Street Summer Loving With Channel 4 & somewhereto_

What can one do in Westminster Hall? The answer is simple. More than you think…

Crushing the barriers of creative convention, this recently broadcast Channel 4 Street Summer ident shines some light on a rather grey matter couple of months (Rain? Riots? What else are people ranting about?), whilst showcasing the long-term plan and blue sky-high vision of a nationwide project called somewhereto_.

Delivered by youth engagement agency Livity, in media partnership with Channel 4 and funded by Legacy Trust UK, the name of the somewhereto_ game is to assist any 16-25 year old with a space to do the things they love, be it painting or rapping, writing or dancing, in arenas from a patchy park, to the oldest remaining part of the prestigious Palace of Westminster.

Yes. It’s been a summer of mixed news and emotions, especially in my home city of London town. But I look back and think it is very fitting that Channel 4’s Street Summer season about the contemporary urban arts scene was still dubbed a ‘celebration’. It most definitely was – setting off fireworks with projects from Concrete Circus (bringing together the world’s hottest names in urban sports), to How Hip Hop Changed the World (a hip hop history lesson), Life of Rhyme (exploring the UK rap and spoken word scene), and as for London and the Street Summer somewhereto_ stunt – well it just has a different feel for me since I saw the four lucky young street dancers blessing the floors of Westminster Hall.

Why shouldn’t we - even at times of great uncertainty and adversity - celebrate culture, community, young people, all people?

On that young people front I do raise a glass to work like somewhereto_ - which has an extra celebration at hand – a beat they hope we can all dance to long after this summer is out; in that somewhereto_ worked successfully with Parliament to open up an incredible space which would never normally open its doors to young people to dance in (an unprecedented achievement). And they are working to ensure the Westminster Hall special moment is just one of many stories which help creative young people realise that a space of any kind in their community can be theirs.

So, watch this space through Autumn and beyond as the somewhereto_ journey warms up to break some more records of their own by the time the London Olympic and Paralympic Games 2012 comes by.

Any young onlookers around London and the UK – the race for space is on with somewhereto_, and there’s so much up for grabs. It’s your turn and your time to think and leap outside the box – so take your pick from any one of these: www.somewhereto.com/spaces

Space-holders – play your part and give a space here: www.somewhereto.com/spaces/give-a-space

This article was also published on the Media Trust Community Channel.

Note: somewhereto_ is delivered by youth engagement agency Livity in media partnership with Channel 4. The project is funded by Legacy Trust UK, an independent charity set up to help build a lasting cultural and sporting legacy from the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games across the UK.

For more information on somewhereto_ visit: www.somewhereto.com, check them on Facebook here www.facebook.com/somewhereto, or follow them on Twitter @somewhereto_

For more information on Channel 4 Street Summer visit: www.channel4.com/streetsummer


The London Riots – Understanding The Incomprehensible

“Trying to understand grievances and anger (to prevent violence and seek justice) doesn't mean you support criminality” tweeted actor, MC and buddy Riz Ahmed (Four Lions).

That is pretty much how I’ve felt: engulfed by news and soul-killing sights of my home city on fire, accompanied by this summer’s anthem of police sirens and helicopters, whilst simultaneously attempting to comprehend what looks like trails of World War 3 in my own back yard.

Amid the flames and looting, we have despicable acts like this:

And inconsolable reactions like this:

However, when the dust settles (which it will), we have to consider – then what? That is why we need time to stop, sit back, take a breather, detach, reconnect and establish how we got to this point. We must try to understand the incomprehensible.

I’ve tried…

Forget police shortcomings. Forget “bad PR for London and the Summer Olympics 2012”. And no offence, but in the bigger picture, we might as well forget about Mark Duggan – yes an unjust killing and the unravelling vital case that seemed to provide the spark to the riots (after violence broke out at an initially peaceful protest of his death on Saturday August 5). But sadly, his story is getting lost in the pool of carnage, fear, anger and confusion left in London, and now other cities across the UK.

The bigger story in my 24 year old eyes seems to be what do we do now with the so-called ‘thugs’ responsible? There is no justification for conflict and trauma inflicted upon the innocent – each and every looter and arsonist does deserve reprimanding. NO ONE is ‘too young’ to understand that stealing, mugging, and burning down a building is wrong. But I refuse to stop at punishment as a solution. It may be hard for many to have empathy with the thousands of kids on street smashing up buildings and cars, but how did it come to this? They are a substantial group of spawns from our society, and therefore much of the responsibility to make amends must rest in our hands.

Where were the parents in all this? Note: If my parents found out I was looting before my balls dropped, my dad would’ve had me on lock down and thwacked me with a rolled up newspaper, whilst my mum would’ve given me the silent treatment (the harsher punishment).

Not saying my family is perfect, or that it’s not hard for those bringing up unruly children – but now (if ever) is the time for all parents, the government, media, schools and our communities to swallow some home truths, and listen to the young voices…

Unemployment of youth in the UK is at an all time high, as is homelessness; with numbers of those without a home souring through the non-present roof – reports say partly due to EMA cuts and rent cost inflation. This with further cuts to youth services nationwide leaves the odd teen (some of which not even old enough to vote) a tad cold towards the system. The media evidently can’t be trusted (bon voyage News of the World), and as for the police - many comments I have heard thrown out by some young people sing that age old tune: “F**k the police! They’re racist anyways”. Yet however ‘juvenile’ their perceptions may be, and despite the fact they probably haven’t helped their employment options by smashing up shops they could’ve worked in (some gathering criminal records in the process), there are too many with the same opinion to go unheard, and over the last week we heard just how loud the masses of the disconnected can be.

I’m not saying that every adolescent ‘vandal’ on the street carries a legitimate reason behind their actions. Of course there are hundreds of opportunists lacking half a logical brain cell out there who saw nothing but free trainers in JD Sports and Foot Locker. However three days of mayhem and resistance in a torn apart capital can’t be caused by a few idiotic criminals – what we witnessed was an uprising (be it with legitimate purpose or not).

That’s why, if this ever happens again (God forbid), I don’t believe sending the culprits to jail, boot camp, Guantanamo Bay (as one friend suggested) is enough. Nor is a national curfew, military intervention, rubber bullets or that ever-mentioned water cannon; that may tidal wave away some of the delinquents, but it won’t alter the mentality of a seemingly lost generation.

IF we are not to follow with the same naivety, misguidance and apathy as the young guns we label as ‘senseless thugs’, we must now act as a nationwide attentive community to reinforce social values (not just discipline); government, schools, parents and young people in it for the long haul. There is no quick fix, we shouldn’t look for one – but instead perhaps embrace and learn from the great mini-headlines from the riots portraying brighter community potential for the aftermath; particular shout outs to the Riot Cleanup groups, my local shopkeepers on Green Street in east London (and elsewhere) standing together and chasing off gang trouble-seekers, and the youth-led media response from the likes of those at Livity’s Live Magazine - based in Brixton - constantly overcoming any pigeon-hole negative assumptions concerning the younger generation with their socially responsible, active and objective youth voice and work.

Much has been taken. But there is much to take.

It is now a task of immense proportions, but cross-community commitment will be rewarded upon the horizon. I’m not the optimistic type by nature, but when asked if I can make sense of the London riots, I prefer to conclude by thinking that together, we just might be able turn this around, and then, hopefully my 13 year old nephew’s generation might look back in 10 years and say – “Well, that was just stupid, innit!”.

This article was also published on the Media Trust Community Channel.