As London marks a year since the capital erupted into riots last August, we spoke to three members of Live, a magazine produced by young people in Brixton (one of the areas badly hit by the riots) and asked them if anything had changed for young people in the area over the last twelve months?
Christian Adofo,23, Sports Editor at LIVE Magazine
‘Relations between the police and young people are a bit better with regard to more consultation with communities about their strategies. For example, they are providing more explanations for stopping and searching people.
Opportunities for young people aren’t better, though. I know friends who have graduated from university and can’t even get a part-time job in a delivery warehouse. A Friday night now usually consists of picking up a few beers and going to a mate’s house rather than paying a tenner for a club night.
There is still an undercurrent of tension in communities because there is the contrast of billions of cash being ploughed into the economy for the Olympics while innumerable cuts are being made to local youth services. The sentences handed out to rioters in comparison to penalties imposed on those in the City who have caused this recession were harsh and there is a feeling of double standards.’
Zindzi Rocque-Drayton, 22, Features Editor at LIVE Magazine
‘The relationship with the police definitely hasn’t improved. Many people, including friends, were arrested and received prison sentences in the months after the riots for merely being curious and walking into the shops that had been broken into. A few misguided minutes caught up in the excitement of the riots has resulted in a lifelong stain on some young people’s otherwise blank criminal record.
David Cameron blamed the riots on gang activity, but that completely neglected the issues facing young people. Not only are young people struggling to get jobs, they now don’t even have university as a realistic alternative route, due to the extortionate tuition fees. The tension and anger towards the government has increased. Young people financially don’t have the option to be independent, with talk of under 25s being denied housing benefits and the prices of buying a house in London or even renting being unattainable, young people see no future for themselves.
If people feel that they have nothing to lose, which unfortunately is the case for many young people, then why wouldn’t they riot again? Prison sentences are just as hard to imagine as finding a decent job, owning your own home and feeling valued as a young person in the city of London.’
Robbie Wojciechowski, 17, Music Editor of LIVE Magazine
‘There’s a fear mentality from the police’s side regarding the potential destruction that young people can cause in a very small space of time. Equally, there’s fear for the potential force the police have access to, with speculation over the use of rubber bullets, water cannons and pepper spray to use in policing future riots. There’s a lot of distrust on both sides.
Opportunities have been cut; LIVE, for example, has lost all of its funding. But the riots have led to some community leaders taking action by setting up their own charities, on the little bits of funding they can find. There’s a feeling of social responsibility – we need to all help each other out.
When I spent time at the Occupy camp, I saw a society build itself up from the cracked pavements outside St Paul’s. And the first thing that emerged there was education (at the Tent City Uni) and welfare, with the food the kitchen. Young people have an anger to express, and with the riots of last year they found their chance to do that. It won’t be the last time, I’ll tell you that much.’ Rebecca Taylor
Live Magazine is a youth project run by youth engagement agency Livity. For more info, see live-magazine.co.uk. Do you think things have changed? Comment below.