Official figures show those arrested came from deprived backgrounds, striking a blow to theory that tackling gang culture is key to preventing repeat of disturbances.
At the recent Youth and Policy History conference two workshops examined differing interpretations of the riots, both controversial in their condemnation of the rioters as ‘stupid’ and ‘narcissistic’. Look out for a report on the conference soon.
And while you’re waiting, here is an historical overview from Jerry White of the LSE.
I met Geoff Pearson back in 1980, whilst a post-graduate at Bradford University. Trying vainly to be an orthodox Marxist I found him difficult to fathom. Ever willing to enter into argument in the Steve Biko students union bar, he was charming and combative, unwilling to be the disciple of any closed ideology. I thought him to be far too eclectic. Except that two of my treasured books remain his ‘Deviant Imagination’  and ‘Hooligan : A History of Respectable Fears . In this context I wondered what he made of the recent riots. Lo and behold an interview with him has appeared, Respectable Fears Resurface.
What is remarkable is that each time that this social anxiety crystallises around the youth question, it is accompanied by the same vocabulary of complaints. For example, the lack of respect shown to all forms of authority, whether parents, teachers, the police or the courts that is said to be a radical departure from the subordination shown in the past. Young criminals are also said to be becoming younger. Then there is the repeated accusation of family decline and the break-up of parental discipline, often linked to the demon drink (nowadays substance misuse). Finally, the corrupting influence of popular amusements – whether the penny-hop theatres and dancing saloons of early Victorian Britain, the Music Hall entertainments later in the century, the gangster ‘movies’ of the inter-war years, television and rock-and-roll in the 1950s, then video-nasties, hip-hop music and gangsta rap – held to be encouragements to imitative ‘copy-cat’ crime.
It is not that nothing changes. Of course things change. But this long, connected vocabulary of respectable fears seems itself immune to change. It is like some moral dodo, but one that keeps escaping from the museum, and is currently rampaging around the streets in the responses to the recent riots.
Further to our linking to Gus John’s recent Open Letter to Cameron, the independent newspaper, Manchester Mule, has published in two parts a revealing interview with Gus, within which he reflects on the significance of the Moss Side uprising of 1981, a violent eruption of protest.
Drawing on his direct involvement in the Moss Side Defence Committee of the time it is a sweeping and powerful analysis. In a remarkable moment of prescience the interview by Andy Bowman was undertaken just a week before the recent riots in England.
In his concluding thoughts he is scathing about the educational system as a whole and the illusory notion of a shared concensus about the society, within which we live.
What can reflections on the disturbances tell us in the present? For people who are looking at problems of racism and police violence
Let me preface my answer by saying, I believe the greatest disservice the state does to its population is through the crappy schooling system we have. When you consider that there is such an emphasis on high level exam results, as if that’s the only mark of schools’ effectiveness, the debate about schooling is always about providing labour for the market, Britain’s economic competitiveness, and the extent to which schools and universities are churning people out.
It has nothing to do with giving people the tools to take control of their own lives, equipping people to act collectively to bring about change, and it is certainly nothing to do with understanding the evolution of British social history, such that we can as a society learn from our advances and defeats. That kind of discourse is seen as a throwback to the days of ‘red-led’ protests of the past for lefties. The assumption is that it is not necessary to think in terms of class or the individual up against the state, and that we should be counting our blessings. Meanwhile, stratification within society becomes more entrenched. Those who are poor are not just disenfranchised by lacking wages through which they can live dignified lives; they are also denied the tools by which they can organise in defence of their lives.
People fall prey to an opaque sameness, an assumed consensus in terms of the values we commonly share. Which allows clowns like Cameron to talk about the ‘Big Society’.
It is very important that we understand what led to 1981, and what gives rise to the peaks and troughs as far as the emergence of neo-fascist organisations are concerned. I would not be surprised if in the coming period as European economies begin falling in on themselves you have another upsurge of pan-European fascism.
I can’t say I’m convinced by the assertion that occupying ‘the grey middle, which common sense tells us will always yield a more holistic truth than can be found at the extremes.’ Leave my extremist perspective aside Paul poses some tough dilemmas, immediately recognisable by those involved in our Campaign.
But it seems that youth work, somewhere along the way, lost its soul. As supply outstripped demand for serious youth work jobs, hundreds of short-term, part-time, state-led initiatives sprung up all over the place. Youth workers were a dime a dozen, and a sort of lowest-common-denominator youth work emerged. Perhaps the discipline simply struggled to move forward, to understand itself outside radical Leftism when society and policy changed. New Labour policies and the subjugation of youthwork to state surveillance and economic unit production activities (a question which was hotly debated in the 1980s and before) further confused a professionally naive workforce intent on securing funding and maintaining activities regardless of cost. Mixed in with the political cocktail of quick-fix solutions and sexy numbers, many parts of the sector has seen a near-complete loss of professional integrity over the past ten years. Let me be clear: this is not a dig at one government. I have no doubt that youth work would have been seen and utilised in the same way regardless of the colour of government. This is about the hard place which youth workers occupy, between the hardest-to-reach young people and a wider society impatient for peace.
Let me give an example. Most youth workers understand that, whilst there must always remain a drive to improve effectiveness and efficiency, the nuts and bolts of our trade are fairly common sense. Long-term relationships beat short-term relationships. Young-person-centred conversations beat funder-stipulated-conversations. Community-based initiatives trump centralised or super-centre initiatives. And this is in relation to impact: to making the difference which whether you’re a neighbour, a funder, a councillor or a youthworker, we all agree on.
But we have not maintained these working practices. There is pressure to bring young people in through the door (even if they’d rather meet outside). There is pressure to record their behavioural changes (with their token endorsements). There is pressure to gain them ‘qualifications’, whether or not these are meaningful in the employment market or are what they really want to do. And this has led to incentivisation, increasingly coercive approaches to engaging young people and undermining the core values of informal education which lead to an individual voluntarily, responsibly and productively choosing to engage with mainstream society and to be bound by its (mutually beneficial) social norms. To paraphrase, youth work has increasingly been guilty of encouraging young people to engage for what they can get, rather than investing in the best ways to inspire personal growth and civic responsibility.
I write as someone whose contribution for more than four decades to the struggle for quality schooling and education for all and for racial equality and social justice is a matter of public record. I write as a former youth and community worker, community development officer and director of education and leisure services whose work has been predominantly in urban settings. I am a social analyst and professor of education. I am interim chair of Parents and Students Empowerment, an offshoot of the Communities Empowerment Network which for the last twelve years has been providing advice, guidance and advocacy in respect of the one thousand (1,000) school exclusion cases on average we deal with each year.
It is a powerful and comprehensive critique, which deserves all our attention. As to whether David Cameron will give it the time of day, I won’t hold my breath.
BYC also want you to send them copies of any letters to MPs, Councillors, or newspapers that you have written, or details of action (like volunteering or riot clean ups) that you have done in response to events. Please email this to firstname.lastname@example.org
The survey opens by asking the responding young people to identify themselves. Are we alone in thinking that the use of these categories suggests that little or nothing is being learnt from the disturbances? Whither the voices of the ‘unheard’?
Are you currently an (please tick as many as apply):
In the painful aftermath of the riots youth services have been much talked about, often mentioned as an ingredient in the cocktail of explanation. This might seem a chaos-sent opportunity for our campaign to shout from the rooftops the need to halt the carnage of cuts and indeed invest afresh in youth work. However a measure of humility and caution is required. Amongst the crudest of the government’s ideological prejudices is the notion that the problematic character of young people today is a reflection of a society and educational system gone ‘soft’. The irony is that for at least two decades the overwhelming emphasis across education has been one of imposing conformity and control. Indeed our own campaign was born out of opposition within youth work to the overwhelming shift from social education to social engineering. In the face of short-term behavioural modification programmes based on prescribed outcomes it has been a fraught task for workers to hang on to a young person-centred practice, which starts from young people’s definition of reality and not the State’s.
Against this backcloth we need to be wary of increased support and funding for youth work as ‘soft policing’, yet alert to the possibility of renewing youth work as democratic and emancipatory. But in advocating the latter we must be open to a critical and challenging debate with young people, communities, youth workers and politicians about what we mean. Looking ahead in a climate of consternation and contradiction we hope to use our forthcoming publication, This is Youth Work, as one contribution to a series of events in the forthcoming months, ranging from a Lobby of Parliament organised by ChooseYouth to both national and regional gatherings organised in creative ways to attract the broadest audience.
It is becoming ritualistic to intone a commitment to listening to young people, yet it must be our starting point. And we need to emphasise that in recent months young people have mounted innovative resistance to cuts and closures. The politicians have failed to listen. Indeed in Oxfordshire, Cameron’s backyard and Haringey, deep in the heart of the disturbances, where young people organising for themselves have been especially vocal and articulate, the youth service has all but disappeared. This said, perhaps the greatest challenge of the moment is to locate and hear the voices of ‘the unheard’. So long as they knew their place most of us ignored their growing rootlessness. Having announced their presence in such a deeply disturbing show of strength, endangering their own communities and bringing the uneven weight of a hypocritical judicial system upon their heads, they are not holding interviews and press conferences.
We continue to believe that that reaching out to the ‘unheard’ and supporting the ‘ignored’ is best achieved through an informal educational conversation founded on an open and voluntary relationship. It is a democratic practice, within which all involved have influence and are given respect. Across the coming months this is the form of youth work, which, alongside young people, we will defend and fight to extend.
I’ve got something of a hangover from imbibing too many words over the past few days. Thus I’m cautious about posting too many links and inducing a similar state in visitors to our site. This said, there are some illuminating pieces at odds with the prevalent authoritarian dross and some from unlikely sources. And, of course, you don’t have to binge-read like me! You can partake in moderation.
They open by arguing that, there is more than one ‘lost generation’. We have seen at least two in the past months as young people have taken to the streets. Students have protested against fee rises and now a hard core urban youth have taken the stage. On both occasions, the media have focussed on the violent scenes – clashes with police and attacks on property, claiming student protesters were infiltrated by anarchists and that rioters were ‘classless’; but these two groups would seem to represent very different constituencies.
* The Daily Telegraph isn’t necessarily the first place you would go to find a scathing critique of ruling class hypocrisy and amorality, but Peter Oborne, its chief political commentator doesn’t pull his punches.
* Roy Ratcliffe takes ‘Middle England’ to task ,arguing,
The reaction of middle England to the riots, however, proves that this sector is incapable of understanding any other point of view than that stemming from its own immediate self-interests. Middle England managed to eliminate from short-term memory the repeated indignity of ‘stop-and-search‘, overlooked previous ‘deaths-in-custody‘, quickly blanked out past and recent ‘police-corruption’, and chose to ignore the earlier suspicious shooting of a black youth. During the week, middle England also failed to call for a much needed re-distribution of wealth. Neither did its representatives suggest the creation of jobs in the areas of greatest deprivation. No one from middle England called for the reinstatement of youth clubs and youth projects or the re-introduction of free university education. Instead middle England, left, right and centre bayed for the blood of a small group of rebellious, misguided lumpen proletariat it has itself helped to create.
* Nick Smith provides a detailed eye-witness account of his experience, Walworth Road: Only Fools, No Horses, capturing more of the contradictions than most of the coverage. I’ve pinched a couple of his photos. He begins, fI’m no writer. I’m not particularly good at it and it doesn’t come easy to me, but after my journey home from work today (8th August 2011), I feel the need to share my experience on the looting (especially as I’ve read a lot of rubbish both in the press and online) and so have started this blog. I find writing can be a good outlet for anger and at the moment I’m feeling pretty angry.
* You’ve probably seen this article, but it’s interesting how many people have said it’s the best thing thus far they’ve read.
North London Unity Assembly Demonstration GIVE OUR KIDS A FUTURE !
Saturday 13th August Assemble Gillet Square, Dalston, N16 at 1pm.
March to Tottenham Green,
Our communities need a united response to both the riots and the causes of despair and frustration that can result in riots.
We call for:
• A Culture of valuing, not demonising youth and unemployed people.
• Support for those affected by the rioting, including the immediate re-housing of people made homeless as well as grants for affected small businesses.
• Community led regeneration and restoration of damaged areas.
• Reversal of all cuts to youth services in our boroughs.
• No cuts to public services! Instead, investment into and regeneration of our communities, including housing, jobs, education and sports facilities.
• An independent community inquiry into policing methods in our boroughs,and an end to discriminatory stop and search.
• Availability of legal support for all those arrested by police -young peopleface potential sentences that will affect them, their families and their wider communities for years to come.
We are responding to the events of the last few days, in particular the Tottenham protest over the killing of Mark Duggan and the riots that followed in Tottenham and Hackney.
By coming together and calling for unity we want to encourage all sections of our local communities, young and old, black and white, residents and workers, to work together to find solutions to some of our long-standing problems.
We know there are all kinds of strong feelings and differing views. We do not claim to represent the whole community, but merely seek to promote unity in the communities in which we live.
Simply labelling rioters as opportunistic criminals does little to relieve tensions and provides a poor explanation for the worst riots in decades. While the shooting of Mark Duggan provided the trigger, against a background of oppressive policing, especially towards ethnic minorities, the root causes are deeper.
Our communities have been blighted by high levels of deprivation,poverty and lack of opportunity for decades.Inequality is growing and recent funding cuts to local services, particularly youth facilities, along with rising unemployment, and cuts to EMA and benefits have exacerbated the conditions in which sections of frustrated young people turned to rioting, which unfortunately has resulted in people losing their homes and small/family businesses losing their livelihoods.
Britain is a wealthycountry,but with deep inequality. The economic crisis created by greedy bankers and financial speculators is further impoverishing already poor areas like Tottenham and Hackney. The £390 billion of combined wealth of the richest 1,000 people in Britain should be redirected to fund the services we all need.
In the last few months we have seen mass local protests against cuts, student occupations to defend free education, a half-a-million-strong demonstration on March 26, and 800,000 public service workers out on strike on June 30th.
We need to build on these and other inspiring local and national struggles. Let’s work together for a decent society, based not on greed, inequality and poor conditions, but on justice, freedom, sharing and cooperation.
North London Unity Demonstration supported by the Haringey Alliance for Public Services, Hackney Alliance to Defend Public Services, Day-Mer (Turkish and Kurdish Community Centre), NLCH (North London Community Centre), Day-Mer Youth, Alevi Cultural Centre, Fed-Bir: , Kurdish Community Centre: Roj Women, Halkevi, Gik-Der (Refugee Workers Cultural Association), Britania Peace Council: Hundred Flowers Cultural Centre, TOHUM, Socialist Party, Socialist Workers Party, Youth Fight For Jobs, Right To Work,Red Pepper.
The riots seem to have sprung from nowhere, but paradoxically they have been a long time coming. Policing is a massively emotive issue for young people where I work in Hackney. Many of the young people I work with are angry about the policing of their area, even at the best of times. Young people have been telling us for years that they are stop-and-searched several times a week despite never having done anything against the law; that they are fed up with exclusion zones in their areas; that most of the police treat them as criminals. Two years ago one of the groups I worked with made a film about policing and young people, sharing their views, the majority saying that police treatment of them is discriminatory, racist and abusive. They showed their film to friends, family and police at the local cinema but the police representative justified his force’s position, and the group felt that nothing changed. Then, they are angry about their EMA (Education Maintenance Allowance) being taken away, with their careers offices and youth projects being shut down or cut down, with the lack of jobs, with not being listened to.
I was out in Hackney yesterday evening, not working, just with friends. I couldn’t make a lot of sense of what was going on; everything was moving fast where we were around Mare St, riot police had shut the road even to pedestrians, even to people trying to get home, and there were van loads of police driving up and down the road in blocks of three, and three lorry loads of police horses. The atmosphere was fairly friendly, most people didn’t have anything in their arms (weren’t looting), we overheard young people talking about anger at recent police raids and stop and search. Most of the damage seemed to be to large chain stores, not independent shops or homes. Regarding the stories of people being mugged or people’s homes being damaged, obviously that is wrong, but it isn’t the main thing that’s going on, although the media would suggest otherwise. I was at a community meeting today where people had been on Clarence Road and some said the atmosphere was positive, like a party, and there was very little violence. Some people saw young people trying to set a fire, went with others to put out the fire and tell the young people involved to stop, and the young people stopped.
Young people at the meeting said (from my rapidly scribbled notes so no guarantee of accuracy):
‘We’re angry… the policing, the cuts, no jobs, EMA going, Connexions gone, oyster cards going up – we’re at a dead end and we’ve got nothing to lose, and when people have nothing to lose they don’t care any more’.
‘We don’t get asked what we feel’.
‘I saw the police battering a 16 year old girl at the demonstration in Tottenham, that’s what got people really angry’.
‘They say we’re animalistic, but animals don’t get angry for no reason – they get angry if they’re provoked’.
‘The meeting the politicians are at today is called Cobra, that’s a snake isn’t it? To young people the word ‘snake’ means someone you can’t trust’.
‘We’ve got nothing from the Olympics’.
‘The riots are an excuse to lock up bare of us in time for the Olympics’.
‘We are genuinely scared. If Operation Trident is meant to stop young black people shooting each other and now it shoots one of us, it’s like they’re saying “you’re not killing each other fast enough, we’re going to help.”’
‘We respect our elders, we know you had it even harder than us, but we’re not looking for a part two, we want things to change’.
‘The media don’t show pictures of the peaceful demonstration just the looting’.
‘Some of us knew Mark Duggan but we all know other Mark Duggans’.
‘We’ve had enough. This is the only way we can get our voices heard’.
A mother said, ‘If the police are battering our children in front of the cameras, how are they treating them in the cells?‘ Most people felt it was important to be out with the young people, despite media and police condemnation of ‘spectators’ – community members need to be out, listening to young people, keeping an eye on the policing, and talking to anyone who thinks of attacking people’s homes or hurting people. The general consensus was that young people are understandably angry, that some or most of the time there was a positive atmosphere on the streets last night, that there were very few attacks, and that young people and Hackney in general were being demonised by the media coverage.
I met a group of young people I know on my way home tonight. They said the police had it coming, that the riots were overdue, that people have been angry for a long time and now the police have killed someone it’s no surprise there are riots. They said young people from rival postcodes were united last night against the police. They said they are angry that they are not listened to, there are no jobs and the police treat them badly. One of them said, ‘they call us violent but the prime minister has a button to set off a whole load of nuclear weapons that would kill everyone, that’s violence’.
My colleague and I had to postpone a trip we’d planned for tomorrow because we might have problems travelling across Hackney, in some ways it seems ridiculous to cancel things but the public transport keeps getting shut down at a moment’s notice, and when it kicks off the taxis stop running and it could be really difficult to get everyone home safely. We plan to go out on detached instead, to listen, to ask young people what they think and how they are feeling, and ask them what they think should be done. I have heard that most youth clubs, playschemes, sports centres as well as shops and other facilities have been shut in Hackney for safety reasons (I don’t know for sure).
Meanwhile Nathan Akehurst, the standing Member of Youth Parliament, Kensington and Chelsea has blogged on his reading of the situation in
It is mid-afternoon, and Britain is reeling in shock. Outbreaks of rioting have hit, to name but a small selection, Enfield, Ealing, Brixton, Sutton, Croydon, Kensington, Liverpool, Birmingham, Bristol, and Hackney. The windows have cracked under the strain of upholding a shattered society, and we have all – except perhaps for the government- reaped the whirlwind.
I do not condemn the riots. I do not condone the riots. To do so would be as pointless and Learesque as praising or admonishing an earthquake. For that Is what the weekend has been and may continue to be, a violent rift that has sprung up as a result of a chain of events, a nigh-on inevitable end to a sequence of causality.
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.