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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Day In a Page

Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

Solved after 200 years

The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

Sunken sub

Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

Age of the selfie

Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

Not so square

How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

Still carrying the torch

The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

...but history suggests otherwise
The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

The bald truth

How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

Tour de France 2015

Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

A new beginning for supersonic flight?

Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash
I would never quit Labour, says Liz Kendall

I would never quit party, says Liz Kendall

Latest on the Labour leadership contest
Froome seals second Tour de France victory

Never mind Pinot, it’s bubbly for Froome

Second Tour de France victory all but sealed
Oh really? How the 'lowest form of wit' makes people brighter and more creative

The uses of sarcasm

'Lowest form of wit' actually makes people brighter and more creative
A magazine editor with no vanity, and lots of flair

No vanity, but lots of flair

A tribute to the magazine editor Ingrid Sischy
Foraging: How the British rediscovered their taste for chasing after wild food

In praise of foraging

How the British rediscovered their taste for wild food