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Published: 31 July 2008

Kamilah McCalman
Youth clubs unite for One Voice anti-knives concert

Killings prompt organiser to bring together rival groups

FOR the first time, all 20 Camden Town youth clubs are uniting for a one-off anti-knife and gun concert.
The evening, One Mic One Voice, is being staged as the area comes to terms with the shocking killings of Elliot Guy last week and Sharma’arke Hassan two months ago.
The death of Sharma’arke, a 17-year-old gunned down in Gilbey’s Yard, in Camden Town, was a watershed moment for Kamilah McCalman, the youth worker who is organising the concert.
“Young people have become so ‘Yeah he died, I can’t believe it happened in Gilbey’s Yard,’ and then it’s forgotten,” she said. “They’re very nonchalant. It’s become like that because, before when you read about a boy dying, you read the story and now we glance past it because it’s daily.”
Ms McCalman, 26, has worked for housing association One Housing Group, based next to the Roundhouse in Chalk Farm, for more than 10 years, and covers four areas of Camden, including Gilbey’s Yard.
As she sees it, there was a “murder on [my] doorstep” and it proved more than ever the need for reconciliation between rival groups in the area.
In two weeks’ time she will host the area’s first-ever joint concert, with about 200 youngsters from the borough’s 20 youth clubs expected to take part.
She has managed to sign up some up-and-coming artists, including Highgate rapper DJ Ironik, currently riding high in the charts with Stay With Me, for the concert at the Irish Centre in Camden Square on August 12.
DJ Ironik’s song has been played at a series of teen funerals in recent months.
Ms McCalman said: “Somers Town don’t hang out with Castlehaven, Castlehaven don’t hang out with Pirate Castle [Gilbey’s Yard’s youth club, which is currently being refurbished]. Initially, we were going to limit the event to just One Housing. We thought we couldn’t manage the territorial nature of the clubs but we’re going to have security.”
Another source of frustration is the lack of action from politicians since Sharma’arke’s death. Ms McCalman believes this is due to a lack of ideas rather than an absence of good intentions, but the end result is still the same: young people are losing out.
“Those young people had murder on their doorstep and nobody has been down to even raise awareness of issues with knife and gun crime,” she said. “The Prime Minister and the council seem to acknowledge the problem but I don’t think there’s enough innovation.”
The answer, she says, lies in understanding the teenagers labelled “hoodies” by the average person in the street.
Ms McCalman, a trained social worker, insists a key to bridging the gap between young people and the community is talking.
She said: “I know a group of young people who sit on benches in Gilbey’s Yard. For the majority, the baggy pants and attitude is bravado.”
There are plans for an anti-violence forum, made up of members from all youth clubs, to meet once a month to brainstorm new ways of combatting the “bravado culture”.
But Ms McCalman is not unrealistic. “I’m not a messiah,” she said. “I’m not looking to change the lives of 200 people but as long as I can change a handful I feel satisfied.”

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