Monday, 13 December 2010

Gangs or no gangs...will we ever know?

When a Hackney youth club closed down in August the Hackney Gazette reported (21 Oct) that it had something to do with a lease... or some "minor refurbishments".

A week later, in a full council meeting, Hoxton councillor Philip Glanville claimed that the club's management had closed it down because of gangs. He said that the claims had been made in emails to the council from SkyWay, the organisation which runs the Blue Hut youth club.
In the Gazette's October story a council spokesperson said that the club would re-open in the new year. Those plans are still in place but the story of the club's closure remains mysterious because of these claims about gangs.

Skyway's allegations were pursued by Hoxton's Labour councillors - Clayeon Mackenzie, Philip Glanville and Carole Williams. Cllr Glanville said that the Dalston-based SkyWay didn't report these gang-related problems to the police or the council or anyone else.

He brought the issue to the attention of a full council meeting in October when a report by the Children and Young People (CYP) Scrutiny Commission was published which claimed that Blue Hut was running well.

The report described the Blue Hut project as one that dealt specifically with gangs. It trained
15-24-year-olds to show their peers that, "there is an alternative to the gangs many young people will see on a daily basis."

Six months before the club was closed down by the alleged gang activity the CYP Scrutiny Commission visited and reported that: 'Staff at the Blue Hut said that the results so far have been very positive and they have seen a number of the peers grow in maturity & confidence..."

Glanville said that when Blue Hut closed "none of us could really believe that turn of events" adding that "SkyWay's initial response was that it was plagued by problems, we were worried that events had so quickly changed for the worst, or that something may have been misrepresented".

Now the centre could reopen with no further explanation of the alleged gang problem and why it wasn't reported.

Blood and Property called SkyWay but no one would comment or even say that the organisation was officially making "no comment".

The reopening may be good news but something must have been wrong for this to have happened. Either there was a gang problem or there wasn't. It seems unlikey that the decision by SkyWay to shut down the project was only due to a problem with a fire escape as it is now being portrayed.

Hopefully it hasn't been made difficult for SkyWay to explain the true nature of the situation.

In April a 16-year-old girl was shot dead in a Hoxton chicken shop (Hackney Hive report with interesting comments) which resulted in a number of teenagers as well as a couple of men in their twenties being charged.

So the idea that there might be a gang problem in Hoxton is not exactly far-fetched - it just doesn't sound like a valid reason to close down a project designed to deal with gang problems.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. From Remi at Hackney Hive:

    A few months ago I asked a 'community youth leader' in the same area what happened to Blue Hut, I received a very short reply, saying:

    "The Blue is closed because it has no fire exit and this posses as a risk to all that uses the venue"

    If it was that simple surely Blue Hut and all concerned would say it.

    The problem with a lot of these places is that I believe there is always gang activity around it. I'm not saying within the clubs, but the threat is very real and for some hard nose individual youth leaders, they would rather ignore it than lose their funds and status. For registered charities and companies they are more accountable hence why Blue Hut may have pulled out.