Hello and welcome to the November Chair’s blog. My name is Zara and I am the Chair of the Youth of Walsall. What did you think of my first chair’s blog post? Yay or nay? Let us know via our social media pages or drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear your thoughts.
Onwards with the blog post!
November has been crazy busy! We presented our ‘Real Knives, Real Lives’ knife awareness campaign at the Near Neighbours Big Conversation event, we attended the launch of The James Brindley Foundation and Full Circle programme, our Walsall Members of Youth Parliament (MYP’s) and I went to the House of Commons for the Annual Sitting, we’ve made great progress with the campaign, we’ve had elections for the Youth Police and Crime Commissioner (YPCC) and we’ve picked up some new members along the way.
Near Neighbours - The Big Conversation (Real People, Honest Talk)
We were invited by the lovely Ruth Burgess from Near Neighbours to present our ‘Real Knives, Real Lives’ knife awareness campaign at The Big Conversation event. We wanted to help attendees understand that knife crime is not just a youth issue, but young people are being proactive in trying to tackle it. Our social media officer, Charlotte, and I really enjoyed the event and there was some major mingling happening with the other attendees who expressed how impressed they were with our work and presentation, so we’re looking forward to making future partnerships.
The James Brindley Foundation and Full Circle Programme Launch
The day after the Big Conversation event, Charlotte, Asad (Vice Chair) and I attended the launch of The James Brindley Foundation and Full Circle Programme organised by his parents, Mark and Beverley Brindley and his sister, Charlotte. James was killed in a knife attack last year in Aldridge, Walsall. The foundation has been set up in his name to help teenagers who are at risk of turning to crime. The Full Circle Programme has been developed by qualified social workers, criminologists, and teachers and will focus on child exploitation, peer pressure, anti-social behaviour, substance misuse, gang culture, and violent behaviour. It will educate individuals on how their attitudes and actions directly and indirectly affect others, the legal consequences of their actions, and provide them with the skills to make positive informed choices that are alternatives to the use of violence and weapons.
I was very moved by Mark and Beverley’s stories about James, the kind of person he was, how he was loved by friends and family, how he was starting his own business and how their beloved son was killed. His promising life was cut short. We look forward to working with the Brindley family as part of our campaign to ensure that other young people within Walsall don’t feel the need to carry knives either as a form of protection or to hurt other people.
UK Youth Parliament - House of Commons Sitting
Members of Youth Parliament for Walsall Renée Samra and Mariam Sohail at Houses of Parliament.
On Friday 9 November, I had the privilege of accompanying our MYP’s Mariam Sohail and Renée Samra to the UK Youth Parliament’s Annual Sitting. MYP’s from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland gathered in the House of Commons to debate the top 5 issues chosen by young people in their annual ‘Make Your Mark’ consultation. This year’s consultation has seen a record breaking 1,106,788 young people take part, making it one of the largest youth consultations of its kind in UK history, with 1 in 5 of all young people aged 11-18 taking part. I was so inspired by the intelligent, articulate and confident MYP’s that spoke in the debate. They are seriously amazing! These young people know what they’re talking about and are passionate about making a change in their communities. The debate was broadcast on BBC Parliament, but if you missed it, you can catch it here. Mariam was chosen by the Speaker of the House, John Bercow, to speak on the issue of homelessness and she was brilliant. Watch Mariam's speech on our Facebook page.
Unfortunately, Renée was not chosen, but Charlotte filmed her empowering speech. Watch Renée's speech on our Facebook page.
Fun fact: On Friday 30 October 2009, MYP’s debated in the House of Commons chamber for the first time in history, becoming the first and only group to ever debate within the chamber other than Members of Parliament, how cool is that?
'Real Knives, Real Lives' Campaign update:
We are working in partnership with Charlene Grant, a local artist, and PC Simon Bradley, Walsall Police Partnerships team to run some art-based workshops in 5 schools across Walsall in the new year.
We are also running an art competition for 11-14 year olds (Key Stage 3) who live or go to school in Walsall. The theme is ‘The Effects of Knife Crime’. The winner and 2 runners up will receive £30, £20 and £10 Amazon vouchers. We will be releasing more information about this soon, so watch this space.
We have been working on a film, in partnership with Fixers, to help young people understand the effects of peer pressure to carry a knife and the effect it has on family. We hope to premiere the film at the Police and Crime Commissioner’s Youth Summit and then it will be made public the following day for everyone to see and use. We want everyone to be able to use the film in order to show young people the damaging and long-lasting effects of knife crime.
Terriers - VIP Performance
Charlotte and I were invited to a VIP performance of ‘Terriers’, a play by Maurice Bessman which incorporated acting, dance and a pounding soundtrack to explore the pressures of being in a gang and the moral dilemmas and life-changing decisions that some young people are forced to make. It was a stunning play that really helps you to understand why it can be so difficult for young people who are caught up in gang culture to escape. The Terriers gang are involved in a gang war with their rivals The DH Crew. The play illustrated the vicious circle of death that being in a gang entails. We would definitely recommend watching it if you get the chance.
Meeting with Sally Rowe
We were happy to welcome the Director of Children’s Services at Walsall Council, Sally Rowe, to one of our meetings this month. We updated Sally on the progress of our campaign and I was glad to see that she was quite impressed with our work. Sally will be helping us to promote our campaign within schools because we want as many young people as possible to know that we are trying to raise awareness about the effects of knife crime.
What else has happened?
Our very own Mariam Sohail and Harvind Grewal have been elected as the Youth Police and Crime Commissioners (YPCC) for Walsall. They were elected by young people across Walsall to represent Walsall and they will work to highlight important issues that affect young people and work to improve them. We wish them both luck, but we know they will be brilliant!
The YOW family is growing! We’ve had 5 lovely new members join us in the last few weeks. We’re excited to have them and we hope they’re just as excited to join us. See if you can spot them in our recent photos on social media.
What’s coming up in December:
We will be presenting our campaign at the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner’s Youth Summit where we will premiere our short film made in partnership with Fixers, which we are very excited about.
We will also be ending this busy and productive year with our YOW Christmas party (mince pie anyone?). There may even be some Secret Santa involved.
That brings me to the end of this month’s blog post - phew, that was a long one! I know I’ve bombarded you with lots of information this month, so if you’ve got any questions or comments, feel free to drop us an email at email@example.com or message us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
Join me again in my next blog post in December – “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas”! But for now, it’s goodbye, adios and ciao from me!
Thanks for reading,