Nedim Bilgin: Copenhagen Youth Project says 'traumatised' friends of Caledonian Road stabbing victim need more support
PUBLISHED: 16:25 31 January 2019 | UPDATED: 11:30 01 February 2019
The youth centre attended three times a week by Nedim Bilgin before he was stabbed to death on Tuesday says traumatised youngsters in the community need more support.
Former Mary Magdalene Academy student Nedim, 17, who was killed in Caledonian Road this week, regularly sought sanctuary at the Copenhagen Youth Project.
Stephen Griffith, project director at the centre, told the Gazette Nedim attended every youth club session and had done for years.
Stephen, who’s run the club for more than 12 years, told the Gazette he had been dealing with the effects of violent crime for decades now.
He said: “I don’t think you can belittle how much [the project] knows about the community so we are very privileged to be in a position to know this young man and all his peers.
“It [the death of a service user] has happened before.
“What happens now is those cards get wet and the flowers turn to mulch, the cameras disappear, the newspapers disappear and we’re still here picking up the pieces.
“In three of four weeks time it will be finished [for the media] and it will be left to us.”
He wants people to think about the effect Nedim’s death will have on people in the community once that happens because it’s the weeks and months after such a tragedy when the Copenhagen Project, and other front line services, step in to support traumatised young people.
“We have a group of young people who know him really well,” said Stephen.
“But then there are other young people who know him because he was in their school but five years above them.
“Some of them will hear what happened in the Cally Road. People need to help the children process that – they might not have parents they can talk to about it.
“Our lives still go on as normal because we still have to be delivering the support young people need.”
A 17-year-old and 16-year-old arrested at the scene of Nedim’s death on suspicion of murder have since been bailed.
An 18-year-old arrested later on Tuesday night at an Islington address is still being held on suspicion of murder.
A postmortem exam was due to be carried out at the Whittington Hospital today.
“It’s a disaster,” said Stephen. “Young lives should not be lost in this callous way.
“Nedim had a lot going for him. He was a larger than life presence. He loved life and was still a very young man. He had a lot of friends and was a very lively character.
“He loved this project and had a lot of respect for the staff here.
“There is a community of young people who are unfortunately living their lives on the very edge, who are not receiving enough support.
“They’re from families who are really struggling. Everything is being made that bit tougher. Education is tougher for children, families are struggling on the amount of benefits and income they’ve got coming in. They don’t have much money to survive, so there is a lot more stress and for that reason family life is difficult.
“Children need a safe space where they can be themselves and be creative.
He says frontline initiatives like the Copenhagen Project, which works with children and young people who aren’t in education or employment and risk falling into crime, need more funding.
Stephen has already approached Sadiq Khan, the Home Office and Islington Council for extra support this year so they can continue their vital work.
He would like to run the youth club every day of the week, and have it open from 6pm to 2am, so young people could drop in for support and sanctuary at the most critical times.
“We are seeing London really quite divided at the moment,” he said. “We can look at this as a case of every young man being stabbed by a world of dark forces, or we can focus on the solutions.”
He said resources must be directed towards troubled families and wrap-around services. And there must be more acute services in the community accessible to young people. But Stephen believes those most at risk wont respond to social workers knocking on their door, and instead need to become involved in community projects.
Stephen says social media has a “massive” part to play in the ongoing youth violence, as well as computer games.
He said: “It’s games like Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto, which young people become addicted to. I have spent 10 years working with those who are in and out of prison.
“Many didn’t have great parenting, not always due to the fault of the parent as there may be mental health or other problems involved, but the children play these games without any oversight and they become desensitised. Their behaviour becomes more violent.
He says music that glamorises violence and criminal lifestyles is also a contributing factor, as is the government austerity cuts to front line services.
Stephen added: “More wealth is coming into the area and a lot of people are not included in that change, creating a bigger divide.
“Young people look how others are living and resentment grows.”
You can find out more about the Copenhagen Centre here.