When the community takes a lead …

Brixton’s Market Row is hosting a ground-breaking initiative that is growing from the grass roots up. Alan Slingsby was at the launch of its pop-up shop …

woman talking at public gathering
Serena Nalty-Coombs

“Just having a presence makes people come through the doors,” said Serena Nalty-Coombs of Lambeth Schools Patrol (LSP).

She was welcoming the launch yesterday (27 January) of an initial four-week stay for LSP in a Brixton Market Row shopfront.

Several speakers at the launch highlighted the success and significance of the initiative which is part funded by the Brixton Business Improvement District (BID) and is now being asked if and when it can expand its work in London and further afield.

Diana Nabagereka, general manager of Brixton Village, which is providing the Market Row pop-up, said young people in our community “travel through Brixton Village and they influence our traders, they influence our team for the good, the bad and the ugly”.

woman speaking art public event
Diana Nabagereka

She said when Lee Jasper of LSP and the Code 7 charity behind it approached her with the initiative and gave some examples of how I could get involved, “it was a no-brainer”.

She approached the landlord “and it was a no-brainer for him”.

Serena Nalty-Coombs said the schools patrol had been a long journey, starting with community consultation that led to members of the community saying that they would really like a patrol.

Lots of workshops, lots of meetings with councillors, the police and other people followed. “It took us about 18 months to get off the ground.

“It’s been amazing that we’ve been able to train this many volunteers.

“We have to be able to start that process again in February, when we start recruitment again for the summer months.

“This pop-up shop is helping us to be able to be present in Brixton and to get people on board – just this morning, a couple of people have already come in and signed up.

“We’re not here trying to tell people what to do and how to do it.

“We’ve just set up something that is for everyone to utilise and to work with.

“We work in a public health model. So when people are speaking about mental health and wellbeing, this all feeds into that.

“Even if you can only give an hour, an hour is enough – an hour a week, no problem just come along and help and support us.”

man and woman at public event
Asher Senator of Code 7 and Sandra

A brief contribution from Sandra, whose son had got involved with Code 7, showed how important and effective the work of LSP and Code 7 can be.

“I tell you it’s the best thing that’s ever happened,” she said.

“Before, he was just a different child. He was doing things he was not supposed to do. And now he just looks forward to going to Code 7. 

“It’s changed his life. Let’s put it like that.

“My son used to run away from home. Now I can’t get him out of the house.

“Code 7’s just changed his life.”

man speaking at public event
Mahamed Hashi

Lambeth councillor Dr Mahamed Hashi thanked the people behind Code 7 and LSP, saying their work had been going on for a long time, if not necessarily in its current form.

“It’s been important in the past and it’s going to continue to be important,” he said.

“We need to start trusting our communities more to lead on this kind of stuff, where in the past it has been police or councillors, etc.”

There had not been enough trust in the communities to let them lead on the issues that were happening in their own communities.

“So, again, it’s a blessing that this has happened. It’s a blessing that you guys have been able to bring together everyone for such an important cause.”

woman speaking at public event
LSP volunteers Rebecca Carnegie (left) and Molita Gordon listen to Cllr Scarlett O’Hara

Councillor Scarlett O’Hara agreed with Councillor Hashi, saying: “It’s all about partnerships, coming together to make a stronger community. And there’s no better place to start than with our kids coming home from school.

“I think it’s fantastic work that you’ve done and it’s really, really important to all of us. Thank you very much.”

woman speaking at public event
Marina Ahmad

Marina Ahmad, Greater London Authority member for Lambeth and Southwark, told the LSP organisers and volunteers: “For you to take the lead and to actually do what you can to make our kids feel safe on our streets is amazing.”

man speaking at public event
Gianluca Rizzo

Gianluca Rizzo, director of the Brixton Business Improvement District (BID) said it was funding LSP because “we want young people to feel safe in Brixton”.

It also wanted to change the perception that young people might have a Brixton.

“We don’t want Brixton to be a place of fear. We want Brixton to be a place of opportunities.

“We want young people to feel they can get a job in Brixton and maybe also become the next generation of business owners.”

woman speaking at public event
Sherry Peck

Sherry Peck, CEO of Safer London, said she had been “blown away” by the work done by Asher Senator and Serena Nalty-Coombs of Code 7.

“They continue to go out day in, day out, as volunteers and work for young people.

“The message that that sends to children, young people and communities is that actually somebody cares about them and that there’s somebody that I can tap into and do whatever I can to support the school patrol.

“It’s great that Brixton has got this, but London needs it. Sadly, too many children, too many children being killed.”

man speaking at public event
Viv Ahmun

Viv Ahmun from Blaksox said “we’ve got to recognise that our young people are our future”.

The reason the street patrol is so important for him is that it is identifying talent that is not being engaged by others in the community, and then funnelling them through to the many opportunities that are available but that they very rarely get to hear about.

In response to a question, Serena Nalty-Coombs said the organisers had been approached both by other areas in Lambeth and other London. boroughs about extending and sharing their work.

“We’re ready and available to expand,” she said.

shopfront in covered market
The shopfront at 2A Market Row in Brixton

Closing the event Asher Senator of Code 7 spoke of how moved he was by seeing volunteers who wanted better for their community come twice a week “to walk up and down Brixton Road in cold and heat, rain and snow, to talk to our young people” and see the reaction that we’re getting.

“It makes me know that there are some lovely people still left in our community that really care. These people are real. It’s fantastic.

people in covered market
Admiring the banners advertising the LSP pop-ip shop
banner hanging in indoor market

Find out more about the Lambeth Schools Patrol