“Riot from Wrong”: Youth, Media, and Violence
By Maryanne Olson
Run by and for young people in the UK, the organization Fully Focused produced a documentary, Riot from Wrong, in response to the 2011 riots in London. Along with an accompanying educational tour, the film encourages dialogue among young people and their communities on policing, media portrayal of youth, and conflict resolution. I caught up with Alex Simpson, a member of the organization’s steering committee and the film’s narrator.
What’s the biggest myth about young people you’ve encountered in your work?
That they don’t care. We see examples every day that they do! Within our own network of 19 young people, we volunteer and dedicate a great amount of time to the work we do because we believe that each and every individual, regardless of their age or socioeconomic background, has a part to play in society. This is why we have traveled the length and breadth of the UK and Europe to engage with people from all walks of life in order to find ways to improve society.
Along this journey we have come across many other young people who have also dedicated their time to making positive changes, and great organizations such as Stop-Watch and Centrepoint. Young people do care about the issues affecting their communities; the problem is that they often don’t feel empowered enough to act or lack access to the resources and knowledge of how to.
What is the Riot from Wrong project?
The Riot from Wrong documentary is a reaction to the August 2011 riots across London and the UK. We as a youth media organization and as young individuals felt a unanimous sense of disgust, frustration, and anger toward the coverage that mainstream media offered. It marginalized and demonized young people while at the same time failed to recognize or actively engage in a conversation about the underlying causes that would make any person—not just a young person—inflict such destruction upon their community.
We set out to have a deeper conversation with people from different areas of society about their thoughts and feelings towards the riots and the issues that surrounded it, as well as search for solutions to these problems.
Why do you think young people should take the lead on engaging with police and adults in their community?
The often negative relationship between police and young people is a major issue. It’s part of a vicious circle where youth are too often mistreated by the police, which subsequently breeds a gross mistrust and negative attitude towards police from young people.
Fully Focused believes that in order to change a situation you must actively engage with it; young people have a voice and care about the issues within their communities. It is only right that we take the lead in engaging with police and adults in trying to find solutions to issues that directly affect us, as opposed to having adults “speak for” the youth.
Fully Focused is funded in part by the Youth Initiative, Media Program, Education Support Program, and At Home in Europe Project of the Open Society Foundations.