I attended a celebration event that praised the endeavours of a group of young people from a Youth Inclusion Project in Oldham that have been working with Peshkar artists on a digital theatre project that raised awareness of the problems of gun, gang and knife crime.
The event, that was the culmination of work supported by the Home Office, showcased the work of the group to an audience of the young people themselves, as well as parents, stakeholders and the artists who delivered the project.
Over the course of the project, the young people had devised, learned skills and created a digital presentation that fully utilised the full range of processes that can be involved in media production and the end result demonstrated the awareness raising power of an issue that faces many young people, who only for a set of circumstances Beyond their control they find themselves as either victims or perpetrators of gang crime.
The anecdotes that the key workers shared about the personal journeys of these young people, of whom many have found themselves at the risk of exclusion or are, indeed, already in a system of integrated support from local agencies, reminded me of the importance of the work that Peshkar does.
The importance of culture in young people’s lives.
At the heart of our core programme of work is an interest in better understanding gang culture in the UK and why young people feel the need to hang out with a certain group and the pressures and consequences of those decisions.
Indeed much of this interest stems from my own memories of growing up, and the consequences of losing my father at a relatively early age. Fortunately for me, I was lucky enough to have a stable familial structure behind me and although I did horrendously as a sixteen year old sitting my exams, I was lucky enough to live in a house where books, records, films and the theatre were openly encouraged.
Through this I started my own band, joined a local community drama group (I was too disruptive to join in the school play!) and began to plot a career for myself. It’s only now when I think back, that I wasn’t actually thinking about a career, I was actually just dreaming up ideas, and after the ideas, a career emerged. The thread through all these elements however, is the notion of the group. The four piece rock’n’roll band, the theatre group, the football team. They are all just gangs really, they just require a bit more commitment and structure than hanging on street corners looking for trouble.
Young people need gangs because they need to feel like they belong. Gangs are just micro-communities, it’s what they do in those communities though that becomes the issue. This is where organisations such as Peshkar come in. Through our processes of engagement we want to take those young people forward and support their personal and professional development through content creation, the power of art to change lives and access to their cultural entitlement, which in difficult ecomonic times is frequently under threat. We encourage them to form a different gang, that uses the readily available digital tools and platforms that enables them to create their own creative environments, telling their own stories.
To become their own cultural content producers.
Jim Johnson, Artistic Director