The Spirit of London Awards 2011

It has been a while since I last blogged. Recharging the batteries would be a great excuse – Telling it how it is however I just been too busy to find the time. We are into the final countdown for this Years Spirit of London awards already!

Putting the spotlight on the positive youth of London was the rationale for setting the awards up back in 2008 – There were 29 teenage deaths in London alone that year due to youth violence – We wanted to do something to address the imbalance with all the negative media this was generating – We felt that with so many good people already running various crime intervention projects a new approach was needed to tackling the negative issues.

Ultimately there are a hell of a lot more good kids than there are bad its just that the negative actions of the minority grab all the headlines – we felt that given they are the main “victims” of crime as the main demographic the feral minority target, if we could mobilise them into a “movement” then this would be one of the most telling things we could achieve. We realised it would be hard funding wise as the money set aside by the Government and local authorities is generally given to projects that target the feral minority directly. The kids coming out of the toughest areas who make the right choices and do not engage in criminality are largely overlooked. Simple fact is though we really believed it could make a difference if we developed a “trojan horse” style project like that and so we went for it anyway!

The plan with SOLA was audacious in that we set our sights on a fusion of the BAFTAS, the BRITS and the MOBOS as our template and “The Community Oscars for young people” as the strap line to explain what was in the box affectively!

Thanks to the efforts of an amazing team of people, many of them youth volunteers from Southwark and Haringey, we pulled off the event we had aspired to deliver when on the 27th November 2009 we staged the inaugural Spirit of London Awards @ The Alexandra Palace in North London. The young people who had come together through the award nominations were quite amazing and with the support of sponsors like Moss Brothers we were able to recreate the Oscars format we set out to achieve. It was an amazing evening.

The then Labour Government were all over us like a rash now as we had clearly delivered something with strong value so when the then Minister for Schools promised us significant funding to take the project forward it seemed the next step of the journey would be a lot easier. Our plan entailed us being able to build outreach programmes to engage the SOLA Ambassadors in could also be implemented earlier than envisaged. Sadly the promises never came to anything more than that and we found ourselves without any funding at all due to the election.

What went on during this period was quite an eye opener for us in terms of the way things work in Whitehall – The “politics behind the politics” as many refer to the way the “system” works. What has gone on since, especially how we managed to stage SOLA 2010 at the IndigO2 having gone almost 18 months without any kind of official funding at all…. well a book will be written at some stage I am sure. Downing Street receptions and the full support of the Mayor of London but zero help with funding. We had to fight and scrap for every penny invested in the brand. At times the struggle made the old saying about “pushing water up hill with a spoon” a “boast” given we would have done anything for a spoon!

The team of young people behind the project had grown significantly however and it was the youngsters who came through “behind the scenes” to selflessly work to promote their peers that provide the biggest success story of all attached to the project. We also had the support of our Southwark Young Advisor team and their wonderful lead Chloe Newman – This is not the right moment for me to go into too much detail about the selflessness of the team or the individuals involved. Time enough for that as the story behind how we are staging the event this year at the Royal Albert Hall is disclosed. I will however bring to your attention some of the heroes behind the scenes.

The SOLA Youth Management Foundation is now pulling the strings and Whitney Iles, Emanuel Cagengue, Andre Campbell and Richard Serunjogi are young social entrepreneurs blazing a trail for their peers – The SOLA Ambassador programme is also taking shape and the amazing young people who have come through the class or 2009 and the class of 2010 awards truly are inspirational.

Again there will be more about the likes of Dean Atta, Mizz Camara, Haley Rea, Bobby Kensah, the Ladywell School Young Citizens, Vanessa Sanyauke, Jessica Elliot, The Respect Team,  Dennis Gyamfi , Mariama Samba, Ebonie Barlow-Reid, Ritz, Omar Choudary and the rest… In the months to come…. We are told that the Olympics is going to make London proud well I can tell you that these young people are making London proud already. And they will provide a true legacy that will serve us well.

So the countdown now begins to Monday October 10th 2011 and the 3rd Spirit of London Awards at the ROYAL ALBERT HALL – Who could have imagined we would be rolling up at such a salubrious venue to pay homage the great and the good of London’s youth when we first set out our vision for the brand – It is a huge challenge of course but it is one we are rising to with the help of some very talented people such as Nadu Placca of Mocca events who is our event manager this Year and George Ebenezer of GGI who is managing our artist recruitment for the support acts who help give the night its “oomph factor!” watch this space for some extremely talented artists being announced in the coming weeks.

In the coming weeks I will also talk about the support our celebrity ambassadors such as Christine Ohorougu, Ashley Walters, Adam Deacon, Brooke Kinsella, Rio Ferdinand, Jermain Jenas and Jermain Defoe will be giving to the event this year and finally…

A big mention for our latest media partners, on-line youth broadcasting sensation SBTV – They are busy putting the finishing touches to the launch of their own new website next week and with over 50 million viewers the word “sensation” really is not being over played! A big thank you to Jamal Edwards, Liam Tootill, Rick Tank and the rest of their crew – They join the Sun and Kiss 100 as our own “Premier league media partner Team” – Every top Premier team needs a top Manager of course and with Toby Burnham of Freud Communications coming behind us in this respect this Year we really are going to be in good shape to get the message out that “The Kids are alright!”

The nominations for this years community Oscars for young people lighting up their local communities commence on Monday July 4th so be ready to get nominating – We have a new national award this Year for THE YOUNG CAMPAIGNER OF THE YEAR and we are also introducing an ACHIEVEMENT THROUGH FASHION category to the existing London-based awards – It is going to be mad, hectic, stress central and an absolute blast!

Please follow the progress and with the capacity of the event up to 3,000 this Year I hope to see many of you there on the night!

May the Spirit of London be strong in you!

G x

With special thanks to Dan Janes of Converxion who is now managing our on-line activity in support of the wonderful web build work Digital Marmalade have done with the site development – The regenerated site will be live on July 4th in time for the launch!

Oh and thanks also to Jess Marcel my poor PA for the next 4 months who will be trying to make sense of my spelling and grammar and keeping the admin in order!

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