Still a long road to recovery

03 August 2012

One year after the riots in Tottenham, which led to four days of disorder in England, how is this part of London recovering, and what part is the Church playing, asks Christine Miles


Then and now: police look on as smoke rises from the Aldi store in tottenham High Road

Then and now: police look on as smoke rises from the Aldi store in tottenham High Road

"ALL RIOTS begin with a flashpoint, whether you're looking at riots in Parisian suburbs, in LA in the '80s, in Brixton . . . or indeed in Burnley, Bradford, or Birmingham - they begin with a spark.

"That spark is usually a perceived act of police brutality, the police coming to represent the state, and young people, or people of colour, feeling hard done by that experience. Tottenham was no different," says the MP for Tottenham, David Lammy.

After the disorder was seen in Tottenham, looting spread to other parts of London, and to other towns and cities. Five people died, hundreds of people lost their homes and businesses, and the final cost was estimated to be more than £500 million.

After the Riots, the final report of the Riots Communities and Victims Panel, estimated that 13,000-15,000 people took part in the disturbances across England, of which the majority were aged between 18 and 24. Of the 4000 arrests made by November 2011, the report states that nine out of ten suspects were already known to the police.

The panel concluded its report with 63 recommendations for Government, which were based around intervention work with families; building resilience, character, and hope among young people; and tackling materialism, repeat offenders, and police relations.

The report also stated that the disorder in Tottenham was different in nature from the riots in other areas. "The vast majority of people we spoke to believed that the sole trigger for disturbances in their area was the perception that the police could not contain the scale of rioting in Tottenham, and then across London."

IN TOTTENHAM, the spark that triggered the riots was the fatal shooting of 29-year-old Mark Duggan by police connected to Operation Trident, the unit that investigates gun crime in the black community, and the mishandling of details about his death.


One year on, the Revd Simon Morris, Vicar of St Mary's, Tottenham, whose congregation opened the church for a week after the riots, providing tea, hot water, and people to talk to, says: "The issue, of course, still hasn't been answered. The Independent Police Complaints Commission report has not yet been released. And because of the use of intercept evidence, there may never be an inquest into Mr Duggan's death."

But Pastor Nims Obunge acknowledges that frustration in Tottenham already existed on a range of other questions: "Issues surrounding unemployment, with stop and search, poor relationships with the police and community in some strands," Mr Obunge, who is the director of Peace Alliance and leader of Freedom's Ark, a church that meets in Tottenham Town Hall, says.

"Most of Tottenham, 99.5 per cent of people, were at home," Mr Lammy says. "The other thing is that the profile of rioters were young adults. There were no teenagers in our secondary schools caught up in the riots."

Of those before the courts for rioting in Tottenham, many of whom came from outside the area, he concludes: "On the whole those that rioted - that looted - did not have a sufficient stake in society. To put it bluntly, I don't think you riot if you have a job and a mortgage. I don't think you riot if you have a sense of community and responsibility beyond yourself and your family.

"I am concerned about what is going on in our society, such as to give those individuals a lack of a stake."

THREE MONTHS after the disturbances, Mr Lammy published Out of the Ashes: Britain after the riots (Guardian Books), his analysis of the long-term causes, with recommendations for change. In Tottenham, church leaders are familiar with the issues identified by Mr Lammy, such as some of the highest levels of social deprivation in Britain, poor housing, and a lack of hope. "We know what the problems are. All that the riots did was say: 'Hey, we've still got these problems,'" the Revd John Wood, Vicar of St Ann's, South Tottenham, says.

"What you saw last year was the parallel culture, which doesn't see any hope for the future. . . I don't think they can discern a huge altern-ative set of relationships, or patterns, or hopes in their lives that would make it worth their while to stop and think 'I probably shouldn't be doing this.'"

Mr Wood says that much has changed for the good in Tottenham even since 1994, when he arrived at St Ann's. "The physical environment, in terms of public amenities, has improved substantially with New Deal for Communities. And education has improved. There are very good schools now that were once failing."

Policing is different, too. "There was a time when our neighbourhood was out of control. As far as I was concerned, the streets had been lost by the police: we didn't know who they were; there were no community beat officers; and we didn't know who to call. All of those have improved beyond recognition.

"But what's happened now is that a lot of other things have got worse. So the church has had to be really engaged to make a difference."

Several years ago, St Ann's identified the biggest single problem affecting Tottenham: the difficulty for young black men of finding properly paid work. "It's critical," Mr Wood says.

In response, St Ann's started Give Tottenham a Chance (GTAC), which gives young men mentored job opportunities. GTAC is now led by Chris Miller, a former police officer. It has 100 mentors from churches including St Ignatius's, Stamford Hill, St James's, Muswell Hill, and Grace Church, Muswell Hill. Fifty mentors are from ethnic-minority backgrounds. There is also a team, mainly of ex-police officers, who visit businesses to line up work-experience placements.

"That was in place before the riots. Post-riots, it's even more vital," Mr Wood says.

THE report from Haringey Council on the riots, Taking Tottenham Forward, identified five areas of need in order to build a better future for the area, and to make job opportunities a priority. The council has committed £2 million to job creation, to which the Greater London Authority (GLA) has also committed funds, and the Jobs for Haringey initiative was launched in May.

"It's about helping businesses expand and grow in difficult times, while at the same time providing opportunities for unemployed residents," the Haringey cabinet member for economic development and social inclusion, Alan Strickland, says. As part of this, a subsidy of up to £4000 is available to businesses that create jobs in the borough.

"We expect it to create 200 jobs," Mr Strickland says. So far, 15 people have taken up new posts. Jobs for Haringey also aims to provide 600 unemployed residents with "intensive advice, linking people to training, [and] giving CV support". And, in its dealings with businesses, investors, and developers, the council is hoping to secure more job opportunities and apprenticeships for those on the scheme.


AT THE time of the riots, The Guardian identified the number of unemployed people in Haringey as being more than 10,000, with only 367 job vacancies in the borough. In part of Tottenham, Northumberland Park, unemployment last October stood at 29 per cent - the highest rate in London.

Some young people who are applying for jobs outside Tottenham say that they feel stigmatised by their postcode. "The employment issue hasn't changed. We apply for jobs, and still get no replies," says Yosef, who is taking part in a youth-leadership programme run by Mr Obunge. "One of my friends lied about his postcode. He got the job, but another of our friends, who didn't lie about where he lived, got rejected."

A lay minister at Church on the Farm - a congregation on Broadwater Farm supported by St Ann's - Keith Jackson, says that this is keenly felt by young people on the estate where Mr Duggan grew up. "The young people feel very much that they're ostracised, in the sense that they don't have the opportunity or the chance to do well for themselves.

"We're not saying all these young people are perfect, but sometimes when kids have no avenue out of the situation, they invariably will turn to drugs; they'll find other ways of making money."

Church on the Farm runs drop-ins for the Broadwater community, a kids' club, and a refuge club for young people. "It's amazing when you're around these young people: they have the same ambition, hopes, and dreams as any other young person; they just need a chance."

North London Citizens, an alliance of 40 civic institutions, including several Tottenham churches - Highway of Holiness, Rainbow, Holy Trinity, and St John Vianney - has a more ambitious target in mind for Tottenham's youth. After face-to-face interviews and meetings with more than 700 Tottenham residents as part of its Citizens' Inquiry, the group has committed itself to a two-year campaign to create 1000 new work opportunities for those aged 16-24.

In the early stages of the project, it has already delivered 100 living-wage job opportunities for young people in Tottenham. "Though our relationship with LOCOG and the Olympics, we brought one of the Olympic contractors to Conel [the College of Haringey, Enfield and North London], a member of North London Citizens - and 100 people walked away with a job.

"It's only [for] six weeks, but if you're someone who's not been given any opportunities, then six weeks is significant," North London Citizens' senior organiser, Sophie Stephens, says.

"If we can create 1000 new permanent jobs, fantastic; but if we create 500 new permanent jobs, 300 new apprenticeships, and 200 short-term, but paid, work experiences, we would count that as successful, because once you've got one opportunity under your belt, it's easier to apply for more."

To hit its target, North London Citizens says that it needs to form partnerships with other agencies, particularly Haringey Council.

IN THE long term, Haringey Council acknowledges that jobs have to be brought into the area through new investment and regeneration. It is about to publish its regeneration strategy for Tottenham.

"That will set out our priorities, in terms of which areas we focus on, and what we want to do. Underneath that will sit the master plan, which sets out a high-level physical plan of what could go where, how we could improve buildings, how we could improve streets," Mr Strickland says. "Then, in September time, a second report [worked on in conjunction with the Mayor of London's regeneration taskforce] will make clear our requests of central government and the Mayor.

"David Lammy and I have met with Eric Pickles; we've obviously had the Prime Minster come; Nick Clegg has been a couple of times; so we've been in active contact with ministers about Tottenham."

Mr Lammy backs this up: "The bottom line is that I think the case for regeneration in Tottenham has been understood by the Government and the Mayor."

Part of the MP's representations for his constituency before the riots included a public row with Spurs football club and the Mayor, about its being inconceivable that Spurs should leave Tottenham. "If the football club were to leave the constituency, they would have effectively left behind a dustbowl . . . not just because of the club, but because the anchor of regeneration around the football club is significant."

In addition to the £400-million Spurs development at White Hart Lane - which will include a new stadium, shops, restaurants, homes, and leisure and community facilities - £27 million from the GLA will be pumped into redevelopment of part of the area, particularly around Northumberland Park station and public spaces.

"It's hugely important," Mr Lammy says. "Currently, very few trains stop at Northumberland Park, where unemployment is at its highest," Mr Strickland says.

IN OCTOBER, the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, announced the appointment of the property developer Sir Stuart Lipton as a champion for Tottenham, and the head of a task force to focus on regeneration and oversee the delivery of GLA funding.


"Senior architects are on it; senior planners are on it - the same sort of people who helped regenerate Stratford are on it," Mr Lammy says. "Tottenham is finally visible, and some of the things that need to happen in Tottenham now have some prospect of happening, because what was always clear was that Haringey Council could never deliver this on its own."

In January, Mr Johnson announced a £41-million pot for Tottenham from the Mayor's Regeneration Fund. Part of this will fund Jobs for Haringey and the investment in Northumberland Park, but there will also be £7 million to improve and buy buildings on the High Road, and key sites at Tottenham Hale. A further £3 million will transform the former council offices into an enterprise and employment hub.

"The task force is set to publish its report in September, with recommendations for Tottenham. But most important there is the master planning going on that should bear fruit in the coming years," Mr Lammy says.

This is in addition to plans to landscape Tottenham Green, next to Holy Trinity, and work that is already near completion at the Lordship Rec, adjacent to the Broadwater estate, to include an ecology centre, café, and open-air stage.

There is already a £400-million investment under way at Tottenham Hale Village, which includes plans for 8000 new homes, a new primary school, a health centre, hotel, and shops, and where the Church of England, supported initially by St Ann's, St Mary's, and Holy Trinity, has committed itself to opening a "centre of community" and developing a new church community.

MR LAMMY is clear about the need to keep large-scale investment in Tottenham on the political agenda, to ensure that the area is never in danger of becoming like Detroit in the United States.

"If you go to Detroit, what you see is a city that has had successive riots and is not functioning. People are leaving in droves; you can't get insurance - it's a problem. That is not how you would describe Tottenham; we need to make sure that we never, ever get there."

Mr Lammy is optimistic, but acknowledges the challenge of the wider economic situation. "Over the last 12 years, I have always felt other parts of London, other parts of the country, were ahead in the queue. In the last year, particularly the last few months, that has changed. Whitehall and the Mayor are exercised and concerned about north-east London, and that is progress.

"However, this is happening in a double-dip recession; so the backdrop is very difficult. The regeneration that Stoke Newington, Notting Hill, and Brixton saw - areas not dissimilar to Tottenham - happened in a period of growth."


BUILDING on the work that has been done in the past in Tottenham in forging police and community relations is also vital to a different future for Tottenham. After the riots, the Police Commissioner committed an additional 50 officers to Haringey.

"There was a concern that new recruits and transfers understand the history of Haringey, in terms of police relations," Chief Inspector Jane Easton says.

Now the induction of all new recruits and transfers includes access to key bodies, faith leaders, and the Commission for Racial Equality. Such groups cover the history of police-community relations, and the ethnic make-up of Haringey, which is an extremely diverse borough.

"While most new recruits go into core teams that drive around answering emergency calls, in Haringey we've chosen to put officers into neighbourhood policing, so that they learn their trade in the community," Ms Easton says.

In addition, Haringey police is looking to appoint its first youth officer. "We recognise the importance of engagement with young people; it's critical that that is their full-time role."

Mr Wood has helped to establish a strong police-chaplaincy team in Tottenham. He defends the police in the face of criticism of their behaviour in the riots. "The reality was that the police on the ground did a completely heroic job in a situation that no one could have anticipated in its ferocity. The central command did not back up the guys on the ground anything like fast enough, and what they were doing, probably, was making sure Tottenham police station wasn't burned to the ground.

"If Tottenham police station had burnt down, that would have been an iconic moment for the riots that Tottenham would never have recovered from. It was unbelievable what those guys went through: many thought they were going to die; it was terrifying. They had about 20 riot officers holding the line at one point: it was insane. It was like Custer's last stand."

Mr Lammy also praises the police on the ground. Instead, the remaining questions are directed at Borough-Commander level, and, ultimately, the Police Commissioner. "The bottom line is that disturbances began about 8.30 p.m., and they were still going on at 4 a.m. Why did it take so long before riot police came into the area, given that there was a football match on the day, and that I, and others, had called for calm following Mark Duggan's death?"

Mr Obunge also has unresolved questions about senior police decisions. At an early stage, he emailed the Borough Commander, Sandra Lobby, about the disquiet, and the need to communicate with the Duggan family. "I volunteered the town hall for that purpose, but the offer was declined." Further warnings were also ignored.

The council report Taking Tottenham Forward includes in its recom-mendations that "The structures used by the police to engage with the community . . . should be reviewed and made more effective to create ways of working that people feel they can trust and rely on.

"These arrangements must allow for engagement to take place at short notice when crisis arise, and must be able to be triggered by community representatives as well as by the police themselves."

The North London Citizens' Citizens' Inquiry calls for the Borough Commander and the Metropolitan Police Commissioner to make a public statement to residents, in order to address the feeling that Tottenham was left to burn.

Ms Stephens says that the two police reports "highlight mistakes and problems, but there's not a clear, short, publicly available statement of: 'We acknowledge mistakes were made and we shouldn't have done x, y, z.'

"Big reports are not going to have cut through in a community like Tottenham. Not a lot of families, young people, or parents are reading those reports."


ANOTHER area that Taking Tottenham Forward and the Citizens' Inquiry highlight as vital for Tottenham concerns opportunities and activities for young people.

A former youth worker in Haringey, and the frontline manager of Bruce Grove Youth Centre, the flagship council-owned centre in Tottenham, Berkeley Gardener, says that the council cut 90 per cent of its youth workers in April 2011. "Council youth provision stopped, leaving the churches to be the only ones doing their projects. It was sharp - bang. Haringey was the only borough to cut like that."

Mr Wood adds: "The council can't staff the youth centre that they spent millions on; they've been asking the Church to do it - that is how decimated council youth provision is."

"I don't think the cuts to youth services contributed to the riots," Mr Lammy says, "but I do think they led to a strong perception that there is not enough for young people to do in Tottenham, and the detachment of the local authority from the community. For our young people who haven't got a back garden, who need collective spaces to be, youth services are the last thing that you cut, not the first."

A young man, Anthony, on Mr Obunge's leadership programme comments: "We're the future; so closing down youth centres and organisations for young people is like giving up on us. What kind of future is that?"

North London Citizens has committed itself to developing ten youth hubs across Haringey, to supply quality youth provision and leadership training. But progress is slow. "The Bruce Grove Youth Centre is the most tragic story that we haven't had change on," Ms Stephens says. "Youth provision in Haringey is not good enough for any borough, let alone a borough where there were riots last year.

"What we've offered is to sit down and think creatively. There are so many fantastic youth things happening, many in churches, but they are not co-ordinated. . . It doesn't have to all be on the council's shoulders in terms of finance, but they have to be in on creating a borough-wide youth strategy. As far as I know, that isn't happening."

YOUTH AND children's work is one area in which most churches are active in Tottenham. Among others, St Mary's runs Boys' Brigade, Tottenham Baptist Church runs Girls' Brigade, and, at St Mark's Methodist Church, efforts to set up a youth choir after the riots have borne fruit in an event connected to the Olympics, at which the choir will perform.

As well as its own youth and children's work, St Ann's runs a counselling project in three-quarters of the primary schools in Tottenham. "We try and deal with social and emotional problems at a really early stage, because by the time they reach secondary school, it's too late," Mr Wood says.

St Ann's also undertakes youth work on more than six estates, as well as detached youth work and schools work in 15 schools. Part of the reason that St Ann's has been able to be innovative with so many initiatives is because it has concentrated on growing indigenous leadership.

"It's all done by lay ministry. And we have key lay-ministry partners, like London City Mission, who help us create locally recruited teams, because that means it's sustainable," Mr Wood says. "It's very different from parachuting in teams of people on estates who may not be from the ethnic groups those estates represent. Our guys are embedded in the community already."

the challenge for the future for Haringey Council is to take the voluntary sector seriously, Mr Wood says. Ms Stephens agrees that North London Citizens has found it difficult to work with the council on jobs, youth provision, and on the I Tottenham campaign, which supports traders in the area.

Mr Wood suggests: "Haringey could up their performance in how they relate to the voluntary sector; how they empower it; how we have joined-up thinking; how we do things together. We need to be taken seriously, because we can perform. These problems are far too big for the council, and they are too big for us: we've got to work together."

THE CHALLENGE for the Church in Tottenham is to become even more engaged. "If we just have a parish-based ideology, then we're missing opportunities that God is giving us as the Church," Mr Wood says. "There are some great people in Tottenham; there's lots going on, and the Church has massive opportunities. The community want us: do we want the community?

"We haven't become the church without walls yet," Mr Obunge agrees. "We need not just to do church, or our own congregation. We need to be the church of the community."

The bigger challenge, Mr Lammy says, is for the Church to work more collaboratively. "If I look at the broader Christian family in Tottenham, it remains quite fragmented: it's not as joined up as it needs to be. The challenges that exist in the areas where we saw riots in Britain feel to me to be more acute than when the Church wrote Faith in the City.

  "There are examples of real success, but I'd caution against over-simplification of faith communities, because it's still the case that some parishes are inward-looking, and not led in a dynamic way.

  "I need every faith community engaged in mission, with a youth club, able to support older members; every faith community engaged in their estates."

In Testing the Bridges: Understanding the role of the Church amidst riots, disturbance and disorder, the report that was discussed at the General Synod (Synod, 13 July), one area of concern for the wider Church was that "Research raises a number of issues about the nature of ministry and presence in urban communities. . . Building confidence and resilience in ministry seems to be a priority, a key element of this must involve an expectation of mutual support and partnership across parish boundaries."

Mr Jackson says: "The Church is doing a lot in Tottenham, but we could do a lot more if we came together as one. When God looks at the problem through the Church, there's a solution there together. We only receive the benefit of that when all those gifts come together and work together."

Children from Gladesmore School, Tottenham, will launch their charity single next Monday, "Everybody Dreams", as part of a plan to show the positive side of their area.

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