Gannow Urban Warriors: making kids proud of their community again

The Gannow Urban Warriors in action making a new bin for litter.
The Gannow Urban Warriors in action making a new bin for litter.
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A social project encouraging children to take more pride in their local community to steer them away from potentially anti-social behaviour has been a massive hit and has "broken down generational barriers" according to the organiser.

Called the Gannow Urban Warriors, the group of 15 to 20 children channelled their energy into improving the local environment over the summer, working with Lisa Scarlet Ryan, a Gannow-based textile artist and community engagement practitioner, at the community centre.

The warriors before going out litter picking.

The warriors before going out litter picking.

As part of a Gannow Big Local-funded project with Participation Works and Active Streets, Lisa has been trying to get the youngsters - all younger than 11 - to be more aware and respond to their environment in a positive and proactive way after a few had been showing signs of minor anti-social behaviour and a lack of appreciation for the local landscape.

"The idea came when some of the children were misbehaving outside the centre, so I wanted to give them a bit of ownership," said Lisa, who has been teaching the children about litter and decay. "These children were seven or eight years old; we wanted to know what the reason was for their anti-social behaviour and how we could help. We listened to them.

"Either you can sit back and think someone else has to do it, or you can stand up," she added. "They loved it and they responded really well to the trust we put in them. We take responsibility away from kids and try to control everything they do, and when we tell them off, we don't ask them why they behaved like they did and try to come up with a solution."

In an effort to get the children to look at their local area in a different way, Lisa had the kids go out and take pictures of the things they did and didn't like about the community and then vocalise their feelings, asking themselves how they could improve the things they didn't like by painting railings, picking up litter, making a papier mache bin, and coming up with green slogans.

One of the Gannow Urban Warriors helping paint the railings outside the community centre.

One of the Gannow Urban Warriors helping paint the railings outside the community centre.

"We want people to like their area and look after their area, and we focused on the areas that were important to them so that they could feel like they had made a change that was visible," Lisa explained. "All the children said they are very proud of the work they have done and that they felt Gannow residents have been impressed by it too.

"I'm not saying give kids everything thy want, but they need a little bit to have that freedom to express themselves properly," Lisa added. "It changed perceptions on both sides: suddenly the residents are seeing the kids doing something really useful."

Aiming to provide similar activities over Easter and summer in 2019, Lisa believes that longevity is the key to making real change and that the altered perceptions will filter down through the years until anti-social behaviour is innately less likely because of the pride and awareness kids have picked up.

"The results speak for themselves," Lisa said. "I am so proud of the kids, they exceeded all my expectations. I feel some barriers in the community have been broken down and everyone had fun in the process."