Socialist Worker

Life on a knife edge

Issue No. 2027

 (illustration: Tim Sanders)

(illustration: Tim Sanders)

Last week Tyrell Anderson was sentenced for the killing of his best friend Tommy Winston in January. The two teenagers had been friends since they were ten.

The stabbing happened over a fight about a forged £20 note. Tyrell left a heartrending apology with the tributes where Tommy died before handing himself in to the police.

Both boys used to hang out with their mates, riding mopeds on the Peckwater estate in Kentish Town, Camden, one of London’s poorest wards. Tyrell’s death is a direct consequence of the society we live in writes local resident Alan Walter

I watched Tommy and Ty growing up on Peckwater. They were serious about their football but also spent many of their teenage hours hanging out.

Tommy’s wasn’t the first life to be lost on the streets of Kentish Town - Frankie Kyriacou was stabbed to death in May 2002, as was Jahmai Conquest in July 2002.

All three murders were prompted by the kind of petty disputes that might have left bruises or broken noses in times past but now increasingly involve stabbings.

Previous generations met up with their mates but they could optimistically plan about getting a job, maybe going to university first and setting up their own home. Even if you didn’t have academic qualifications there were proper jobs (often with the opportunity for a formal apprenticeship) with major local employers like the council, post, railways and NHS.

With money in your pocket and a sense of status and purpose in life you could start relationships and plan your future.

The choice most teenagers are confronted with on leaving school today is short term contracts and part time employment on poverty pay and conditions or a college course they’re often not sure they want - and even less sure where it will get them.

Many don’t even get that far. Around 1,000 pupils a year get excluded (a tag that often sticks for life) from Camden schools “incentivised” to improve their exam results. This in turn sees non-academic kids viewed as a “problem”.

The chance of growing up, moving out and setting up your own home seems beyond reach. This reality is having a devastating impact. The stabbings are just the most brutal evidence.

While previous generations have been confident that their kids will go on to have a better life than themselves, most parents today are worried sick about what kind of life their kids can look forward to.

I often boil with rage as a moped races up and down outside when I’m trying to relax at home. Of course it’s anti-social - it’s thoughtless and dangerous. But carefully watching kids organising themselves to take turns on a moped makes me direct my anger elsewhere.

Why aren’t there any decent local facilities providing an alternative venue? Why doesn’t the council create an off road facility and provide popular motor mechanics workshops that would take the problem off our estates?

It’s clearly not about money. Politicians now compete with each other over plans to spend huge sums on “community safety” and an increasingly right wing agenda that seeks to criminalise many young people.

It’s a choice. They could fund neighbourhood teams of professional youth workers to engage our kids, advise on education and employment opportunities and introduce them to the wealth of London resources that tourists come to enjoy but most Camden kids never get a taste of.

A couple of pool tables won’t miraculously solve the problem, but the Caversham Youth Club we’ve demanded for years would provide a safer and more productive environment than hanging out on the streets. We need permanent facilities. The short term funding we get now is next to useless.

This is a class issue. Those with wealth are confident that their future is secure. And, in the meantime, there are plenty of exciting ways to spend an evening, weekend or school holiday that they can easily afford.

If you have a big house there’s room to hang out with your mates, but if you live in an overcrowded flat you have no alternative but to meet up on the street.

Karl Marx used the term “alienation” to describe the despair caused by a growing chasm between an individual’s needs and aspirations and their daily experience. It sums up the problem for many young people today.

Marx also argued, “Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please. They do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered, given and transmitted from the past.”

Society shapes how individuals react but we don’t have to put up with the crap. If we organise collectively we can demand changes to how society is run and how resources are used.

One way we can honour Tommy is by helping young people in the area to organise a major Kentish Town event on the anniversary of his death. They could take the floor to put forward the changes they want to make Kentish Town a better place to grow up in.

The community - including local elected representatives of all kinds - could listen first, and then discuss what we can do to support them. A big public event would give young people a real voice and respect.

We owe it to Tommy and the rest to do more than just spectate. Our kids deserve a better future.

Tyrell's letter to Tommy

I'm so sorry to end ur life Tom you was one of my best pals. I didnt meen to please believe me only god know's why this happened.

Im in a knightmare & I can't wake from it, I don't know the difference between my dreams and real life anymore Tom. For days now I've been wishing this was all a dream, only until I've jus walked to where it happened and seen all the flowers & pictures that I know it must be real. It must be about 04 OOam knowone is on the road accept for me. Everyone finks Im scum And I am but I know you no I never meant it and thats all that matters in my life now Tom.

Remember all the times we played football together (so many) you was always the best at freekicks you tought me how to take them Beckham style. You would always pick me out from corners and freekicks. Me you & Tanny yous'ed to be the best in the whole borough we all should of made it together.

Tom I can't believe I did it. I thought of 101 different ways to end my life & be with you Tom to tell U face to face how sorry I am but I wasn't man enough to do any of them.

So I'm writing this before I give myself in for good To tell your Family, Phil, D, Whinnie & all the rest that Im sorry to put you through so much pain, I know what its like to loose someone but not in that way you lost Tommy you dont deserve to be goin through this.

Words cannot explain how sorry I am. I no you Hate me & wan't me dead but please believe I never meant to do this, I'm not a murderer even though you think I am & everyone else does I'm not. Everyone who knows me, knows I'm not that kind of person. Tom we were friends for at least seven years Tom. We were exactly like each other at 1 stage in our lives, we liked all the same things two of them was football & the same girls. I love you Tom, I know l'll be joining you soon Tom. To every one who knew & loved Tommy I'm so sorry to end his life I didn't mean to put you through this type of pain. Tommy was one of my BEST pals

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Sat 18 Nov 2006, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 2027
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