Mayor Of London launches new anti-knife crime Campaign: London Needs You Alive

Some of London’s most influential young artists and campaigners – from grime and rap stars to poets, bloggers and photographers joined the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, to launch a new anti-knife crime campaign: London Needs You Alive – don’t carry a knife.

London Needs You Alive puts forward a positive message and aims to influence young Londoners to make an active choice not to carry a knife. The campaign – backed by a powerful video – highlights how valuable they are to London, to their family and friends and how, by using their talent, and not picking up a knife, they can accomplish great things.

In what the Mayor hopes will become a new movement owned by Londoners, the campaign asks young people to post social media content telling their friends and family why London needs them alive and why they shouldn’t carry a knife.

To spread the message, Sadiq approached talented role models in London who are followed by young people on social media and the youth workers and campaigners who share his belief that London needs its young people alive.

With hundreds of thousands of social media followers between them, leading grime artist Yungen, MC Bossman Birdie, photographer Tom Sloan, blogger The Slumflower and urban poet Hussain Manawer are among the social media youth ‘influencers’ who have put their weight behind the Mayor’s campaign, going out to their followers with their own content and asking young Londoners to create their own posts.  

The Mayor is passionate about making sure that every young person in London – no matter who they are, where they live or their background – can grow up in safety, with opportunities to fulfil their potential. Crime has been rising both across the country and in London since 2014. In 2016 knife crime across England and Wales rose by 14 per cent. Knife crime has claimed the lives of 40 Londoners under the age of 25 this year, and can’t be solved by police enforcement alone.

The Mayor’s new campaign follows in-depth research and analysis with the communities and young Londoners who are most affected by the problem, and has the support of youth workers, the Kinsella family, Yvonne Lawson and others who have tragically lost loved ones and are now dedicating their lives to tackling knife crime.

Today, the Mayor and campaign supporters joined a group of 14-year-old Londoners taking part in a creative workshop at Brixton-based photography centre Photofusion. Sixteen-year-old Photofusion student Kourosh Simpkins – who was mentored by professional photographer Tom Sloan during the London Needs You Alive photoshoot featuring 13-16 year-olds from across the capital – took a group shot which the Mayor posted as he launched the movement.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “London is the best city in the world, full of opportunity, and one of the safest. But too many of our young people are being senselessly lost to knife crime. It has to stop.

“We can’t solve the problem by police enforcement alone, we need to get the message across that our young Londoners are too valuable to risk their lives by carrying a knife. They are our future musicians, artists, sportsmen and women, comedians, scientists, politicians, entrepreneurs and role models. We need them.

“There is an old proverb which says it takes a village to raise a child. That means the whole community – parents, families, teachers, schools, youth clubs or social workers – playing its part and I am proud to have the support of so many talented and influential role models in launching this new campaign. These people have used their talent to achieve great things and realise their potential. Now they are helping to ensure the next generation can do the same.

“London Needs You Alive is a new movement. I want everyone to get involved. By showing the incredible young people of our city how much we need and value them, we could save countless lives.”

Campaign influencers and supporters include:

  • The Slumflower (aka Chidera Eggerue): A radio personality and blogger from Peckham who has hosted the MOBO awards.
  • Hussain Manawer: East London-based spoken word poet who featured in the Night Tube film.
  • Yungen:  Rapper who is nominated for “Best Song” at this year’s MOBO Awards. He has released projects called Tha New Era Project and Project Black & Red (Deluxe). He made a name for himself through his SB.TV freestyle and later joined a group called Play Dirty. 2017 has been his best year to date with top 10 single “Bestie” which has had 14m views online.
  • Bossman Birdie: Grime MC known for his bold lyrics and frequent collaborations with UK urban scene heavy weights (Skepta, JME) and after spending a short time in prison, Bossman Birdie now nominated for a MOBO is passionate about helping young people make the the right choices in life.
  • Tom Sloan: London photographer who worked with real young Londoners to shoot London Needs You Alive campaign photography.
  • Yvonne Lawson: who lost her son Godwin to a knife attack in 2010.
  • Brooke Kinsella: who lost her brother Ben to a knife attack in 2008 when he was 16.

Chidera Eggerue, also known as blogger The Slumflower, said: “I am getting involved in the London Needs You Alive campaign as the world is in a very fragile place right now and young people need each other more than ever. Social media is the biggest tool human beings have ever created so we must use it to continue repeating the same message to young people: your life matters and every single choice you make has a rippling effect.”

Grime MC Bossman Birdie said: “The London Needs You Alive campaign really resonated with me and I now want the opportunity to communicate to the youths of London that it is possible to make changes to create a better life if you just stick at it, whatever your skills are.”

East London spoken word poet Hussain Manawer said: “I’ve known young people who have been stabbed and unfortunately, someone who was killed due to knife crime so this topic is close to my heart. Campaigns such as London Needs You Alive give visibility to something that can break families and tear apart societies. By championing such an important initiative, I truly believe for the first time in a long time a leader such as Sadiq Khan can begin to drive both awareness and build solutions.”

Rapper Yungen said: “I know what it’s like to be from an estate and how easy it is to get caught up in drama and now I’m in a position to see there is more to life. I wanna share that with younger people who may have more potential than they feel they do.”

Nikita Mwanza and Megami Forest, who are both 15-years-old and featured in the London Needs You Alive film, said: “It’s great that we are being so positive about a big social issue, and about the younger generation” and “Too often it feels like big brands don’t want to say positive messages about the new generation – but this is different.”

Brooke Kinsella MBE, who lost her brother to knife crime in 2008, said: “Tragically we have seen a shocking increase in stabbings and murders in London over the last two years.  It is impossible to describe how devastating it is to lose a loved one to this hideous crime.  We are losing too many young people to knife crime, all the potential and enrichment that these young lives would have brought to their families, friends and London, lost forever.  We need to remember that knife crime doesn’t just destroy one life, it destroys countless lives. That’s why I am supporting the Mayor’s campaign to help young people realise how unique and important they are and how they risk losing everything by simply carrying a knife.”

Photofusion Executive Director Kim Shaw said: “Over the past 25 years we have worked with hundreds of young people through our Community Outreach Programme.  Whether they come to Photofusion through the Lambeth Youth Offending Services, local schools or through our summer school programme, these young people have one thing in common; namely, they are brimming with creative potential.  This is always our starting point with young people and that is why this campaign struck a chord with us.  Many of our young people have gone on to pursue the arts – some have gone on to study photography at university , some have been accepted into The Brit School and some are now working as photographers and filmmakers. We know how much poorer London will be if all of this creative potential isn’t fully realised and that is why we wholly endorse the Mayor’s message – London Needs You Alive.”

The London Needs You Alive campaign – part of the Mayor’s ground-breaking Knife Crime Strategy – launches today on social media including a video shoot with young Londoners and includes six months of paid marketing activity. It will be supported by an educational toolkit for schools and community groups which will roll out in the coming months.

Last month, the Mayor brought together education experts in a special summit to progress his plans to make it mandatory for every school to have more effective measures in place to prevent knife crime and support those affected.

The Campaign

The campaign was designed by award winning agency AMV BBDO and is designed to be a campaign which rises above the usual tactics utilised by this kind of anti-knife campaign.  As part of the campaign a LNYA film is also being seeded across social media. The video was filmed by directing duo, Novemba through Academy Films.

AMV BBDO worked with professional photographer Tom Sloan, who mentored two young photographers, sourced for the shoot by Photofusion, primarily from the areas most affected by knife crime. Photofusion is a Brixton based charity working with young Londoners. The fledgling photographers were mentored throughout the project and given access to professional post production to help create the stills which will go out on Instagram and on poster sites across London.

As well as Photofusion AMV BBDO also worked with Island Records alongside other leading figures in the grime and urban music scene to champion the LNYA movement.


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