Nikky Odutayo on Elite Islington’s mission to get people off the streets

Nikky Odutayo, founder of Elite Islington. Picture: Polly Hancock

Nikky Odutayo, founder of Elite Islington. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

Nikky Odutayo is founder of Elite Islington: a faith-based community group with bite. She’s intent on changing young people’s mindsets to stop them falling into crime. Nikky chats to the Gazette.

When young people surrender to crime in Islington, commentators often bemoan a lack of opportunities.

But Nikky Odutayo, founder of Elite Islington, doesn’t buy it.

“I don’t think there’s a lack of jobs, or opportunities,” she says. “It’s a mindset issue. A lot of kids are presented with good opportunities but their mindset is completely wrong.

“They want to get rich, but many end up stealing phones on mopeds. They’re not going the right way about it.”

This is where Nikky’s Elite Islington (from a church called SPAC Nation, which has about 1,000 young people worshipping every Sunday at the Bankside Hilton Hotel) comes in.

At its core, it’s a faith group – but one which focuses on being practical to improve social mobility.

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Nikky continues: “The problem is, there’s no one out there to help translate their core skills to a professional level. That is why Elite Islington is here – to act as the middleman.

“We started as a faith fellowship. But we noticed the need in the community was greater than just praying. We’ve decided to get out in the community, with our little initiatives, and engage people.

“Our focus is getting the youth off the streets and into something more practical.”

It recently held an entrepreneurial fair, for example. And to help get a grip of knife crime, which continues to hurt so many families in Islington, its members heard from Michelle McPhillips – mum of Upper Street stab victim JJ.

As for Nikky, of Canonbury, it all began four years ago: “I started a small group, talking about our lives, in my living room. I was going thorough a troublesome time, suffering alopecia. I lost my hair and I was struggling.

“Now when I approach young people, they see me and say: ‘You look strange.’ I say: ‘Yeah I do, now what’s going on in your life?’ I use it to my advantage.

“My mum got an MBE for her work with young people after the Tottenham riots – I think I get this from her!”

The 27-year-old concludes: “Islington is my baby. I really want to see a big change. We are out in the streets trying to clean things up.”