night.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Appeal for budding thespians and filmmakers to take part in movie about the Stonebridge Estate

Kilburn Times

Max Walters, ReporterWednesday, June 13, 2012
11:48 AM

Scruffbag Productions needs people aged 15 and over

A film company are calling on aspiring actors and actresses to take part in a film about Stonebridge.

Scruffbag Productions, who run workshops in an around London will be making a feature film about the estate.

They are calling on anyone over the age of 15 to contact them if they are interested in being involved in the film.

No experience is necessary, if you are interested email your details to scruffbagproductions@gmail.com

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

CitySafe Zone launches in Ladbroke Grove

Kensington Informer
Posted by Emma Heseltine on Jun 12, 12 10:02 AM in News

A campaign to keep young people safe has been kick started by a group of students in Ladbroke Grove.



Youngsters from St Charles Sixth Form College have gathered support from traders, religious groups and charities to set up a CitySafe zone in the area.

It means that some businesses will become 'safe havens' and that all corners of the community will work together to help tackle violent crime in Ladbroke Grove.


Students at the college have experienced first-hand the tragic consequences of knife crime, after 15 year-old pupil Kodjo Yenga was stabbed to death in Hammersmith in 2007.

Paul O'Shea, principal of St Charles said: "It has been inspiring to see how your young people have shown the way for local businesses, retail outlets and voluntary organisations to join forces to become actively involved in preventing violence and gang crime.

"This campaign is by young people and for young people. We all need to take stock and listen to what they are saying and learn how to make our streets safer."

The first CitySafe Zone in Kensington and Chelsea, Ladbroke Grove will have 18 havens for those in trouble to be able to step off the street and wait for help.

It was launched on Saturday (9) with a peace march and the signing of a 100 days of peace pledge, meaning those signed up will report all crime and offer shops and public spaces as places of sanctuary.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Tooting Broadway Film set to be screened


This is Local London
10th June 2012

Tooting Broadway Film set to be screened

A film about Tamil gangs in Tooting which is set to premiere this month has raised concerns about the negative impact it may have on the community.

WAND Tooting Broadway Film set to be screened

Tooting Broadway has been produced by Tooting Broadway Films and is being screened as part of the London Indian Film Festival.

The film is set against the backdrop of Tamil protests outside the Houses of Parliament and focuses on a man hoping to stop his brother joining a gang.

Fred Ahmed, chair of the Balham and Tooting Community Association (BATCA), said: "Obviously it is a question of whether it makes out much more of a problem in the area than it actually is.

"It might attract potential gangs from elsewhere in London to come here. We don't have Tamil gangs walking around here willy-nilly."

WAND Tooting Broadway Film set to be screened

MP Sadiq Khan said he would not comment until after the film is screened, but last year said he was concerned the film could have a negative impact on the community.

But producer Joshua Clement, who moved to London from Chennai, hopes the film brings the UK Tamil community to the mainstream.

Familiar sights in the film include scenes outside Tooting Broadway station and a bicycle chase through Tooting Broadway Market.

It stars up-and-coming actress Elizabeth Henstridge and Nav Sidhu, as well as music from Mitcham singer MIA.

Tooting Broadway is being screened at Cineworld, Haymarket, on June 22 and in Cineworld Southside Shopping Centre, Garratt Lane, on June 26.

WAND Tooting Broadway Film set to be screened


Saturday, 9 June 2012

Kensal Green resident turns his back on crime and wins part in ILL Manors with Plan B


Kilburn Times



Kensal Green resident turns his back on crime and wins part in ILL Manors with Plan B

Max Walters, ReporterSaturday, June 9, 2012

A resident who became embroiled in violence and drug dealing during a tough upbringing has turned his life around and landed a lead role in a movie.

Lee Allen, of Hiley Road, Kensal Green, spent three years in prison after living a life of crime on the streets of Brent.

The 32-year-old appears in ILL Manors, the directorial debut of rapper and songwriter Plan B which was released last week.

Speaking to the Times, Mr Allen described how he was cast for the film.

He said: “I already knew him [Plan B] from working on the production of another film and he told me he was working on new a script and that he had a character in mind for me.”

The film centres on eight characters and their own personal stories, interspersed with rap music.

Mr Allen plays Chris, who is out to avenge the murder of his sister.

He said: “It focuses on decisions people take in life and how they affect them. Sometimes you take the right one and sometimes not.”

“I think I made a lot of bad decisions in my life so I can relate to the character in that sense,” he added.

Mr Allen was jailed in 2004 for intent to supply drugs including Ecstasy and Cocaine

However, he believes it was the decisions he made in his early life which led to him spending time inside.

He said: “My parents died of cancer when I was still at college, I had hopes and dreams like anyone else but I became angry and frustrated and so turned to crime.

“I would have drugs on me and would be dealing and always getting into fights on the street or a night out.”

However, he said it was three years spent in prison which he described as “torture” that encouraged him to better his life.

He said: “People have a misconception of prison that it is full of violence and bullying but the worst thing is not being able to do anything all day.

“You have so much time to think yet don’t have the opportunity to take steps towards achieving your goals.

“It really is like a form of torture so I made up my mind that I would pursue something creative when I got out.”

After securing the role in the film, his aim now is to pursue his acting career and encourage youngsters to achieve their goals in life.

He said: “Every young person out there has a dream and ambition, no matter what you might think of them.

“I think schools need to be encouraged to offer more in terms of work experience to young people; I was lucky enough to be given an opportunity and other people should be given the chance to discover their passion too.”

Mr Allen is keen to visit local schools to talk to them about his experience, to contact him call 07405964617 or email leeactorallen@gmail.com

ILL Manors is out at cinemas now.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Hoodforts youth project enjoys BFI success

East London & Docklands Advertiser

Hoodforts youth project enjoys BFI success

Robin de PeyerFriday, June 8, 2012

At just 17-years-old Nurull Islam was walking the streets of Mile End with a close group of friends and a petition to gather support for the opening of the area’s first youth centre.


Hoodforts members at the British Film Institute after receiving their award - by Mile End Community Project for the Adobe Youth Voices Programme.

Now 34, he is one of a group of three volunteers who run one of the most exciting and creative community projects in the East End, which has overseen the production of several award-winning films.

The centre is now running Hoodforts, comprised of a group of 12-17 year-olds who attend the Mile End Community Project in Hamlets Way, just a stone’s throw from Nurull’s childhood home in English Street.

The name Hoodforts is derived from a combination of the words ‘hoodies’, ‘neighbourhood’, ‘thoughts’ and ‘fortress’ and aims to provide opportunities for people of all backgrounds. Nurull explains: “Hoodforts is for anyone who comes through our door. We want to keep young people engaged, and help them to develop their skills.”

As such, it encompasses everything from CV and leadership workshops to football matches in the park, going some way to explaining its enduring popularity amongst young people in Mile End and the surrounding area.
Hoodforts members give their thoughts on the message behind their film - by Mile End Community Project for the Adobe Youth Voices Programme.

However, it is the latest project under the Hoodforts umbrella, a short film about stereotypes in society, which has enjoyed the most success since the group was first set up in 2010.

The film is aimed at challenging judgements and common misconceptions about people. It took five months to make, and with most of the work undertaken by ten 14-16 year olds, along with volunteer film-makers and photographers with connections to Mile End or an interest in engaging with young people on a creative level.

The end product is a powerful, challenging and artistic four-minute film which raises important questions about the way in which people from all walks of life can be guilty of stereotyping one another.

In May, it won first prize at the prestigious Adobe Youth Voices Awards at the British Film Institute, and has also earned a nomination in the Limelight film awards, to be held at The Troxy in Commercial Road on Thursday June 14.
Hoodforts members give their thoughts on the message behind their film - by Mile End Community Project for the Adobe Youth Voices Programme.

Nurull talks with visible pride when discussing the film’s success, believing that such recognition can have a hugely positive impact on the lives of the young people behind it.

He explains: “It was an absolutely amazing feeling to win the award, for everyone involved.”

He opens his arms, and looks around the small room in which we sit. “This is their comfort zone, but making the film and showing it to people outside of their peer group took them out of that comfort zone, and challenged them.

“The fact that the film won should give them the confidence to go out and achieve whatever they want to. We tell them that they should put it on their CVs, as it’s something for them to be really proud of.”
Hoodforts members give their thoughts on the message behind their film - by Mile End Community Project for the Adobe Youth Voices Programme.

Mahmud Hussain, 16, was one of the young people featured in the film, and was part of the team behind its production. He was filled when discussing the film’s success.

He said: “It was just amazing because we saw all the other films on show and some of them were really good. I was overwhelmed - all the hard work paid off, so it was a great feeling.”

Mahmud also emphasised the importance of the work undertaken through the Mile End Community Project in ensuring that young people are able to use their time effectively and positively. He explained: “The youth centre is keeping young people off the street and occupied. If they’re not occupied, they’re much more likely to go and cause trouble, so the adults in the area benefit too.”

I suggest to Nurull that many of the themes covered in the film seem to be reflected in the other work which the group does, particularly given the emphasis on open-mindedness and challenging norms.
Hoodforts members give their thoughts on the message behind their film - by Mile End Community Project for the Adobe Youth Voices Programme.

He nods in agreement: “We’re really keen to show people of all ages and backgrounds that it does have implications when you stereotype people. Our projects are focused on creating a platform for debate, breaking down stereotypes, and helping bring the different communities in East London together.”

However, he is keen to point out that film is not the only way in which Hoodforts is engaging with young people in Mile End. There is particular excitement surrounding the group’s fledgling clothing designs, which they hope to develop further in the coming months.

The commitment by the group to other projects illustrates their focus on accommodating people of all backgrounds and interests. Nurrull explains: “We know not everyone is going to be into films, or football, so we like to find out what people can do, and get them involved in whatever they are good at.”

Nurull’s time is balanced between holding down a part time job at sports and charitable organisation London Tigers, with spending several nights a week at the youth centre, and looking after his two young children.
Hoodforts members give their thoughts on the message behind their film - by Mile End Community Project for the Adobe Youth Voices Programme.

The centre continues to be run by Nurrull and two of the other people involved in starting it up, Assan Ali and Selim Uddin, and he admits that they feel pressure to continue working hard for the group. “When we first started up, we got the whole estate on board helping out”, he explains.

“Now, after all these years, there are only the three of us left, and we see it as our duty to keep up the work, because if we are not here delivering these services, no one else will be.

“In this neck of the woods there’s not really much happening for young people, but when young people see end products like the film, they’ll hopefully feel a sense of pride and belonging in their community.”

20 years on from starting the Mile End youth centre, Nurull remains excited about the “huge potential” of Hoodforts. When seeing the standard of the films the group continue to produce, it’s hard not to share his enthusiasm.

Mother of teen who was stabbed to death launches initiative in which shops will become havens for victims of crime

Islington Tribune



From left, Valerie Flessati, Henoc Girma, Lorraine Dinnegan and Ben Pollard outside the Arsenal store

Published: 8 June, 2012
by PETER GRUNER

A UNIQUE scheme in which shops will provide a place of safety for victims of street crime is being launched tomorrow (Saturday) in Finsbury Park by the mother of a 14-year-old boy stabbed to death five years ago.

Lorraine Dinnegan, whose son Martin was murdered by youths in Holloway, will unveil the borough’s first City Safe Haven, in which people in trouble can run to the nearest participating shop or business for sanctuary. Shopkeepers will then immediately lock the door behind them – keeping pursuers out – and call police.

The Tesco branch opposite Finsbury Park station is one of the first outlets to take part and the nearby Arsenal store is also planning to join the scheme, which is backed by street safety campaigners.

As well as Mrs Dinnegan, they include Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn, Valerie Flessati, from St Mellitus Church, Henoc Girma, from the Arsenal store, and Ben Pollard, community organiser for North London Citizens.

They will be meeting at the gates of Finsbury Park, opposite Lidl’s store, at 11am tomorrow to officially launch the scheme.

Mrs Dinnegan said that, although there had been a lot of improvements in street safety since her son was murdered, there was still a long way to go.

She added: “This scheme will help people feel that in times of trouble they are not alone. Each participating shop will have a poster and logo so that people are made aware of who is involved.

“There’s a lot more awareness of knife crime since Martin’s death.

The message is getting across thanks to work by the police, Islington Council, churches and community groups.

“But we are still in the early stages of the campaign. Young people have to realise that when they slip a knife into their pockets it is likely that someone is going to die and they will be locked away for a very long time.”

Ms Flessati said that too often high-street shopkeepers did not want to get involved when there was trouble.

“Under this scheme shopkeepers will know what to do and how to act,” she said. “If someone runs into a shop or store for help staff will lock the door and call police. So far we have signed up 12 outlets for the scheme.”

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Coaches will guide young into sport not trouble

Ealing Gazette
Coaches will guide young into sport not trouble

Jun 7 2012 By Poppy Bradbury


NEWLY-trained coaches who escaped a life of crime to find a job through sport passed on their new skills to Ealing youngsters.

Eight coaches from the Lord’s Taverners Street Elite programme visited Gurnell Leisure Centre, West Ealing on Wednesday last week.

The sessions were led by eight young people aged 17 to 24 who themselves had not been in education, employment or training (NEETs).

After picking up new qualifications in cricket, rugby or football, the young coaches have been working on housing estates across the capital to pass on their experiences and encourage other youngsters, like themselves, to escape violent gang culture.

Si Ledwith, leader of the Cricket for Change campaign, said: “The boys come from a range of backgrounds. Some were from the gang culture and had been in gangs, some were young offenders who had been in prison and others were just struggling at college. They talked to young people who may be at risk of going down the wrong path and act as role models. They’re essentially acting as youth workers talking to them from their experiences to stop others doing what they may have done.”

Three coaches originally from Ealing could not attend because they managed to find full time jobs through the programme.

“Can we Trust the Police?”

Hackney Gazette

Hackney actor Adam Deacon makes documentary about police trust

Chloƫ Mayer, Senior ReporterThursday, June 7, 2012
5:08 PM

Hackney actor Adam Deacon has revealed his best friend was beaten and Tasered by cops in a case of mistaken identity, in a new hard-hitting documentary called “Can we Trust the Police?”

Adam, who is best known for playing Jay in the bleak British film Kidulthood and won a BAFTA earlier this year for his work on spoof comedy Anuvahood, turned his hand to documentary filmmaking for the BBC.

The 29-year-old, who grew up in Stoke Newington, says he has always been “wary” of the police and has seen examples of racism and brutality first-hand.

But his on-film investigation sees him go out on shifts with officers to learn more about their job as well as meeting people who feel they have been let down by the system.

The show is scheduled to be shown on BBC3, on Monday, June 25, at 9pm.

Ex-EastEnders actress Brooke Kinsella launches anti-gang initiative

London Evening Standard




Social change: former EastEnders actress Brooke Kinsella is promoting the Six Steps to Safer Britain scheme

07 June 2012

A new scheme aimed at steering teenagers away from crime, drugs and alcohol is being launched today.

The scheme, promoted by former EastEnders actress Brooke Kinsella, whose brother Ben was knifed to death in London in 2008, is called the Six Steps to Safer Britain.

It was devised by the Catch22 Positive Futures Youth Advisory Board (YAB), a body which aims to change negative perceptions about young people.

The plan is part of the Make a Noise Week, which is a celebration to commend eleven years of Positive Futures - Britain's largest youth crime prevention programme that works with 57,000 10 to 19-year-olds annually.

Positive Futures projects use sport, physical activities, arts and education to engage young people.

Chris Wright, chief executive of Catch22, said: "Positive Futures has an incredible track record of helping tens of thousands of young people and ensures young people have a voice about future policy and services.

"At Catch22 we recognise young people's potential as thought leaders for social change.

"During Make a Noise week we will see young people in control of their lives, demonstrating this potential and taking action to build a brighter future for Britain."

The Six Steps plan has been devised in consultation with thousands of young people.

According to YAB, what young people want is: (the help they get to) start at six years old; help them build better relationships with the police; tackle gang culture and postcode rivalry; give them activities at times when they need them most; improve access to employment; combat negative perceptions by listening to what they have to say.

The programme will be launched in the Battersea Arts Centre at 4.15pm as part of a day of events.

Government knife crime adviser Ms Kinsella, singer Will Young and footballer Anton Ferdinand will present awards to individuals who have shown particular dedication to the scheme.

There will also be a performance from the Shakespeare Hip-Hop Company and Faithless front man Maxi Jazz.

The event will follow a week of celebrations from all 91 Positive Futures projects in deprived communities up and down the country.

Projects will be celebrating their achievements in their local area by organising dance performances, Olympic-themed art and sporting activities, Jubilee celebrations and community action.

The details of the Six Steps plan will be available from today at this link

WALTHAM FOREST: Anti-gang project for primary school pupils

This is Local London

7th June 2012

A PROGRAM to prevent poorly behaved primary school children becoming criminals later in life is to be launched.

Trained volunteers will become mentors to vulnerable young pupils in Waltham Forest, some of whom are on the verge of exclusion, with the aim of boosting confidence and achievement via a range of activities.

Charity Chance UK, which has received lottery funding for the project, said gangs in Waltham Forest are trying to recruit children of primary school age.

But it claims its work in boroughs such as Hackney, Islington and Lambeth provides effective early prevention to save young people from a life of crime.

Chance UK chief executive Gracia McGrath OBE said: "In Waltham Forest there has been a growing gang culture for some years now and the targeting of vulnerable primary school children as gang members has become a growing problem.

"Chance UK is looking forward to taking on these big challenges and supporting the young people to realise their ambitions."

Cllr Liaquat Ali, cabinet member for community safety, said he believed the project would compliment the council's own anti-gang work through the Enough is Enough initiative. The project is due to begin next year.


Comments (2)


07/06/12

sunn says...
This sounds like a brilliant project. A shame it's been left down to a charity to provide these services that should really be provided by local and national government.

Catching these issues early is by far the most effective antidote to such problems, which if left to fester become much worse and more costly to deal with - both in terms of money and the impact on lives.

I wish Chance UK well!


07/06/12

leyton_man says...
And with this council hell-bent on building gang-breeding ghettos wherever they can, the charity will have its work cut out for many years to come.

Friday, 1 June 2012

Primary school pupils lead gang violence assembly


This is Local London
June 1st 2012
By Hermione Wright »

Primary school pupils delivered a special assembly on Wednesday focussing on the importance of tackling gang violence and knife crime.

Pupils watch the assembly in St Michael's Primary School on Wednesday

The difficult topic, called Gang-busters - Chill Don't Steal, was chosen by the pupils after they were allowed to focus on any subject of their choice for the spring term.

Children from St Michael’s Primary School in Bounds Green Road, Wood Green, and St Ann’s Primary School in Avenue Toad, Tottenham, worked on the project after a ballot found 70 per cent of pupils at both schools were worried about gangs.

The research also found 21 per cent of pupils to know gangs personally and 15 per cent admitted to thinking about joining a gang in the future.

A recording of the assembly will be shown at the Victoria and Albert Museum next month to show people what the schools have achieved.

Members of the school council, in Year 4 to Year 6, read out their findings to the rest of the school and rapped about the importance of joining “a good gang” rather than getting involved in violence.

St Ann's pupil, John Paul Townsend, 9, who took part in the assembly, said he has enjoyed the project and is looking forward to their work being shown at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Teacher Annette Manley, who has led the project, said: “The children found from the survey they were worried about gangs and they had concerns that they might be made to join a gang so they wanted to do an awareness campaign about not being pressured to be in a gang.”

“It is quite a touchy subject – you don’t want to worry children but it is a real issue in the borough, and it was really nice bringing the two schools together.”

The topic was part of the Go-Givers Making a Difference Challenge, which encourages children to take part in projects which are of most interest to them.

‘Ditch guns and knives for sport’

South London Press

Friday, 01 June 2012


Sylvester Akapalara

By Dan Levene

AN ATHLETICS club chief has urged youngsters to take up sport – instead of using guns and knives – after a second man was jailed over the cold-blooded execution of a promising youngster.

Sylvester Akapalara, 17, who was living with a foster family in New Cross, was gunned down inside Heron House, on the Pelican Estate in Peckham by a gang of youths led by David Nyamupfukudza.

After Sylvester had been shot in the neck on December 29, 2010, the gang chased down and stabbed two of his friends in the stairwell of the eight-storey block.

Nyamupfukudza, 19, of Hudson Road, New Cross, was this week given a life sentence and told he would spend at least 26 years behind bars for the murder, including a concurrent sentence of 22 years for the attempted murder of another teenager on the same night.

Sylvester, a 400m runner “of remarkable ability”, according to sentencing Judge Timothy Pontius, was a member of the Herne Hill Harriers.

While training with the club, Sylvester won a silver medal in the under-15s 400m race at the English Schools National Championships and had qualified for the senior level finals.

Club secretary Steve Bosley told the South London Press: “It is boys just like Sylvester who go on to be Olympians. He had the potential and the ambition. You do get a lot of youngsters who get dragged into trouble. But athletics can make a difference.

“I hope the Olympics will mean youngsters see role models so that they can find their potential rather than getting involved in violence.”

Sentencing Nyamupfukudza on Wednesday at the Old Bailey, Judge Pontius told him: “It matters very little for the purposes of sentence why Sylvester Akapalara was shot dead. But it seems likely he was just one of many victims, usually in their teens, who have been targeted in acts of mindless and appalling violence simply because of their membership – or presumed membership – of an opposing gang.

“Now another mother has been left devastated by the violent slaughter of a much-loved son.

“He happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Sodiq Adeojo, 20, of Shurland Gardens, Peckham, was convicted of murder at an earlier trial and is already serving at least 30 years behind bars.

In an impact statement read to the court, Natalie Williams, the daughter of Sylvester’s foster mother, said his death was “a massive loss”.

She said: “We find it hard to celebrate family occasions without Sylvester but we know he has gone to a better place and is sitting with the angels.”

Both killers were members of the notorious Peckham-based Guns, Murder, Girls (GMG) street gang.

Nyamupfukudza had denied murder and attempted murder.

As he was led away to the cells, he told the judge: “I just hope you realise you’ve prosecuted and sentenced an innocent man.”

Young People Unveil Six Steps to Safer Britain

Catch22 Charity

01 JUNE 2012

Young people from the Catch22's Positive Futures Youth Advisory Board (YAB) are launching their ‘Six Steps to Safer Britain’ action plan.

The plan, put together in consultation with tens of thousands of young people, outlines the steps young people know need to be taken to help them stay away from crime, drugs and alcohol.

The plan will be launched at a celebration event and award ceremony at the Battersea Arts Centre, London. The event, supported by Catch22 ambassador Will Young and Brooke Kinsella is part of Make a Noise Week celebrating 11 years of Positive Futures, Britain’s largest youth crime prevention programme which works with around 57,000 young people every year.

The award ceremony will demonstrate the outstanding achievements of young people, the lasting difference Catch22 Positive Futures has made to young people and their communities and is also aimed to help change negative perceptions of young people.

Will Young and Brooke Kinsella, the Government’s knife crime adviser, will be presenting awards based on the Six Step Action Plan.

The YAB will explore their vision on how to prevent youth crime and create a positive future for young people in ‘A Question of Youth’ panel session. The Q&A panel will be based on questions from the guests, and will quiz young people on the Six Step Action Plan.
Six Steps to a Safer Britain

The six steps young people are asking for are:
Step One: Start at six years old
Step Two: Help us build better relationships with the police
Step Three: Tackle gang culture and postcode rivalry
Step Four: Give us activities at times when we need them most
Step Five: Improve access to employment
Step Six: Combat negative perceptions by listening to what young people have to say

Download the Six Steps to a Safer Britain manifesto (pdf, 1MB).

The finale to the event will showcase performances from young people who are part of Positive Futures and celebrities including Maxi Jazz from Faithless and the Shakespeare Hip Hop Company.

The event will follow a week of celebrations from all 91 Positive Futures projects in deprived communities up and down the country. Projects will be celebrating their achievements in their local area by organising dance performances, Olympic-themed art and sporting activities, Jubilee celebrations and community action.

Chris Wright, CEO, Catch22 says:

'Positive Futures has an incredible track record of helping tens of thousands of young people and ensures young people have a voice about future policy and services. At Catch22 we recognise young people’s potential as thought leaders for social change. During Make a Noise week we will see young people in control of their lives, demonstrating this potential and taking action to build a brighter future for Britain.'

You can follow the action on the day on Twitter, via #makeanoise