Grassroots Hackney youth group will close unless new team of workers are found

A Voice of Youth Workshop in action. Photo by Voice of Youth

A Voice of Youth Workshop in action. Photo by Voice of Youth - Credit: Voice of Youth

A grassroots Hackney youth group will close unless a new team of workers – both paid and unpaid – can sign up for the cause.

Voice of Youth, which has been running educational projects across the borough for more than six years, aims to give a platform to people aged eight to 19 living in Hackney.

One of the first issues taken on by the group was the effect of the London riots in 2011, which saw protests and looting taking place across Hackney.

A group of, largely, teenagers came together to debate what kinds of people the rioters were, and their motivation to take criminal action. This six-week project culminated in a play at the Lea View Estate community hall to educate young people on the impact of the riots.

In 2014 another group who felt that schools in Hackney – academies in particular – were too disciplinarian started a project called Do Schools Respect Human Rights?

At the end of it the kids had made a fictional “mockumentary” film where young people discussed the prevalence of CCTV at schools and whether youth councils can really make a difference.

Lita Wallis, who has worked at Voice of Youth for almost four years, said: “Austerity means that there is less and less funding for youth work, and youth clubs all over London have been downsized or closed.

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“Combine this with more pressure than ever from schools and social media, plus increasing violence and hate crime - it’s not an easy time to grow up.

“Nowadays children and young people have very few places to go where they are not being pressured to behave or succeed or perform. So offering a safe space to relax, learn, play or think critically about the world together is increasingly rare.”

The group has about £16,000 in the kitty for a project using creative activities to get young people talking about social issues in Hackney, but a team of volunteers and paid employees is needed to direct everything.

Lita added: “Being a co-operative means we all have equal status so there are no bosses. We choose to commit to the work because we get to shape everything we do and we enjoy it.”

The group is planning a meeting at 6pm on March 5. E-mail by Feb 19 if you’d like to go. The venue has yet to be finalised.