THE CRIME figures for Hackney look good: 11,000 fewer crimes now than a decade ago, including a drop in gang violence.
That at least was a statistic focused on at the Hackney debate this month, a focus that became a little blurry when an audience member spoke of having been violently robbed only a few days earlier.
And the claim of a crime reduction becomes positively fuzzy when London Fields resident Michelle Dornelly reveals what she sees beyond hipster pubs and a buzzing market, the beautiful outdoors pool and genteel cricket on the grass.
She says: “I live in Middleton Road. It is notorious for gangs, crime and murder.” Some local people were scared to let children outside for fear of their being approached by gang members.
“All the youths in the area,” says Dornelly, “are affected by the postcode wars.”
Even though her children, three boys and a girl, had chosen not to belong to a gang, they had come into contact with the police and gangs, and been threatened, mugged and attacked.
“The police,” she says, “assume that all boys of colour belong to a gang by choice, which is not always the case.
“Some don’t have a choice and others need to have someone to watch their backs when they venture into another postcode.”
Dornelly is not the type to accept such outrages. Having worked with children for 25 years, including running a Hackney nursery and as a fitness instructor, she decided to use both experiences to try to improve young lives, setting up an after-school club to counter the influence of junk food and junk culture.
She tells Loving Dalston: “My aim is to teach the children how to maintain a healthy lifestyle with exercise and healthy cooking and baking.”
Jumping Beans – healthy lifestyle for kids connects children from different backgrounds and tries to change the young mindset, whether it involves gang life or obesity.
Activities are affordable for parents, who get the chance to meet and chat with one another.
Dornelly tells Loving Dalston: “Every session is a different form of exercise. The children can participate in street dance and I teach keep-fit and circuit training. Or we might go cycling or skating.
“Once we have worn ourselves out, we talk about what to cook and the children will make their own food.
“I have realised for quite a while that our children are getting heavier. It does not help that they cannot go out to play safely and so sit eating junk food in front of the TV or the X-box.
“We make it a priority at Jumping Beans to sit together.
“We finish the session with a lesson and notes that explain where foods come from, why they are good for us and what we can do to make sure we stay healthy.”
David Altheer 260315
* Jumping Beans will be at the George Downing Estate, Cazenove Road, Stoke Newington N16 6BE, Mon 30 Mar 2015 and Mon 6 Apr 2015 11am-2pm. Free
* Emboldened underscored words in most cases indicate a hyperlink, a reader service rare among websites. If a link does not work, it is probably because the site to which the URL refers has not been maintained.