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11 August 2016

It has now been 5 years since the London Riots began.

Back in August 2011, over a period of days the news agenda was dominated by images of riots and widespread disorder in parts of London and other cities. Although it was certainly not the case that only young people were involved, much attention has focused on their role.

We were keen to understand the impact and consequences of the events on young Londoners and members within our network. So during the days immediately after the riots, we asked a number of experienced youth leaders for their reactions, about what had happened, why it had happened and what could be done about it. A year later, we went back to the same youth clubs to see whether things had changed, whether the views of those youth workers – or the young people they worked with – had evolved, so as to try and understand what was needed within communities to stop the kinds of disturbances that happened in 2011 from happening again. Read our 2012 report Perspectives: one year on for a full overview.

Have things moved on for the positive?

Now 5 years on, Micheal Watson – a member of our Dare London youth advisory board and who has also lived in Tottenham since the age of three – says his community is still unfairly judged.

“It does carry a stereotype to it: oh if you’re from Tottenham then you’re automatically bad,” says Micheal Watson, a 20-year-old martial arts teacher from the area who is heavily involved with youth work in the community. “I think a lot of people overplay the riot situation. They assume all the kids were going to turn out bad and that honestly isn’t the case. It’s unfair how people judge Tottenham.”

Shivangee Patel, our Head of Communications and who was also working here in 2011 when the riots took place, says:

“At the time there was a lot of talk around the role of young people during the riots,” she explains. “There was a lot of jumping to conclusions that it was just young people who were involved. When someone is wearing a hoody you can’t tell what age they are.”

“During the riots young people were definitely portrayed negatively. They had to fight to get the message out there, to say, ‘look we’re doing positive stuff’ There were a lot of youths involved in the clean-up.”

“When I think about how relationships are between the police and the community now, compared to the riots five years ago, I don’t think I can necessarily say they have got better. More needs to happen to invest in resources for police officers and youth workers working together.” 

Micheal and Shivangee were both interviewed by Huffington Post on their reflections 5 years on from the London Riots for a short film. Visit the Huffington Post website to see the film and full article.

The role of youth work

In the immediate aftermath, youth work had a really strong role to play in building resilience and rebuilding trust and confidence in communities after the riots. In the long-term, we know that good youth work helps young people develop the confidence, resilience and relationships to develop into healthy, happy adults able to navigate fulfilling careers and contribute in their communities.

Tackling Youth Violence Network

In 2012 we set up this forum after one of our members – who works in an area of high gang activity – approached us to support them to share their challenges and find creative solutions with other professionals who were facing similar issues. Since the network began we have developed good relationships with the police, MOPAC, Home Office, Youth Justice Board, with an aim to share learning back and fourth between these decision-makers and this group of on-the-ground professionals. By doing this, we hope to increase awareness of the vital role of quality youth work and community youth organisations can play in preventing and reducing youth violence, crime and gang involvement.