76 young people ‘died’ in December 2011 riots

Image copyright EMBIS

A total of 76 young people have died since the riots of December 2011, the BBC can reveal.

The people making their own lives and livelihoods after joining organisations such as Aspire and the Markham Trust speak of raw and vibrant communities, or places transformed.

However, some say attitudes have changed little since the violence of that chaotic time.

On the same day as Five Decades was announced, the BBC’s Rowing Enthusiast asked this to remember the 49th anniversary of the start of the Battle of Britain, in which 369 people died.

“We all had times as a youngster when we would do something and have that feeling of relief and that feeling of expectation and this feeling of ultimate let-down,” he said.

Alison Quinton, who had grown up in Hackney, East London, reflects on her experiences of “apprenticeships” with both the King George VI and the Queen Mother and younger family members, where they brought the livelihoods of people in East London by accident – inspired by the young men in East Dulwich who had taken up the defence of the town in World War II.

“Their lives were launched, and we took off with that momentum, really,” she says.

“My earliest memories are of my father handing the finished billet to the Queen Mother and her grandchildren, and my father telling her that my brother, my brother’s best friend, had been wounded in New Guinea.”

The six months these people have worked as an apprentice group were very different from anything they had experienced before.

The day before they started they had seen their homes burned down and many of their family and friends had been killed. They had not prepared for anything like that and soon found themselves without trust and security.

Ms Quinton says she and the other workers “were tied down to the plan and we had to live up to it, even though we had been freshly bombed a day before”.

She recalls the excitement of seeing people move back into their neighbourhood and seeing the round about scarves and bracelets people had been selling “and these fresh flowers”.

Image copyright Robert Hayons

For Robert Hayon, who had grown up in Tottenham and has now become the co-founder of the Markham Trust in North London, the sense of hopelessness and emptiness in his childhood neighborhood was legendary.

“Because of the rise in violence it had become this big empty space of relentless threat and more acute really than violence has ever been, in my adult experience,” he says.

For Aspire project manager Fazia Islam, one of the most memorable moments of their work was to see thousands of children, some still in nappies, come to the end of their school day and go home to their parents.

“They are the biggest success story for us. And there’s something special about saying goodbye to them that actually, you have to remember. They haven’t got a chance to take a second.”

Aspire is now working with a gang of boys in Camden, east London, who have returned to the north east of the borough after separating from their own gangs.

They say they found there was a sense of bewilderment in the girls in the group.

“The girls were at the centre of everything, of attention and they wanted as much as they could get.”

Aspire, the Markham Trust and the King George VI and the Queen Mother groups have all had life changing results for thousands of people.

But some of the larger groups do not have quite the same longevity. The Markham Trust, which was first set up in 2002 to look at bringing together the gangs in Hackney and the way many community groups started in the 1980s, is calling for the next phase of its work to deal with what it calls “offspring”.

They’re looking at how wider racial issues can be addressed.

For Islamic and Sheikhs from the four diverse communities in the Markham Trust projects in Hackney and Enfield, there is an urgent need to work together so that they can see a future where everyone feels that their futures are bright and get the people who have lived in their communities for so long to feel they have invested in, not apart from it.

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