Young Londoners lead fightback against postcode wars

30th Apr 2012
Young Londoners lead fightback against postcode wars

A groundbreaking youth project came to a climax last week at a sports festival in Greenwich. Nineteen young Londoners who were not in employment, education or training (NEETs) last summer have become qualified coaches and run sessions on some of the toughest estates in the Capital. Now they use sport to tackle the tribalism and gang culture which divides so many communities.

The ‘Take Back The Streets’ festival was part of a 3-year programme called Street Elite, run by The Lord’s Taverners and Cricket for Change, which uses sport to help disadvantaged young people develop the confidence and skills to get their lives on track. At a time when the drop in sports participation amongst 16-19 year olds has become increasingly topical*, Street Elite also shows there is positive work taking place on the streets of the Capital.

Matthew Patten, Chief Executive of leading youth sports charity, The Lord’s Taverners, said: “Sport is a fantastic way to help tackle the tribalism that divides so many communities in London. It creates a space in which young people from different schools and postcodes can learn to collaborate.”

Over the last six months, each of the 19 young people has gained a coaching qualification in cricket, football, rugby or futsal. They have then organized sessions with youngsters on local housing estates, inspiring them to get involved in sport and other positive activities which help address the kind of disillusion which led to the August 2011 riots across much of the country.

One of the coaches, Shaddai Olofinbinu, who is helping to run a Street Elite festival, said: “Without the programme, I’d probably be back in prison right now.”

The first of six festivals this summer took place in Greenwich at Thomas Tallis School on Thursday 26 April was attended by approximately 200 young people. Each festival gives hundreds of young people a chance to try a variety of sports and join a local sports club. There will also be street dancing sessions and a Met Police workshop on offer.

Street Elite is supported by the Metropolitan Police and funded by the Berkeley Foundation. Rob Perrins, Managing Director of the Berkeley Group said: “When you see that youth unemployment is costing the public purse £4.8 billion in 2012, you realize how much we need projects like Street Elite. It’s low-cost and highly effective. And if it works in London, why not roll this out nationwide?”

Next month Take Back The Streets festivals will take place in Wandsworth (Wandsworth Common, Tuesday 29 May), Hammersmith & Fulham (Linford Christie Outdoor Sports Centre, Wednesday 30 May) and Ealing (Gurnell Leisure Centre, Thursday 31 May).

* Sport England: ‘Compared with APS2, the number of 16- to 19-year-olds participating three times a week has gone from 930,400 to 825,900.’

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