In August 2011 I was a a participant on a project run by Blue Sky youth organisation in Macedonia, called ‘The Road to Gender Equality’, which explored issues of gender affecting those in the EU, and there were other participants from Macedonia, Albania, and Holland. I spent a week learning, laughing, loving talking about my nationality and culture and what it means to me.
On the train home from Luton Airport on Tuesday late afternoon, we got word via mobiles/mobile internet that the rioting had spread and Manchester, my city, was about to suffer. I live very centrally in Manchester, so arrived back very concerned and scared.
Throughout that fateful eveing we saw many people, mostly young, on bikes come past outside, hoods over their heads and weapons/stolen items in their hands. The huge music shop Dawsons in Piccadilly Gardens (the dead centre of Manchester) had been smashed in and items stolen, and we watched many young people pass our pub holding guitars as well as stolen alcohol, clothes and shoes etc.
At one point, the riot was pushing right past our front door by mounted police, which was really scary for me, however I felt protected as there were some big tough people in my home and nearby ready to defend themselves! I was definitely concerned for the safety of my home at various points that night, and I have never felt in that way before.
The next morning I woke early after a bad nights sleep, and made it to the centre of Manchester by 8:30am wearing a tshirt and hoodie from Youth Discovery Ventures, and armed with a dustpan and brush, and my facepaints! While I was on the Momentum Leadership Course a few weeks ago I discovered my ability and enthusiasm for using facepaint as a way of connecting with people, so I saw an opportunity to see if it worked.
I looked around my city and cried at what I saw.
I felt a strong sense of loyalty for not only my Manchester but also my country against what I would describe as an internal threat. I walked around the city and cleared up a bit of glass, however Manchester City Council had been amazing during the night and managed to sweep away most mess from the streets. Shop workers were dazed and crying in their shops, trying to make sense of their half stolen stock, their broken windows, their damaged property.
Throughout that day I estimate that I painted over 75 faces, with messages such as ‘I LOVE MCR’, English flags and other symbols of pride, and to almost every person I painted I spoke about the sadness of what had happened, but also the amazing morale and community spirit that was crackling in the air. My intention was to remind people that these young people rioting were a minority, and many more young people were present during the day with brooms and rubbish bags to help clean up. I refused to paint any negative or confrontational messages even though I was asked a few times.
I’m no matyr, and I’m not writing this to boast or to seek approval or praise. I was among almost 1,000 other citizens who turned up for the same reason, to try and claw back our city.
In light of these events, it’s more important than ever to be proud of your city, your country, or even other people in the world making a stand for all that is right. There are so many news reports on tv, in newspapers etc at the moment focusing on the negativity of this generation we are losing to disillusionment, laziness and greed, so I wrote this article as positive force to counteract this. I’m now reposting this on Casting a Hero, because it is still as important and relevant now as it is then.
Youth Discovery Ventures, the organisation I am a Director of, is all about creating, learning, understanding and growing, and it’s a cause I believe in. We need more organisations to get involved in positively tackling the issues that affect young people or things are very bleak for the future of our communities. I feel too unequipped and unresearched to comment on the influence other complicated issues such as criminal justice, discipline, and poverty has had on recent events, but I think these are also important factors to consider in an attempt to understand – not excuse, what has happened, and to learn from it.
In my opinion, people are inherently good, but there are various reasons that cause them to do things that are not so good. We need provision for young people in deprived areas. We need focus on bringing citizenship, access to work and lifeskills into the curriculum in a innovative and interactive way. We need faith and respect in our young generation as they are the leaders of the future, and we will one day be putting not only our future, but the entire future of humanity in their hands. This shouldn’t be scary, this should be exciting. The only way we can do this is through being less apathetic and finding out what part we can play, however big, in making our world more beautiful.
What do you think?