Peace Mix: Ending gang culture through music

Uanjuma Joseph Thompson is the co-founder of charity New Day Foundation. In his own words he talks about growing up in Birmingham, why he helped set up the NDF and the charity's latest project Peace Mix.
When I was young we used to go to our local community space in the summer: the Aston Villa Leisure and Sport Centre. There used to be events there all the time. You could go down there any day of the week and meet kids from Hansworth, Ladywood, Moseley, Hartley; young people from all postcodes having fun together. That was how I met most of my first friends some of whom have sadly passed away through gang crime. In our area of inner city Birmingham we all grew up together, even if we lived in estates away from each other and across town, we used to hang out in the same places and go to the same parks. There were always community centres we could go to which kept the community spirit alive. But as I grew up those community centres disappeared. They even tore down the apparatus in the park that we used to use. With nowhere to hang out and nothing to do, pretty soon one thing led to another: disenfranchised kids with no community centres gradually getting involved in serious crime - we see it all the time. When they end up to prison they have to get in with the right people to get protection and survive, this is how kids I know learn and adopt a gang culture. By far the biggest misconception about kids in gangs is that they’re bad kids. They’re loving and caring, if you give them a hug and you’ll feel the intensity and love from them. Inside of the circles they’re involved in you’ll see that clearly what they're really like but outside of that you won’t even glimpse it. They’re on the other side of an impenetrable wall. However things are changing again, community centres, a community spirit and big social projects are all happening once more. There’s loads going on for young people to get involved in but they now feel those places are not for them – they feel left out, alienated, uncomfortable. Seeing what was happening on the street, I got involved in the New Day Foundation (NDF) which is a grass roots organisation trying to give young people in Birmingham and around the UK an alternative to gang culture. Working alongside the foundation's CEO and my cousin Sharif Cousins, we started coming up with ideas for what we could do to help the community, how we could help with crime prevention and start to reduce gang conflict in the area. This year we wanted to hold an event over the Olympics. During a meeting between the NDF and the Big Lottery Fund (BIG), which is one of our partners, someone said: “Why don’t we pass around a mic instead of a torch?” and from that Peace Mix was born. Peace Mix is the project we’re working on at the moment and it’s got two parts. We have a Mic Relay passing the golden mic around the UK at our music events, highlighting local, BIG and publicly-funded music studios. Then there's an online competition where young people can upload lyrics and music to a crowd sourced music track to win a chance to perform with Tinchy Stryder at the Roundhouse in London. Basically, we’re trying to get kids from all walks of life, including ones at risk of getting involved in gangs, to ‘stop making trouble and start making music’. We want them to get involved with the track and to see their local BIG and publicly-funded music studio as a positive space that they can use to be creative. Most importantly, we want it to be a meeting place for young people from different areas in their city and see that they’re not so bad after all. The NDF wants to show these kids that you can still be strong and be part of a team, part of a family but you can also part of something good and positive. You can still make money and express yourself. For more information about Peace Mix go to www.peacemix.co.uk
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence