The Factory East project was set up by the local community in Bow, in 2009, after troubles in the area prompted those from the community to open up a much needed community project. The initiative looks to get to those young people who are hardest to reach, and to give them an incentive to stay on the straight and narrow. Crime prevention is one Factory East’s primary objectives, and uses their facilities and mentors to help those young people who are most susceptible to being involved with street crime and gang culture. From music to boxing, Factory East looks to provide activities that inspire young people from some of the most deprived areas in Britain to want to achieve more.
With very little external funding, we were able to secure a safe space on Fairfield Road, Bow, to create a central hub for young people to attend. Crime committed by young people in Bow and its surrounding areas has been a problem, it’s not just petty crimes, there are cases of young people being involved in serious incidents and murders too, with crimes that were not even being picked up by the Police at times. These issues, along with the idea of bridging the gap between young people from all over the east end, are what prompted the opening of the boxing gym and recording studio in Bow. The opening of the premises did not just cut down crime, but also shined the light on many talented young people who did not have an outlet in which to express themselves. The boxing gym and music studio played host to some of the most talented young people who were shown a positive path to go down. Music was thriving at Factory East, we had managed to secure slots for our young artists at a whole range of events and live performances, even at festivals such as Lovebox and major venues such as Somerset House.
The work being put in did not go unnoticed. The project gained praise from top academics, as well as support from local authorities and Tower Hamlets Council. The Heritage Lottery Fund also saw what effect Factory East was having on the local community. The project is affiliated with the ABA, for its boxing efforts and had been training young people for sporting success. Professional boxing coaches and those from the music industry, who helped out with the music projects, helped shape what Factory East had become renowned for. The project had even stirred up media interest for the work that was being done, with articles in the Evening Standard and the East London Advertiser to name a couple. It is important to emphasize that everyone who is involved with Factory East, is involved on a voluntary basis, and give up their own time to make the project work. The same goes for the young people who use our facilities. They are there because they want to be.
However, after so much great work, in March 2011 the project was told to leave the premises for developers to move in. The once derelict building, had been transformed by Factory East, and had become a central hub in many of the young people’s lives (Click here to see photo’s of the property being developed). It brought together people from different backgrounds, races and postcodes, from some of the most hostile environments in the UK. The space allowed those who used it to feel like they could express themselves in a safe place. The environment created was not a hostile one, far from it in fact. It had become a place where, gangs, postcodes and races became irrelevant. These facilities provided young people with tools to help focus their energy into something positive. After being removed from the building, the young people went back to where we did not want them to be, back on street corners, without a sense of motivation. Yet, despite our setbacks we did not give up on these young people. We use anything we can to keep Factory East’s users focussed, operating from local parks for instance. Our main priority is keeping those at risk from being involved with crime, occupied with the project and any of the tools we can provide them with.
The project was set up at a time where a feeling of growing crime and ‘out of control’ youth was being felt by the local community. The building where the project was being held was closed at such a crucial time, especially in London. Just a few months after its closure we saw unprecedented rioting in the capital in August 2011. It is projects like Factory East that need support, as they are more than able to help young people refrain from such criminality, even bridging the gap between community and Police.
Since leaving the property in Bow, Factory East had been continuing its efforts and secured another location in Mile End, in May 2011, to hold Factory East Music and its recording studio, with another project, Fluent Music. Other issues of practicality and logistics led us to discontinue the use of the Mile End studio, after almost a year there. Although this period had been quite uncertain for us, in terms of what to expect from the future, we still stayed focussed with our ultimate goals of helping our young people. We were involved with the Tribal 2012 project from July 2011, in part with the Heritage Lottery fund and Xlternative, to provide stimulating activity for the young people we work with. A series of eye opening videos have been the result of the project. There have been other boxing-related projects put on for our young people too, funded by the Heritage Lottery fund also.
2012 saw more changes with Factory East, while still being connected with the community. The mobile boxing gym, called Project Hope, presented a chance for young people to focus their energy towards a stimulating sport, as well as keeping fit and healthy. The gym looks to move from location to location, offering young people our services. The project has also been backed by Tower Hamlets council, as well as the sports council. So far, all of those who have taken part have been a part of a survey that concluded that every single young person wanted the project to continue. This is just one of the new initiatives we have embarked upon.
Currently, we are working on a mobile recording studio, as well as plans to set up a permanent base, as we understand how crucial it is to have that central hub. We are now actively involved with a number of university projects such as the Open Book project, with Goldsmiths University, who have seen how our unique position and insight is undoubtedly very useful in being able to make a change in the community. Queen Mary University are working with us on other projects too along with the University of the Arts London. We are also undertaking another initiative involved in providing boxing classes to those at PRU (Pupil Referral Unit) schools. The methods that we have used with the PRU schools continue to be implemented, even when we are not running our courses. We’ve been able to educate teachers on the best ways of dealing with these young people, giving them a unique insight.
Factory East is unique in that it was set up, by the people, for the people, and effectively with the people. It is something that no government initiative can truly provide. The people who are involved with Factory East understand where these young people come from, having come from the same backgrounds themselves. It is a reassuring voice for these young people to have. It is a voice that a lot of young people growing up in Britain’s inner cities simply do not hear.
If we as an organisation had appropriate funding, there would not be any limits to what we could achieve. We have big ambitions. We want to take what we do in our community, and provide that service to communities nationwide. There’s even been interest in taking what we do abroad too, and why not? We have proven that the services we provide are effective, and our relationship with young people is extremely important in bridging the gap between multiple sections of society. What we’ve achieved already has been remarkable considering the limited funding we have received. That’s only £8,500 in three years. Some of which came from organisations such as the St Katherine and Shadwell Trust, as well as individual donators. To keep a project like this going, we need funding that will ensure that Factory East will be here for many years, carrying out its great work.
We understand that post-2011 riots, more and more government backed iniatives have been created for young people. However, it was the events of 2011 that prompted these schemes, whereas our project has been involved with young people for many years prior to any major disruptions, we understand the communituy, because we are from the community.
Regardless of the setbacks, we are getting stronger, the faith in the project has never been more strong. There are new doors that are opening for us, that allow us to help our community in different ways, allowing us to continue our efforts in maintaining a multcultural heartbeat in the east end.
Reasons behind the projects
“With sickening crimes devastating the community, innocent people being murdered, Gun and Knife Crime, Gangs, Drugs, Alcohol, Antisocial Behavior, and out of control youths everywhere, As a father with two teenagers, and being a senior member of the community I have to become involved in addressing the issues that are crippling the community. On conducting research it was evident that the government’s lack of care and bureaucracy was at the top of the agenda for blame, with cut backs, service closures and the country economic decline. These circumstances along with many other social issues are leaving youth feeling angry, hopeless and in to limited existence. ”
In 2008, the charity director took out a lease on a derelict building which had been vacant for several years, utilizing local volunteers and fundraising, and after seven months of work Factory East opened a Boxing Gym and a Music Studio giving the club the opportunity to find out young people’s needs and ways in which to help them. In a positive environment we were able to develop relationships and offer solutions for the problems they face.
The project was a success, and gained interest from academic and media bodies. Unfortunately in 2011, after two years, the director was told that they had to leave the building because property developers had acquired the land to develop on. This was a terrible blow, It generated local media interest and organizations were sympathetic and offering replacement residences; this was a very crucial time, just four months later we saw the riots.
In the news on 2nd January 2013 the Princes Trust survey released statistics that indicate that 48% of youth age 16 to 24 are feeling hopeless, research tells me that even youth much younger than this are feeling the same, are showing signs of becoming anti-social, and will no doubt follow in the footsteps of their peers.
In 2012 the community project had great achievement with all of its projects; projects now being recognised as “vital” by academic and educational bodies. It’s now 2013 and what’s in store; I have just registered Factory East Community Project as a limited company and now, having enlisted three trustees have a charitable status. I have also developed a business plan and am currently seeking both a new base and funding.