Against the backcloth of the riots we asked youth workers and young people to let us know what they feel is going on. We are pleased to be receiving reports from the streets.
On the BBC News Symeon Brown is interviewed.
And below the two Emilys offer their reactions.
Youth & Youth Work Reaction to the Riots,
by two Emilys.
Emily Ward, Young Person, aged 17yrs
& Emily Wood, Youth Work Manager
A Young Person’s Perspective: Mindless Rioting
By Emily Ward, 17 years old
For generations young people have been seen to be just ‘trouble-makers’, and nothing more. I, myself know that when young people walk into stores they will most likely be followed by the security guard – its highly frustrating for us all, it’s typical everyday stereotyping. But, as we all know a lot of young people since the 6th of August have been rioting and looting, although it is important that everyone remembers that it isn’t just young people under the age of 18. Every single person that has taken part in the rioting and looting has to be held accountable for their own actions. Most young people are appalled with what’s been happening, and completely scared to even leave their homes.
I think its appalling, we have soldiers out there fighting for our country and doing their best for us all and we have a disgraceful wide range of people that have decided to destroy what we have. It’s selfish. After seeing everything that has happened for example; homes of innocent people set on fire, businesses that have been growing strong for generations, police cars and buses also set on fire, its absolutely disgusting behavior! It needs to stop. No one involved has even thought about other people and how they can be affected. People’s homes, families, memories and businesses have been completely destroyed, it isn’t right and they need to stop, it’s gone beyond too far. It has occurred to me and many others that many of the people involved have caused all of this drama due to there not being anything for them to do, ‘they’re bored’. If there were more youth services, support and youth centres around then maybe a lot of the young people involved wouldn’t have even thought about doing any of this.
“Today I saw two young people stop to help a police man fix the caution tape around a riot site. They represent the majority of young people that care and automatically stop to help when they can. For those that are rioting I feel sorry for how disaffected, hurt and angry they are.” Quoted by Emily Wood, Youth Work Manger, South Wimbledon Youth Centre, Merton Youth Service
“It seems like they have all followed each other like sheep across the country, it isn’t about protesting any more, it’s about them smashing up shops and stealing items for adrenaline.” Yasmin Rahali, young person, Merton, 17 years old
“Smashing shop windows, looting and setting fire to things is selfish, dangerous and stupid. Some young people and adults decided to get involved – many others have decided not to – I am want to thank those young people who decided not to, who stayed away and thought it was wrong. We all need a sense of right and wrong and this was all clearly wrong and must stop so that everybody feels safe.” Keith Shipman, Youth Inclusion Service Manager, London Borough of Merton
The past few days have been terrifying for everyone, people have been seriously injured and it needs to be stopped immediately, it isn’t right. Our community has been falling apart for a long time, everyone has said it, but no one ever even began to think that anything like this could happen. The behaviour of the rioters and looters are terrible, it’s not fair on everyone else that has to cope with the consequences of all the damage and destruction.
Emily Ward, 17 years old, Merton. Emily has spent the day visiting riot sites around Merton and neighbouring boroughs, she has been reporting on the riots from a young person’s perspective on the South Wimbledon Youth Centre facebook page with photos, comments, updates and warnings. It is important that we begin to hear the positive youth voices rather than just the violence and looting of the minority. To find out more please check out http://www.facebook.com/SWYCyouthcentre.
A Youth Work Perspective: We all need to take responsibility
By Emily Wood, Youth Work Manager
As I am sure everyone agrees the events of the past few days of rioting and looting across London and the UK have been shocking. As a Londoner (resident in Wood Green) I awoke on Saturday morning to smashed in shops and a burnt out car at the end of my road, I hear the people of London condemning the actions of the youth. Young people are, as usual, being ‘tarred with the same brush’; labelling young people as ‘feral rats’ is obviously a reaction of emotion, but it is not one that is either new or helpful. Neither is a call from Sky News journalists to instill more fear in young people and for a shortening of summer school holidays as a way to punish all young people. As a professional Youth Worker with over 15 years of experience I automatically look for the reasons and real long-term solutions, rather than the blame and quick fix reactions. Those involved need to be held accountable for their actions and dealt with accordingly, but the complex issues also need to be faced by the government and society as a whole. Yes parents need to take responsibility, as do the members of the public that consistently shun and ignore the problems in their communities, the oblivious café dwellers that sip earl grey and breakfast on their organic smoked salmon as they are overlooked and sit cheek by jowl with some of the most impoverished estates around our city, and the responsibility also needs to lie with the politicians that have so recently slashed the youth support services from around our country.
Yes, the shops destroyed and the aggression against the police has been appalling, perhaps the most upsetting has been accounts of young people attacking and destroying the lives of their fellow community members. Images of small independent shops being smashed, peoples homes on fire, a woman leaping from a flaming building and a young injured man being mugged as he was seemingly helped to his feet; these are actions that make us questions how and why those involved can have such little regard for their fellow Londoners, their neighbours, their local shop keepers, and essentially their friends and family. After a night of relative calm in London it is hoped that the unrest is starting to come under control. At this time it is important to think of not only the quick solution of criminal prosecutions and angry blame, but also to question why we are in this situation. Why so many of the young people within our country feel so disaffected, so angry, so hurt and so removed from human emotion that they can commit these atrocities. The reasons and solutions are complex, but they are also obvious, not without reason and they are something for which we all are all responsible. If you are not part of the solution, then you are also part of the problem.
It seems to me that the need for youth services, support and youth centres are more important now than ever. Recent cuts to youth and community services are already having disastrous results on our communities, we need to make sure that these projects, services and groups are protected and the way in which we work is understood and defended. Youth Work is about support and prevention, but also and most importantly it is about providing a safe, open and fun space for all young people. It is here that we build informal, voluntary and trusting relationships to support young people no matter what the world throws at them, and it seems that a lot is being thrown at them at the moment! As funding for youth work is drastically reduced it is increasingly becoming limited to only providing targeted and short term projects such as those that work with young offenders or provide jobs and apprenticeships? Targetted work is needed and can be very effective, but this also needs to be supported by a foundation of open access and universal youth services, groups and organisations that provide and support the personal and social development for all young people, not just those already deemed by society as ‘problematic’. Young people have rioted, they have looted and burnt, but this is not purely down to ‘wanting stuff’, it is also about ‘needing stuff’, such as security, support, love, confidence, and the knowledge that they belong, are valued and have power within their communities. Let’s make sure we keep the riots in perspective and look not only to blame, but also to ask why it is happening in the first place and what we can do as a community to stop it from happening again.
It is also important for everyone to remember it isn’t only kids involved in the riots, and that the vast majority of young people are appalled, scared and completely disapprove of what’s been going on. Yesterday I saw two young people stop to help a policeman fix the caution tape around a riot site. They represent the majority, young people that care and automatically stop to help when they can. For those that are rioting I feel sorry for how disaffected, hurt and angry they are. We need to question what they have experienced in their lives and why they have got to a point where they feel they have nothing to lose.
The opinions here represent my personal comments and do not necessarily reflect those of the organisations within which I am involved.
Emily Wood is a professional Youth Work Manager with an MA in Applied Anthropology, Community and Youth Work and 15 years of experience working with young people nationally and internationally, in both the public and voluntary sectors. Currently a Youth Work Manager with Merton Youth Service; An active campaigner for the In Defence of Youth Work Campaign; A trustee for international children’s charity, The Charlotte Miller Art Project.
Follow me on twitter @emily_would