United Estates of Wythenshawe – Documentary Footage Used by the National News
THE authorities should listen to the real experts on gun crime – not highly-paid consultants.
That was the message from a two-day conference organised by community leaders in Wythenshawe yesterday.
Ordinary people from problem estates across the country attended, including reformed criminals and victims of crime.
The aim was to draw up a manifesto – including suggestions to help put an end to gun crime and create peace and harmony on the streets.The completed manifesto will then be passed to the government.
Organiser Greg Davis, 39, of the United Estates of Wythenshawe group, which runs a community hall, gym and dance studio in a church he refurbished with the help of local people and youngsters, said it was ‘time for positive action’.
He said: “It is no good pointing the finger or blaming people when our estates are in such a poor condition.
“The government are asking the right questions but they are asking the wrong people. They use consultants for an enormous variety of social issues. The only ‘consultants’ they haven’t talked to are the people who live on our estates.
“When people listened to Jamie Oliver, when he said food in schools was no good, they did so because he was an expert.
“We have had first hand experience of gang culture either as perpetrators or victims. We are the experts in this.”
Speaking in the foyer of a gym at what was once a dilapidated church in Broadoak Road, Benchill, he explained how he and local young men had ‘built this place between us’.
The married dad of three added: “In this day and age, kids will join gangs. If they want to join a gang, they can join my gang. We refurbish old buildings, turn dilapidated churches into gyms and dance studios and paint fences for old ladies.
“What we have here is an opportunity to provide real answers to real problems.”
Lenny Robinson, 37, from Benchill who is a director and consultant for the Shield Force Security company, said: “Highly-paid consultants are brought in to drive around estates like this one and report back that there are problems – but they don’t offer any solutions.
“Why use taxpayer’s money to pay their astronomical fees when for the price of a cup of tea we can tell the authorities exactly what they need to know.”
He explained that the gym and community facilities provided by local people were used by some of the most difficult youngsters but that there was very seldom any trouble.
“If we can create something like this from nothing, imagine what we could do with proper funding,” he said.
Also at the conference were representatives from Carisma – a group working for peace in the community in Moss Side – along with residents from estates in Newcastle, Sheffield, Nottingham, Birmingham and Liverpool.
Bob Croxton, a self confessed former gangster from Liverpool said: “For 25 years I have been involved in criminality but as I faced a future of a never-ending stretch of custodial sentences,
I decided to change things. Having turned his back on crime, he now runs a crime information website which includes details of help and rehabilitation organisations.
“I believe what Greg has put together here is fantastic,” he said.
He said he thought part of the answer was to give out longer prison sentences for firearms offences.
The work of the United Estates of Wythenshawe group is part of a study by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
A year ago, the charity began looking at how the group reach out to problem youngsters through their gym and community café along with a number of other projects across the country.
A report on their work which will incorporate details of the two day conference will be produced by the foundation at the end of this year or early next year.