How long have you lived in Tottenham?
I’ve lived in the area all my life… I lived in a flat on Westbury Avenue in N22 until I was 8, and then moved to the house I live in now in N17.
What do you love and also dislike about the area?
The thing I love the most about Tottenham is without a doubt its diversity and character. It’s always buzzing with a cultural and social richness that is hard to capture or see in other areas. And it’s just such a great community in general. A lot of people I’ve met at uni haven’t been able to relate to being part of such an active and vibrant community… I think that’s made me realise how much I love that aspect of Tottenham.
It’s difficult to say what I ‘dislike’… But I guess growing up, and even now, the thing that bugged me in T was the lack of leisure spaces as a young person. If you wanted to go chill out with mates and go to the cinema or bowling or something fun like that, it always meant going out of the area. The shutting down of most of the youth centres in the area in 2011 made that even worse. And now with the regeneration in the area, I fear that opportunities and spaces for young people won’t be addressed enough. It kind of feels a bit like the regeneration is possibly favouring the building of flats over the building of youth spaces. I think having spaces to use as a young person in your area is really important… without it, it’s difficult to feel much ownership or real membership of the community.
Tell me about what parts of the area if any that you like to hang out with friends?
When I was in my early/mid teens I generally tended to hang out around Bruce Castle/the High Road because a couple of my close mates lived there. Nowadays, bank account willing, me and my friends tend to hang out or meet in The Banc restaurant and shisha lounge. The owners Can and Fabio, who are great guys, went to our old school which is pretty cool. The shisha lounge is always packed out so it’s a nice vibe to enjoy with mates.
What secondary school did you go to and how has it shaped your education and also social circle?
I went to Park View Academy (now Park View School) for secondary school. The class of 2010! Without a doubt going there has ended up shaping so much of my identity and the choices I have made since I left. The teachers I had at Park View were fantastic and a lot of them felt more than just teachers, but also like friends. They were sources of motivation and guidance that massively fuelled on my educational pursuits and interests. Being a part of such a socially and culturally diverse school community with students from a big range of backgrounds shaped my passion for things such as politics and sociology. By being a part of the school executive council and various other projects connected to the area and young people, I gained experience at Park View of what it meant to be a part of something really significant. It was where I truly learnt that change and progress can be achieved through perseverance and dedication – and that went for my own educational career and my involvement in the community. You weren’t given everything on a plate at Park View, you really did have to work really hard for it… but that meant that when you achieved success it felt even more valuable and even more special.
Our year group felt like a family, to be honest, and that was really powerful. My best friends are those I met and grew up with at Park View. I still see and speak to lots of other people from my year and the school. That’s something else I feel proud of when I’m at university because that’s when I realise that not everyone is lucky enough to still have a solid group of very close friends from back home. Having close friends (who practically feel like my family) who are all from a diverse range of backgrounds is quite something. I feel so proud of it but at the same time, that’s what I experience as normal.
What is it like to go away to a university and university town that is very different to where you live and grew up?
To go from Tottenham to Cambridge is definitely to go from one extreme to another! In a lot of ways they are both areas that operate in a bit of a bubble – but in very different ways socially and culturally. The difference in social and cultural diversity between Tottenham and Cambridge did get to me when I was first adjusting to university. Park View, when I was there, was 9% white British, whereas Cambridge feels more like over 90%. Growing up in Tottenham I was always used to being, ethnically, a minority along with all the many different ethnic groups around me. So now I’m at a university where I am part of the majority ethnically is strange because culturally, at times, I feel very different to everyone around me. The centre of Cambridge is very centred around the university and is very affluent. Half way through my first year I discovered areas detached from the centre. Finding the more culturally mixed side of Cambridge has been enjoyable and I often find those aspects of the city the most interesting.
But despite its ups and downs, it has been an invaluable experience to live in a place so different to the one I grew up in. It’s opened my eyes a lot, and I think it’s made me get to know myself better.
What made you want to go to your current university?
To be honest my application to Cambridge was last minute. It wasn’t something I had always wanted to do or had worked towards. In my AS level year, after my teachers at Woodhouse College persuaded me, I decided I’d apply – but I really wasn’t that keen on the idea, to begin with. The main motivation for applying to Cambridge was the course I wanted to do there – Politics, Psychology and Sociology – which no other university offers, as a degree tripos. The combination of those three topics really, really appealed to me. But also, the ability to study and research those topics at the top university in the country excited me. Cambridge has the top Sociology department in the country and the ability to use that opportunity drove me to apply. At the time of applying, when I was 17, I undertook a project on perceptions of fatherhood in Tottenham for an Extended Project Qualification at college. I can remember sitting at my kitchen table writing my project thinking about the fact that if I got into Cambridge I would be able to return to the project at dissertation level as a third-year student. And now, three and a half years later, as a third-year sociology specialist, I am undertaking a dissertation on fatherhood in Tottenham, with a world expert in the field of fatherhood studies supervising me for it!
What is the reaction when you tell them you’re from Tottenham?
On the whole, it’s not something that always sparks a reaction. But, the reactions I do get range from the explicit to the subtle. Both at Sixth Form College in Barnet and at University in Cambridge I’ve had people make jokes about them not wanting to come to my house for fear of them getting stabbed or something. It angers me when people characterise Tottenham like that, but I’ve learnt to shrug it off – mainly because those perceptions are built on what the media is able to translate about the area. Otherwise, I kind of feel like there is sometimes just an unspoken, slight judgement or a subtle change in people when I say where I grew up and live. It’s not always negative, though – often people will relate to me a bit more openly when I say I’m from Tottenham. And people will often emphasise my achievements and their value more once I say where I grew up. So, generally, it creates a mixed bag of reactions!
What are your thoughts on the riots and football being the main topical links to Tottenham (outside of the borough?)
On the one hand, I do not in any way feel ashamed that the riots (both in the 1980s and 2011) are a topical link to Tottenham for a lot of people. Especially because both events were, to me, indicative of the strength and complexity of the area – albeit both events exploding in negative and destructive ways. The fact that two historic riots have started in Tottenham reflects the strong political community of the area – people care a lot here. But, on the other hand, it’s a real shame if Tottenham is known only by this kind of social unrest and negative outburst. The area has a lot more to offer.
I find it weird with Spurs because I’ve never really felt that connected to the football club and its role in the community. I used to work at the stadium on match days during my A-Levels and I was always struck by how many of the home fans who went to the games mainly lived outside of Tottenham. Most seemed to travel in from Essex and Cheshunt. Big swathes of fans would travel in, go to the ground for the game and then leave the area – it didn’t feel to me like the majority of the fans engaged with Tottenham as an area, rather than the football team.
So I do think it’s sad if the riots and the football team are the two most prominent things that put Tottenham on the map for people outside of Haringey. There is so, so much more going on in Tottenham to shout about and to celebrate – all of which I think are worthy of people outside of the area sitting up and taking notice of. But I think that will only start to happen once local people are able to work together to take ownership of the representation of their community. No one else can or should represent Tottenham other than the community that makes it.
Tell us about your involvement with Positive Youth News Haringey?
Positive Youth News Haringey (PYNH) is exactly one of those aspects of Tottenham people should take note of! I joined the youth-led organisation a couple of years ago now. It was a project, founded by active community member Seema Chandwani, that formed in the aftermath of the riots. The initiative aimed to change the fact that young people growing up in Haringey, and particularly Tottenham, are often depicted by others – particularly the media – often in a negative light. The aim then was to create a project centred around championing all of the incredibly positive and inspiring things young people in Haringey are doing. We have made it our job to unearth the young people’s successes in the borough and to communicate and celebrate them as far and wide as possible. Much of our existence operates mainly on social networking via Twitter, Facebook and our website. So far, we have worked closely with the local press to ensure they stop using derogatory language for young people, as well as agreeing to publish more positive youth stories from the borough, and we have worked with the local police and councillors related to ongoing positive youth engagement in the community. I also organised a funded visit through PYNH with three Haringey schools to take 25 students to my college at Cambridge for a day related to an aspiration to Higher Education. All our work is framed around the fantastic achievements of the young people in the area and, without them, we would have no project, to begin with. It has been incredibly special to be a part of such a valuable project with such positive aims for the community. I just hope we continue to grow, fulfil our aims and reach out to local young people as much as possible.
Why is it important to give the youth of Haringey and indeed Tottenham a voice?
Well, as I guess I’ve already said I think it’s important because otherwise stereotypes are formed, and those stereotypes become stigmatisations, and those stigmatisations become damaging and obstructive. I guess the point is – if they don’t have their voices heard, it will be someone else’s voice who characterises their life experience for them. And that just isn’t good enough – it’s unequal and unfair. Young people in the areas of Haringey and particularly Tottenham have so much to say. They deserve to be able to take ownership of their own representations in the public eye and have those opinions heard.
What’s playing on your iPod?
Haha – good question! I have a fairly wide music taste and vary day to day. The most common artists that crop up the most would probably be Stevie Wonder and/or Lauryn Hill. They’re [the] albums I repeatedly binge on. In terms of new stuff – I’m liking J Cole’s new album and the EPs of Majid Jordan.
What’s your favourite takeaway in Tottenham?
Hmm… that’s a tough one. If I am to think of a take away then probably a Chinese, I’d say the Evergreen on West Green Road. For Indian the Jai Krishna which is technically not Tottenham, it’s Turnpike Lane – but it’s cheap and great food. Mango and Papaya on Lordship Lane do really good Caribbean takeaway too. And Kata on West Green Road does real good Japanese for takeaway.
If you had to name three things to do in the area what would they be?
Jeez, that’s tough. Well, I guess I would say go to any of the parks – particularly Downhills and Lordship Rec – they [are] really nice parks and I think we’re really lucky to have such nice spaces like them. Personally, I’d say The Banc restaurant has quickly become a big asset to the area. It’s got great food in the restaurant and a really great shisha lounge. People come from all over London now just to try their shisha – it’s so good and the owners really care about their customers and the community as a whole. I can’t decide about the last one! It’s a toss up between seeing a local production/exhibition at the Bernie Grant’s Arts Centre (as well as some tasty food from the Blooming Scent cafe); going for a swim/gym at Tottenham Green or getting a crazily yummy milkshake from Cakes & Shakes!
Anna is a 21-year-old from Tottenham and a Social & Political Science student at Cambridge University. Here she talks about how her dissertation started (initially as an Extended Project Qualification at college), on the perceptions of fatherhood in Tottenham.