A boy glides down the concrete floor on a small, silver scooter; he waves at some girls before almost crashing into a metal fence. They laugh sweetly; he joins in. A slightly older boy eases through multiple, peeling columns on his ‘Simpsons’ skateboard – a wide smile from ear to ear, brown eyes burning brightly. The hands on his swinging arms bear colourful stains; so do mine. Moments ago we had feasted on multiple packs of skittles. We needed to do it. It gave us strength and power – “Skittle Power!” is what we called it. These stains, along with this scene, are now just fading memories. The scene is ridden with cheese, yes, but this is an honest scene. Scenes like this were all too prevalent in the mid-nineties when I lived in North Peckham Estate. Quite unlike what we hear about, or read about now. Today, things are different. Peckham is a dangerous place. Inner city London is a dangerous place. Journalists construe words to project London as a rather terrible place to be, and maybe to an extent that’s true, but London, specifically inner city London, is much better than it was ten years ago and it is without doubt progressing at a rapid pace.
It’s been almost ten years since the tragic death of Damilola Taylor. Ever since then, we’ve heard frequent reports and stories about youth crime and all its affiliations – knife crime and happy slapping. These stories are rather sad but they only show one side of London, a side that is in my opinion, decaying.
There are many things which have been built up and established in order to reduce youth crime. Soon after the death of Damilola Taylor, a Youth Centre was established in his name. It houses various activities which aim at getting kids off the streets – “Sports and activity programmes: football, karate, gym, badminton, basketball, streetdance, trips and discussions.” (southwark.gov.uk).
PSS (Peckham Supplementary School) is also another brilliant place in Peckham, which aims at not only trying to get kids off the streets, but to teach them as well. I frequented PSS when I was younger and it was, undoubtedly, a great place to be and to learn. I met up with Afolabi Olawunmi, 21, who discussed his time at PSS – “It taught me about a lot of things, things that will stay with me forever”. When considering this, it’s clear to see that people are trying to establish some kind of order. Many are putting their heads together, trying to formulate a way in which to eradicate crime and all the other negativity that surrounds London.
Inner city London is improving drastically. Children are turning away from crime, getting off the streets and embracing the many opportunities offered to them. There will always be your odd news story detailing London as a horrible and dangerous place to be, but if you don’t live there how can you really know? Taking a stroll down Peckham is hardly going to give you a well-rounded opinion on things.