Tag Archive: interviews


Have-a-Voice-When-Writing

As I wrote in my last post about the 2011 riots, it was good that individuals came together under the hashtag #riotcleanup to clean up the mess that the rioters left in their community. However, what wasn’t so clear to me at the time was that because of the media’s emphasis and divisive portrayal of ‘the good volunteers’ versus ‘the bad young people’, the reasons behind the riots were perhaps unintentionally swept under the carpet by the volunteers’ brooms.

banksy_maid_passer_by

In a rush to meet deadlines and make headlines, the media didn’t properly explore the reasons, and in a haste to describe what was happening, most organisations jumped on the bandwagon of vilifying young people, creating an us/them division.

us-vs-them1    us_them

And because of the negative conceptions of young people that were being branded around, youth clubs around London locked down journalists’ access to young people, because of the fear that their views would be misconstrued. I know this, because I tried to talk to young people at youth clubs on several occasions myself, and this was the response that youth leaders gave to me. Consequently, the young people didn’t really have a voice at the time to speak out against all the negativity. Their views were largely drowned out.

Well, before I summarise the causes myself, I thought it would only be fitting if I gave some young people the opportunity to air their own opinions about the riots. So here are their views.

The first recording was made at a peaceful sit-in at Trafalgar Square in September 2011. The event, ‘Peaceful Sit In: Silent Gathering After The Riots’, was organised in response to the riots and the negative portrayal of young people by the media.

I interviewed a number of the participants for a community radio station called 91.8 Hayes FM*. They were Louis Harris-Tench (event organiser/26**), Fara Jabarkhil (20), Ben Hassán Celâl (20), Leon Fearon (19), Tavian Palmer-Plante (16) and Zoe Leadley-Watkins (event organiser/teacher/27).

*If you want to skip all the introductions in the recording, then the interviews start from 1 minute 22 seconds into the recording.

** Their ages represent how old they were at the time of the interview.

One of the participants, Leon, referred to a time when he confronted Boris Johnson about the riots at Clapham Junction. This is what he was referring to:

This second recording is of Emeka Egbuonu in September 2011. He is a youth worker at a youth club called The Crib, which is based in Hackney. We had an official interview with him at 91.8 Hayes FM about a book he wrote called ‘Consequences, Breaking the negative cycle’. It is about gangs and was largely inspired by the death of Agnes, a young girl who attended his youth club, but tragically died after being shot at a takeaway in Hoxton Street.

I took him aside to ask him some questions about his job as a youth worker, and to get his views on the riots.

So the young people have listed a number of reasons for the riots, such as police actions, cuts in education and facilities, lack of job opportunities. One said that he wasn’t even surprised that the riots broke out in the first place. Others alluded to the fact that the causes have been brewing for a while. Some offered solutions to the problems. However, none of the young people condoned the acts of violence during the riots though. Instead, they all spoke about taking peaceful and positive action.

My next post will focus on an exceptional group of young people who managed to film what was happening and explored some of the issues that the mainstream media missed during the frenzy. I’ll be reviewing their documentary, ‘Riot from Wrong’.

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“Wait a minute, I recognise that woman,” I thought to myself as I studied the mug shot in front of me on my computer.

Then the penny dropped. “HA,” I blurted out loud, “it IS her!”

Arlington Network boss, sourced from 'The Voice' website

“The scoundrel”, I silently thought in my head. I grunted and crossed my arms for good measure.

My colleagues looked at me weirdly, but I didn’t care. That woman tried to scam me out of my non-existent cash (the bank’s overdraft money), and now justice has been served-sort of, HA!

Her name: Michelle Rowe. Her company: Arlington Network (and Career for Life).

In 2009 I had freshly graduated from uni with grandiose dreams of changing the world, blah, blah, blah.

But then I soon realised that jobs were hard to come by and I ended up applying for anything… anything legal anyway. I applied for so many jobs and only heard back from a few.

One of those responses was from good old Arlington Network. “Eureka,” I thought, “this could be the stop gap I’ve been looking for.”

So I went to research the company to dazzle the interviewer with my impressive knowledge of the company. I wanted to blind her… figuratively speaking.

“Yes, I do know all about the world of inventory clerk…ism. Even though I studied European Studies with German, I’ve always secretly wanted to be an inventory clerk. Oh boy, oh boy, this would be a dream come true, pick me, pick MEEEEEE!”

But said less desperately, of course.

So with this scenario running around in my head, I beelined straight to their website only to find… well, nothing really. The website looked professional, it was just quite… vague with loads of flowery words which didn’t really mean anything. I decided I would have to try and blag it

I headed off to South Bank University to the interview. Quite random right, but I thought, well, that uni wouldn’t really host any dodgy companies on their premises, so it all seemed pretty legit to me.

The reception area was filled with young hopefuls, and even some middle-aged men too. I looked around to size up my competition. “Yeah I could take them,” I thought with a friendly smile on my face. “Bring it.” Well actually, I felt kind of nervous.

When I was finally called up for my interview with a few other people (the interviews were running late), we were brought into a small room with a line of chairs against the wall on one side of the room. On another side of the room, one-to-one interviews were being held, and right next to the chairs were young people inviting people to interviews on the telephone.

I guess this was done to create the illusion that jobs in her company were in high demand and this was also coupled by the fact that she probably couldn’t afford another room. Nevertheless, this began to set off some alarm bells.

I saw our dear Michelle talking to a few people, but I could only hear parts of her conversations with people. For example, I saw what seemed to be a middle-aged man accept the job right there on the spot. With hindsight, I wouldn’t even be surprised if he was an actor.

Then it was my turn. Some random guy called my over to discuss my CV and asked me standard interview questions. Then I was told to sit back and wait, again.

After a while, Miss Boss-Lady herself called me over. She told me she liked me and my CV. She said I shouldn’t leave it too long before I get another job. The housing sector was getting better and they were getting plenty of clients, but there were so many people looking for jobs as I could see downstairs, and she was only looking for the best candidates. All new employees of the company would need to train, but to go on this training programme they (meaning I) would need to pay in advance.

Then, bam, she told me how much it would cost, or rather she wrote it down on a piece of paper. £400, and I could pay in instalments. In fact, my picture above is the same ‘receipt’ she gave me. My heart began to beat faster. There was no mention of this in the adverts. She tried to pressurise me but there was no way I could do that, and besides, couldn’t she just take that money out of my pay?

After much resistance (and ‘um-ing and ah’ing’), I finally managed to leave. I did my research and called some companies to make some checks and decided it wasn’t worth the risk.

I received a phone call from Arlington Network a few days later telling me that their positions were going quickly (obviously), but I had no intentions of paying. I’m glad I didn’t.

And with unemployment rates still high, especially among young people and over 55s, there are a good few more people out there who will seek to exploit hard-working people.

There are still a couple of dodgy companies that are out there and are a bit more complex, so be careful job seekers. My message to these ‘businesses’ is this: you will be hunted down and exposed. And… that’s it!