Monday, 30 May 2011

History of Fitzrovia Youth in Action

Fitzrovia Youth in Action was set up by teenagers and young adults in 1997 in response to tensions around the Warren play area and 5-a-side football pitch, situated just behind central London’s busy Tottenham Court Road.

Residents living around the Warren had become increasingly worried about vandalism and anti-social behaviour.  Small groups of young people met up at night to drink and play loud music from car stereos. A few years earlier, there had been pitched battles taking place at the Warren between White and Asian youths and tensions continued with residents finding weapons hidden inside the bushes around the playground. The benches were smashed up, the walls were covered in graffiti and there were no dustbins.  The ground in the play area was strewn with broken glass.  Parents did not bring their little children to the playground because they thought it was too dangerous.  The fencing around the pitch was regularly broken up with people playing football late at night.

Young people got together themselves, without the involvement of any youth workers or other organisation, and began meeting every week on the broken benches in the playground.  Begging or ‘borrowing’ brooms from road sweepers, we swept up the glass and threw away the wrecked benches and other dumped materials in a skip.  We decided to re-allocate some bins from Tottenham Court Road and placed them in the Warren ourselves. Each week we met in the Warren and each week we did it again.  When people littered the play area or played loud music at night, others put their ‘street cred’ on the line by asking them to turn the volume down and to put bottles in the bin instead of smashing them.  We removed the graffiti from the play equipment.  No more appeared. After a while we realised we did not need to do so much clearing up.

We had to raise all the resources we needed ourselves.  We put together an organising committee of young people and everyone chipped in £5 to open a bank account for the group.  We approached local business and planned a football tournament, the ‘ Fitzrovia Cup’, involving youth, resident and business teams. When the tournament was held on 19 July 1997, we used the occasion to launch ourselves formally as a youth organisation with the specific aim of supporting young people in youth-led community action.   We became a registered charity in 2000.

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