The System – Who can handle the truth?

2012 the epilogue:

For the third Year running the Prime Minister called SOLA “An epitome of the Big Society” in his speech at the reception for the SOLA nominees on the 29th November 2012. I think he really does emphasise with SOLA and the vision for the project – I am sure as Hell mind you that he does not have the slightest inkling for how tough it has been to create and manage the project – The big society ideal is all well and good but when your dealing with civil servants (The System) it is beyond difficult to get them to support anything that encompasses change – Change does not equate with them easily given it might threaten their comfort zone – Imagine a world where there is no youth violence for instance – Why would we need a youth violence division at the Home Office?

Cynical? It is hard not to be when you have been on the journey that I have been on and encountered the kind of people and situations I have encountered. In my experience Governments do not run this country they take temporary charge of the system that runs the Country. The system is run by Civil servants and the civil service is the biggest employer of people and manager of technology infrastructure in the land by far.

It has been almost 18 months since my last Blog and a lot of water has passed under the proverbial viaduct – We have seen two more SOLA shows staged – The Royal Albert Hall on Monday October 10th 2011 and the O2 Arena on Monday December 10th 2012. With the first event having been staged at the Alexandra Palace in 2009 and the 2nd at IndigO2 in 2010 this is 4 events we have managed to stage during one of the longest recession periods the UK has experienced. We have created a standard in live youth award events and we have done so against very high odds and without Government or local authority funding. We have raised almost £1 Million to stage and manage the 4 events – We operate out of a couple of desks in a community office in Peckham SE5 – We don’t have a Prince as a benefactor with all the grace, favour and middle England hand outs that encompasses. We are seen as a ghetto charity pure and simple. If we do not knock the doors very hard we cannot expect them to be opened.

We have fought to establish SOLA as a means of bringing some balance into a world where young people are generally stereotyped negatively by the media. Targeted by the big commercial consumer brands unmercifully yet generally under invested in by all and sundry outside of the youth sector where the cuts have decimated services. SOLA is generic but by and large a big percentage of our young nominees come from inner city communities where the ethnic minority groups are not exactly minority in a lot of areas. I personally dream of a colour blind society where equality is king and success goes to those most deserving – That day may be a long way off but I believe that one day it will come. For sure though it may need to come through revolution more than being able to rely on evolution!

London is now one of the most multi cultural cities in the World – Its ethnicity and demographic variances making it perhaps the most diverse City of all – It has a long way to go before it is free of prejudice and an even longer way to go before equality is the standard we must demand for it to be however.

Look at the higher management echelons of the civil service and tell me what you see – You can do this easily enough if you care to use internet search engines to resource the information – There is very little diversity in evidence let along equality.

I am not suggesting there are racial implications – far from it I think the issue is far simpler than this but in essence just as alarming – I think the system is flawed.

Now look at the media – Look at the leading tabloids and broadcasters at senior management and editorial level – You will find the same flaws.

Look at the marketing and advertising industries and again the same inequality is starkly illustrated – This cannot be an academic issue as SOLA proves conclusively how many high achievers are coming out of ethnic minority groups.

Very alarmingly from the perspective of being able to affect change I have regularly come up against a challenge with SOLA in that the brands find it “too urban” according to marketing agencies – There is something very sinister in this given that it is a reference that has only been used in general terms since the black music industry reinvented itself as the “urban” music industry as more and more young white artists started adopting music of black origin as a genre of their own.

To summarise – I feel that it is the class system that is holding us back from becoming the beacon of equality I would like to see London become. The system is largely managed at the top end by white upper and middle class academics. I believe this will change as our young people storm the bastion of privilege through their drive, ambition, desire and endeavour to succeed.  It wont change quickly enough though unless it is highlighted as an issue and not allowed to be seen as a taboo subject. Those of us in a position to do so also have to make sure that young people of all colours, creeds, gender and religions are treated with 100% equality – Diversity is not good enough it is equality our kids deserve and that is what we have to strive for. That is ultimately what SOLA is about.

There is a scene in a classic film starring Jack Nicholson and Tom Cruise called “A Few Good Men” – It is a courtroom drama where Tom Cruise’s character is cross examining a feisty old war General played by Jack Nicholson – Nicholson asks him “What exactly is is it you want from me” Cruise responds with “The Truth!” .. The Nicholson riposte is sharp and loud “Son You cant handle the truth”

Is there a class system here in the UK that is suppressing young people that come out of what are now largely poverty affected inner city areas? Perhaps that is a question we could pose to the Mayor of London to see what his views are on the issue.

The Mayor tried to launch a scheme in 2010 which he called his “Black Boys mentoring scheme” – We felt the [project was rather badly labelled and felt compelled to tell him so. In any case it was a dismal failure so not too much damage was done as it flopped without really getting out of the starting traps. A delegation of our young people went to speak to his management team about their views on it at the time and one of the objections they raised to the stereotyping was that they clearly would not have been able to launch a scheme calling it a “white boys mentoring scheme”

The Mayor is currently flavour of the month of course after his spectacular success at the Olympics – After Ken Livingstone helped win London the 2012 games it has to be said that Boris made hay with its deemed success – I felt it was close to being the biggest fraud in history. Billions of pounds and limitless resource and infrastructure backed up by almost infinite positive propaganda by the media and low and behold we won a heap of medals. meanwhile people in the youth sector were facing having to try and make things happen with zero funding and no resource while trying to get the national media to cover positive stories about young people is like trying to get blood out of a stone.

Just imagine what would happen if the same resource that the Government put into the Olympics was put into our young people?

Happy New Year






4 thoughts on “The System – Who can handle the truth?

  1. Here here Gary, nice blog…

    We at Youth Scene echo these sentiments having had funding cut we can barely survive let alone deliver outstanding programmes. Let’s hope our proven record for success in this arena will see us through this storm- despite NO agenda for investment in youth and more generally a better standard for all I.e. EQUALITY.

    Check out our new website: to support us.

    Happy 2013 to all!

  2. I think what you have achieved with SOLA over the last 4 years is quite simply “remarkable” given the lack of real interest and more importantly, funding from government & the private sector. It’s about time someone put some real funding into SOLA so that you and your team can deliver your vision across the country and really make a difference with the youth of today.

  3. Like always..until some of the big players get involved organisations like SOLA will have to “beg,steal and borrow” to fund themselves and get their voice heard BUT…SOLA are firmly here to stay and it’s a vision that government would do well to really take note of and support. The youth of today are STILL our future!

  4. Well said G! What you’ve described is called… The Truth!!
    Boris has done nothing to address knife crime, violent youth culture & invested nothing into our youths futures I was one of the organisations called in to deliver the pathetic so called black mentoring project that didn’t take of because it had no fuel! No project takes of without proper planning! I wonder where all that money invested went to then? Cos I no what was already invested into this project, a few million invested into this project was never enough! He invested more into bikes it was clearly doomed from the get go! If I could see that I’m sure a man educated at Eaton private school could to!! Come on Boris…sort it out..where not all mugs…u done that to be seen to be doing something to tackle the problem but you didn’t publicise it when your project failed to take of like you did when you wanted us to know that you was launching it did ya Mmm

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