I have lived in Edmonton for the last 53 years. I am one of those people who enjoyed my childhood while growing up. For the most part, our community was safe and job opportunities were many. There was a need for workers and, back then, jobs were plentiful.” However, in the last 20 years, Edmonton has had a serious downturn. The local manufacturing industries that once employed 50% of local residence have ceased trading due to cheaper labour from overseas manufacturing competitors. This has led to many local people losing their jobs and they have continued to experience long-term unemployment.
Those manufacturing industries have been replaced by retail and small family businesses that tend to employ less than 3 to 5 employees and typically offer low paid jobs or zero-hour contracts. Due to the lack of economic growth after the closures of the large manufacturing industries, Edmonton has slowly become a deprived borough. There is a lack of job opportunities for school leavers, low paid jobs that are not sustainable to lift families out of severe poverty and many families have been living in overcrowded accommodation for decades.
In 2019, there were a serious spate of knife crimes that took place in Edmonton. In one instance, a woman was permanently paralysed and in another, a young man by the name of Julio Gomes, who I personally knew, was murdered. He was repeatedly stabbed to death.
Young people living in Edmonton had become too alienated. Our young people believe they do not have a bright future because they feel their needs are being ignored by the establishments in Enfield.
I realised that there were 3 tower blocks located in Edmonton Green Shopping Centre that accommodate 2,700 residents which include families with children. Many are teenagers and the only facilities within the shopping centre that young people can go after school was Edmonton Green Library which have limited after school activities for them to participate in.
I contacted the Edmonton Green Shopping Centre management team to enquire whether there were office premises that I could lease to establish a Digital Media & Technology Centre. This would provide a safe space for local young people to develop their digital and creative talent. I was advised that there were several vacant units which needed some love and attention due to being vacant for so long.
Arrangements were made for me to view the vacant units situated in Upper North Square, above Wilko’s and Brews Café.
I was astonished to view an office that was the previously premises that my organisation AD 2000 Productions had occupied during the 1990s. This organisation had previously assisted approximately 300 local young people to gain media and technology skills by providing 12 weeks vocational courses at level 2 in media and ICT and employability skills. This enabled them to progress into employment or further education courses.
I immediately became emotional and accepted the premises that I previously occupied. After I went home and had time to think, I realised that the premises that I agreed to lease needed a considerable amount of building work.
I even questioned myself if it were a poor decision that I had made, due to the amount of time and money I would need to invest.
I had a couple of quotes to refurbish the premises ranging between £7500 – £9,100 to bring the unit up to standard. This was not within my budget, so I decided to contact CONEL (College of North East London) to enquire if their construction trainees would be able to assist in refurbishing the premises. I was so happy when the principal told me they could. However, I would have to supply the building materials which meant I needed to find the money for this. We agreed a start date for January 2020 and it was a joy to watch the dedication of the construction trainees and lectures working to refurbish the vacant unit. The lecturers were so helpful in giving their trainees guidance to complete each task at a professional level.
Their work included plastering the walls, painting, decorating, bricklaying, replacing the toilet and kitchen suites, removing carpet tiles, and replacing pipes. The total cost for the building materials and internal fittings came to £3,800 which was more than I had budget for. Unfortunately, the construction trainees were unable to complete the last two weeks of the refurbishment due to the COVID-19 and lockdown enforcement.
Edmonton Green Shopping Centre Management Team Has Been Superb:
Without the support of Edmonton Green Shopping Centre Management team, it would have been impossible to achieve the current outcomes. We would not have space and such a beautiful one at that. Sabri and Marie were incredibly supportive of my vision to establish a digital media and technology centre. They have helped me make it possible for young people living in the tower blocks situated in Edmonton Green Shopping Centre to have the opportunity to develop their creative talent near where they live. Sabri and Marie always went out of their way to support me to complete the refurbishment of the premises. I am extremely grateful for their support.
I have learnt so much by taking on this huge refurbishing challenge. I have previously project managed several community-led training projects from the beginning where I needed to lease promises. However, never a vacant unit requiring such considerable amount of building work. Without the support of Edmonton Green Shopping Centre Management Team, Crosstree and links with our local college, I would have not been able to have a Pre-Lunch/Open Day for the 8th of August. I can now invite young people living locally to this event to introduce them to the facilities and activities that we will be offering them after school and while they are unemployed.
I am also grateful for ‘Brews Café’ who have always been supportive and Wilko’s for providing me a voucher to spend on items that is needed for the centre.
It shows Edmonton Green Shopping Centre has a synergy between the local community and businesses. I feel so positive about the Digital Media & Technology Centre’s future and the impact it will have in improving the quality of lives for young people living locally. I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their support, including the ones that I have not mentioned in this blog, especially my family who have lent me the money to purchase the building materials. It is incredible how we came together to tackle serious youth violence and chronic unemployment in Edmonton. Together we can continue to build our community.
If you would like further information, please contact Colin via email: firstname.lastname@example.org