Arsenal star Alex Iwobi hails talented North London youngsters in hit anti-violence film Drawn Out
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Arsenal attacker Alex Iwobi has praised the talented North London youngsters involved in a stunning anti-violence video that has been viewed by nearly one and a quarter million people in little more than a week.
The hit movie called Drawn Out, been has been a huge success through its honest portrayal of street life, gang life and violence.
The flick has earned plaudits through its positive depiction of the raw realities many working class youngsters face – making it more than just a film, as it offers hope, a way out and a message to those caught up or stuck in negative situations they don’t want to be in.
Iwobi, who Arsenal head coach Unai Emery handed an improved five-year deal prior to the start of the season, hailed the talented youngsters.
In a video that the club’s official Twitter account shared with its 13.7 million followers, the 22-year-old said: “I just wanted to say a big well done to all of you making Drawn Out who are doing something positive for your community.
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“We are all really proud of you.”
Arsenal in the Community hosted a packed Emirates screening of Drawn Out on Thursday which included the inspirational mentor Shawdon Smith from the Elthorne Estate. The well-respected Shawdon runs Ambitious Academy and is a passionate supporter of young people in his community, as well as providing talented kids with vital opportunities to wide their hopes and aspirations.
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The academy was deeply involved in the making of Drawn Out which was created by 15 talented youngsters from Elthorne and the same number from Fully Focussed in partnership with Arsenal in the Community, which came about after more than 25 workshops over eight months.
The underlining message is not to get into confrontations that can escalate rapidly that has been praised by many.
The short flick has been hailed for its authentic nature as well as excellent acting, attracting numerous positive comments on You Tube.
Shawdon, speaking to the Islington Gazette at the Emirates spoke from the heart, saying: “I’m not going to lie. I’ve never been jailed, or stabbed or shot, or killed anyone but I have been around those type of people.
“I have been around people who have done those things and lived that life. To a certain extent I have lived that life. I come from Elthorne Estate, a very deprived, poverty-driven area, a lot of gang culture was on that estate when I was growing up.
“I had no father in my life and had to go out on the streets and see life for what it is. To a certain extent that is why young people can look up to me because they can go: ‘Do you know what, Shawdon’s lived that life.’”
The charismatic 26-year-old added he was so proud to see the transition and positive changes in people’s lives and that it made him proud to watch their aspirations grow and change for the better.
He has been working hard in his role for five years and says his most rewarding moments also come when the mothers of the young children whose lives he helps alter for the better tell him to keep going and offer him encouragement.
He is proud of where he comes from and his community.
Shawdon explained: “I try and advise our young people to do something constructive.
“I’ve dropped everything to make sure that it’s my duty and my purpose to try and help as many young people as possible on their journey.
“When I was growing up I never knew what I wanted to go but if I can help push young people in the positive direction that they want to go. It’s a blessing. My life could have turned into something completely different.
“We live in a generation that is lost. Where young people are killing each other, stabbing each other. Why do you think that is? Because our community centres are being cut. Because there is no family orientation around. Because there are no positive role models within their community to say look: Let’s do something different. “Yes, there are respected figures in the community. But that’s who we need to tap into. The ones that young people relate to.
“The ones who listen to the same music. Eat the same food. Talk the same way. But who can show themselves as something positive. Those are the ones we need to tap into.
“I’m proud to say I’m trying to do my best to be one of those people.”
Arsenal in the Community have worked with young people from the Elthorne Estate for 12 years, with most of those involved in the Drawn Out project associated with the club’s community programmes for between five and eight years.
Jack Ironside, Kicks co-ordinator has been a driving force in forging strong links between Arsenal in the Community and youngsters in the Elthorne Estate, a productive relationship which has helped Drawn Out come to fruition.
Jack has been with Arsenal for 12 years, including taking part in the club’s gap year programme after graduating from Football Studies at Solent University.
He has been working hard visiting communities in North London including the Elthorne Estate, all the while helping to build relationships between youngsters and the club.
Modest Jack, who has been praised by Shawdon and many others for coming in the heart of communities in North London, including the Elthorne Estate, said: “Many youngsters won’t come to mainstream things.
“But if you’re prepared to go into their community, to talk to them, to show them that you care, to show them that by going into their community you care about helping them – then that says straight away I’m here for you.
“That then helps build trust. We’re transparent with them.
“We’re always honest with them. And they respond to that.”
Jack has seen the confidence of many from Elthorne grow, along with their aspirations. Arsenal’s influence has seen some land jobs to help start realising their potential.
Free football sessions take place four nights per week for young people aged 10 and above but the club’s focus is more on the development of the participants off the pitch.
Throughout the club’s 12 years of engagement with this particular community, on top of more than three decades helping many others in deprived areas of North London, the Gunners have supported young people into employment, provided a wide range of courses and personal development workshops, as well as establishing an Alternative Provision programme with the support of community partners.
Jack added: “It’s not just about the Premier League with Arsenal, important as that is. The club cares about being a good neighbour and helping the community.
“I’m proud to play a small part in that with Arsenal in the Community.”
With thanks to Ambitious Academy, Fully Focused, Arsenal in the Community, Islington Homes and Communities, Islington Giving, Arsenal Foundation, Elthorne Pride and to Arsenal FC and Stuart MacFarlane.
Follow Arsenal reporter Layth Yousif on Twitter and Instagram @laythy29 for his in-depth coverage on all aspects of the club.