Features Walthamstow

New king visits Walthamstow youth centre

The King and Queen Consort visited Project Zero to honour their work
By Victoria Munro

King Charles III with Project Zero founder Stephen Barnabis (credit: WF Council)
King Charles III with Project Zero founder Stephen Barnabis (credit: WF Council)

King Charles III and Queen Consort Camilla came to Walthamstow yesterday to visit a youth centre fighting to stop young people dying from violence.

The royals arrived at Project Zero in Grange Road, Walthamstow, at 11am on 18th October and were met by a crowd of students from Barn Croft Primary School.

Project Zero was founded in 2019 by Stephen Barnabis, who has worked in youth engagement for 30 years and lost two young relatives to violent crime.

It hosts a weekly youth club and holiday programmes to keep young people off the streets and helps older teenagers find jobs through apprenticeships or support to enter higher education. 

Children from Barn Croft Primary School greet the king (credit: WF Council)

The king spoke with young people that use the centre and was shown around its facilities, which include spaces for music production, gaming, counselling and recording radio. 

He also met with Leyton Orient footballer Omar Beckles, an ambassador for the centre, who later told the East London Guardian he hoped Stephen would one day receive a royal honour for his work.

Omar added: “[Thanks to Project Zero] these kids are getting access to footballers, they’re getting access to royalty, and I think it’s gonna play a massive part in their aspirations and what they can achieve in life. I think that’s priceless.”

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Project Zero moved into its current home early last year after outgrowing a small space in CRATE nearby and being offered “a very reduced rent” by Waltham Forest Council.

King Charles III and Queen Consort Camilla arriving at the centre (credit: WF Council)

It has since become an invaluable part of the local community, with centre staff even racing into a burning building a few doors down in July to safely evacuate residents. 

Last year, Stephen told the Echo how losing two cousins in 2004 and 2019 inspired him to found Project Zero – so-called because of his goal to see zero young people die from knife or gun crime.

Speaking at the time, he said: “I had empathy and understanding for why young people might carry a knife or commit a crime but it was quite a difficult process.

“One perpetrator was a 16-year-old boy, who had been excluded from school, and his home life was tense. It got me thinking that the need to provide support for young people was greater than ever.”

His goal for the new centre was to provide “a safe place for young people to go” to have fun supervised by staff and to prepare teenagers to apply for “the jobs of the future”.

He added: “There are a number of developments happening around East London in the next five to seven years and our young people should be applying for those.

“If we work with our young people now, they should be able to apply to those jobs on their doorsteps.”

Find out more about Project Zero or donate on their website here.

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