Seeking space for young people

Project Zero tackles complex issues around vulnerable young people and knife crime
Project Zero tackles complex issues around vulnerable young people and knife crime

Charlotte Pyatt from Project Zero on how the anti-violence campaign is helping young people thrive

A new mural of local community youth worker Steve Barnabis, by artist Gabriel Pitcher, has been attracting attention in Walthamstow.

The piece is the latest in a series of creative works raising awareness and action for Project Zero, a community interest company tackling complex issues around vulnerable youths and knife crime in London (which has succeeded The Soul Project).

The loss of young life through violent crime is a public health crisis and tackling these issues requires attention, beyond police and elected officials. It demands a process of demystifying governmental policy, to ensure engagement at a community level. The portrait of Steve intends to spark a dialogue on fundamental failings in our social infrastructure, where projects such as Project Zero fight year-on-year against cutbacks and setbacks.

After losing his previous community space in Wood Street two years ago, Steve has been struggling to provide essential provisions from smaller spaces that are not fit for purpose. He now has a positive dialogue with Waltham Forest Council to secure an appropriate venue for his creative projects, which focus on social inclusion and providing support and resources for local families.

If all goes well, they will acquire the space before the end of the year. Steve is now launching a crowdfunding campaign to raise £150,000 to cover the cost of one year of activities and services to support his community, which like so many others have been impacted hard by Covid-19, exacerbating critical issues such as domestic abuse and food poverty.

Steve says: “We are currently working towards a long-term legislative change with our friends at Wood Street Walls, addressing the disparity between housing developments and community impact.

“In the short term, we will be independently raising funds for the venue that we hope to secure in the very near future.”

Just as people are put on a waiting list for social housing, community groups such as Steve’s need a similar service to prioritise space. We need to work to shore up the social infrastructure for provisions specified under the affordable workspace policies of the London Plan, to ensure these essential services continue.

Artist Gabriel’s intent is to flip the traditional vision of patronage portraiture, to champion local people working at the grassroots level, and protect and empower their communities. The hope is that this artwork can bridge a connection with the local community to the issues Steve confronts daily, but to also spark a dialogue about the importance of stability in reinforcing sustainable cities locally and globally.

For more information on the fundraising campaign for a new youth hub in Walthamstow:
Visit crowdfunder.co.uk/project-zero-youth-hub