Waltham Forest Echo

Waltham Forest Echo

Community centre revived to prevent bloodshed on Leyton estate

In the wake of a fatal shooting, the estate’s young people called for a safe place to gather

Hero for Community centre revived to prevent bloodshed on Leyton estate
Streetbase leader Katy Thompson at the Seddon Centre (WF Council)
By Victoria Munro 08 December 2021

An underused community centre on the estate where a teenager was shot dead is being revived in an effort to prevent further bloodshed.

Last night, the Seddon Centre on Leyton’s Beaumont Estate held the first of many planned events after the estate’s young people said they needed somewhere safe to gather.

In the early hours of 1st September, 18-year-old Alex Ajanaku was shot while hanging out with friends on a bench on Beaumont Road after leaving an illegal rave held on the estate. 

The drive to better use the centre was led by Waltham Forest Council’s youth engagement team Streetbase, who visited the estate later that day.

Young people at the job and opportunities fair last night (WF Council)

Streetbase leader Katy Thompson told the Echo: “We came out to speak to young people about how it was affecting them and what happened. We found they were not speaking to councillors and police officers because there’s not that much of a great relationship.

“The young people were saying there’s nothing for them and that they would not be standing on the corner in the cold if this centre was available. They didn’t just want youth clubs but also something constructive.”

Streetbase successfully applied for £5,000 in funding from City Hall’s Violence Reduction Unit to increase patrols around the estate and put on events for young people at the centre. 

In addition to a job and opportunities fair last night, Katy said they plan to organise music and video workshops to help young people “solve their issues through creativity”.

Cllr Khan speaks to the crowd (WF Council)

The council’s cabinet member for community safety, Ahsan Khan, told those gathered at the event that the revival was part of a wider drive to tackle crime on a “hyper-local” level.

Describing his youth attending Warwick School for Boys in Walthamstow, where he said there were fights “at least once a month”, he said: “I could see my peers were going through real challenges - if I could identify that, why weren’t the services around them noticing?

“No one is born into a life of crime, we have got to start looking at the root causes that lead to some young people making these wrong choices and we need to intervene a lot earlier - all of us.”

Speaking later to the Echo, he criticised the government’s “populist” plans to tackle crime, such as stripping the citizenship of foreign-born drug dealers. 

He said: “A lot of these young people, sometimes as young as ten or eleven, are groomed into drug dealing. They are sent on county lines because there’s less chance of them being stopped and searched.

“We need to support some of these people and provide opportunities for them to resist getting caught up in a life of crime. 

“As a council we are doing the best we can with the resources we have got to tackle these issues but we would welcome more support from the government.”