Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Slippin'

No, not the kind of slipping where you fall over on your arse but rather slippin' which means to be caught out of your own neighbourhood or postcode, something that can cost you anything from your pride, your mobile, to your life.

I was aware of the UK phenomenon of slippin' but it was brought home to me today with a group of young people I've been working with for a while. I'm helping them make a song and the artwork to go with it, which they'll then display and perform; they are all kids from a Pupil Support Centre which is basically another term for a PRU, or Pupil Referral Unit, a place for young people that have been excluded from school or are unable to do anything positive in a school environment for whatever reason (and there are many).

Over lunch we were chatting and as always the conversation turned to slippin' and the penalties for being caught in the wrong area, postcode or road; many of the young people had been threatened at knife point or got attacked or just had stuff stolen off them.

Adults of course are oblivious to this, unless you exist in that world, we move around free of the lines drawn in the sand, that crisscross every section of the cities and towns we live in. These young people are hypersensitive to these boundaries and they have to be, stepping outside of the theatre we are based at is itself fraught with danger, whether imagined or not, and penalties for slippin' weigh heavy on their minds.

As I watched them chat, one of the young people, Piers, profoundly expressed the heavy sense of dread and fear that hangs over his every movement; he talked of feeling weary, of always feeling on edge when outside of his home and it struck me, to live with that fear and hypertension virtually all of the time is a serious thing to carry at a young age.

I'll leave you with a tale told by Abdi, a young Somalian boy I'm working with on the project, he spoke of the time that a Somalian boy was caught slippin' in Camden and was thrown out of the back window on a double decker bus.

Abdi says that since that day he's never been to Camden.

5 comments:

  1. The joke there is that anyone who actually WANTS to go to Camden deserves to be thrown out of the bus...

    But these invisible lines aren't a new phenomenon. I've thought about this before, because there's a lot of stuff written about gangs and there is a heavy emphasis on the racial ethnicity of gang culture in London.

    However, as I was bleating before, this is not a new phenonmenon. It is new for London and other parts of England, but go over the border to Scotland and you'll find men young and old, subject to the same invisibile map. In Glasgow and other parts of that country, knife culture has been the norm for a long, long time dating back to the 60s I believe and the war-wounds can be seen on the faces of old men. Again, go into the wrong street and you get cut up, if you are lucky. In Scotland, it runs along religious and familial lines - its Catholics verses Proddies, etc.

    So don't think this is new - the Jocks have been ripping each other to pieces for years...what can you conclude from this? It's really about race or religion or rap music - it's about boys being boys playing at what they think it is to be a man.

    The devil makes works for idle hands, etc...

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  2. Having said all that, yesterday's session was fantastic and far more uplifting.

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  3. Apologies for trying to leave a racist comment earlier, I am having a breakdown and taking out my pain on others.

    Forgive me.

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