In 1985, Broadwater Farm became notorious as Britain’s most vicious estate, when a mob hacked a policeman to death. Thirty years on, Broadwater has one of the lowest crime rates in the borough of Haringey, an area that is one of the most ethnically diverse in the UK. A leading figure to help bring about this positive transformation is Clasford Stirling MBE, who has been a youth worker on the estate for 38 years and runs the Broadwater Farm Community Centre. Since the launch of Silver Tuesday at Lordship Rec, Haringey in July 2016, Stirling has been involved with Silverfit and coaches the Badminton group at the venue.
- You have a long and fantastic history of working with youth and the local community, what does your day to day routine involve?I have been working in the community for so long that I never have a rest day. There’s always something to be done. I am always helping residents with legal, domestic problems, court cases, etc. I deal with so many different things which have just become part of my life. Even though it’s not a paid role, I am surprised at the success that’s come with it! I am the sort of person who does what they say, so people come to me even issues like a passport application. Helping people in the community is a part of my life!
- You are currently coaching our Silverfit badminton group, is this something you have undertaken for the first time – for this age group?It’s the first time I have started coaching this age group, it’s been a joy! When you get into your later years, unless you’ve been in leisure/sport when you’ve been younger, it’s hard to keep physically active. Silverfit has really built up, it’s great to have the older generation active in Broadwater Farm. It’s fantastic to see the interest of the members! Infact, this is something that should be replicated in the whole borough. As long as it continues I will be with Silverfit!
- You have spoken about having the need for right role models for the next generation. Do you think given the growing issue of isolation amongst our older generation, a collaboration between the two generations may work? I think we need activities for the middle and older aged to get more involved with community development so they can be out and about. It’s mostly the young who are participating currently. We need to get older folk involved in community development, as it also helps the youngsters a lot. The more they are around, the more it will encourage the younger generation. I have never seen many younger folk play badminton but I bet you if they see the older folk, they will want to do it too! Children are brought up with respect for their elders, so we should tap into this.
- How has Broadwater farm and Tottenham changed in the last few years? Has the demographic changed? Does this impact the kind of support system the residents and locals needs, is it different to a decade ago?Yes, although, it’s not an easy one to answer. The changes are mostly because of the council cuts. It’s very difficult as people are looking for jobs, striving to keep paying their bills, etc. The culture has changed a bit, initially it was very Caribbean, Irish, White English but now it’s a mix of African, Turkish, Kurdish, etc. and more multi cultured. The economic status has changed a little bit, it’s the late 70s, there was 90% unemployment, but we got together and decided to make a change and determine our own future. We created jobs, etc and helped the estate change. Silverfit has also contributed to the community with the introduction of activities for the over 45s and 50s.
- Are volunteer led organisations key to bringing communities together in an age where we are increasingly isolated as individuals? I think volunteer led organisations are the number one for the community building. The community is always there and doesn’t operate on a 9-5 basis. Our contribution as voluntary organisations is a life saver. Not only do we help defuse many difficult situations before they pose a problem, but provide activities, opportunities that people would not normally partake in.
- What is your dream for Tottehnham and Broadwater Farm? I think for me, my dream is not just local, its national and for the world. I grew up in a large family. I came here not knowing what racism was about, even though things were echoed around us. Even today, despite the way the world is going, my family is everybody. My dream for Tottenham is for everyone to see everyone as they are and as a family. It might seem too perfect, but it can be achieved. We have evolved, yet we seem to be going backwards. But we need to come together. I hope to play a part in making this happen!