Wednesday, 24 August 2011

The London Riots, the early years and community development

During a peaceful, if wet, holiday in the Lake District it was hard to imagine the violence and destruction of neighbourhoods near where I live in north-east London, and over in Tottenham close to where I learnt so much about early education and care at Woodlands Park Nursery Centre. I'm not sure about Graham Allen's argument that the riots support the need for early intervention. That just seems too behaviourist to me - you input early childhood services, and you output calm teenagers and young adults. It is probably too early to come up with explanations or policies, anyway. Why was there hardly any disorder in Tower Hamlets, for example, compared to other parts of east London; why were Scotland and Wales not affected? I can't believe it's got much to do with early childhood services. Let's argue for them in their own right, and not use social disorder like a gun to the head of society, to get what we want for young children and their families. Firefighters - High Road Tottenham & Lansdowne Road My very good friend Zena Brabazon, who does so much for community development in Tottenham, blogged:
My watch was being repaired at Paradise Gems on Tottenham High Road. It was a gift from people I worked with for many years in Haringey Council. It melted in the fire when this business was destroyed.
Together, our team built a nationally recognised out-of-school and holiday childcare service used by hundreds of families across the borough. Combined with the early years provision, many dedicated and creative staff worked really hard to give local children a head start and enable their parents to work.
After that, I and my watch moved on, to work in regeneration. Working with a new team, we brought millions of pounds to Tottenham High Road - applying for every grant and funding stream we could think of. The results - in the refurbished buildings and new shopfronts - were there for all to see and enjoy.
We not only restored buildings and their facades. We worked with other agencies and private owners to create decent homes above the shops. And we encouraged traders to combine their own money with the public grants for new shop fronts. Over the years we did this the High Road really improved. Along with new streetlights and paving, each improvement increased - we hoped - the civic pride of the area.
Following the riot it feels that it'll take years to repair the damage done to Tottenham this weekend. Those who burned buildings, made people homeless, smashed windows, destroyed businesses and jobs did not act or speak for "the community". Thousands of people in Tottenham make efforts everyday to improve and build a real community, Over the years we've all tried to repair the damage suffered by residents. Like my watch, that melted last night and now we have to start again.
See photos and read more from Zena and her partner Alan Stanton.