Monday 5 October 2009


I was invited on Wednesday 30th September to go along to the CIRV football awards; what makes this particularly interesting is what makes this football project different from you and your friends having a bit of a knock-about in the park. This celebration of football and sportsmanship was actually a very significant step in reducing violence in the east of Glasgow, and saving the lives and futures of young people in the area.

Partners from the agencies made clear to me afterwards that actually bringing together the young men from these gangs in the one room was a real achievement. Having them celebrating each other's success and leaving afterwards without any threat of violence was remarkable. I was told that at the start of the project, many of these young men couldn't be in the same room together without violence breaking out. This change in behaviour had been achieved through a lot of hard work, investment, support and a focus on positive alternatives.

I was impressed by the description, but keen to find out more.

I've attended presentations by people from CIRV, and readers may already be familiar with CIRV through Cherie Blair's Dispatches documentary on Channel Four. It's certainly worth watching to get a handle on what is being done. The discription on their website reads thus:

The Community Initiative to Reduce Violence (CIRV – pronounced ‘Serve’) is a multi-agency initiative designed to reduce gang violence across Glasgow. CIRV aims to reduce the impact and incidence of antisocial behaviour and violence, the involvement of young people in crime and the fear of crime – there will be other positive outcomes that are supplementary to these aims.

The staff who work on the programme invited me along to a gang 'call in' at the Sheriff Court a week ago last Friday. The Evening Times carried the story yesterday. I found it deeply moving on many levels.

Court 8 had been set up in such a way that 30-40 young gang members were on one side, and all the staff and speakers on the other. Each speaker in turn would rise, and move over to the side of the court the young people were on to make their points.

A number of speakers related the options open to the young people in the room - prison, death, or changing their ways. Two surgeons from Medics Against Violence showed graphic pictures of the damage a baseball bat, a knife and a gun can do. People who had committed crimes in the past, including murder, spoke movingly about how this affected them. Karen, a very strong and brave mother, described the impact on her life and family of her son's stabbing. The police were firm and made it clear that the law would catch up with these gang members, one after the next, if they chose not to get out.

All the way through, there was a emphasis on the alternatives and the chance for each of the young people to be supported and to make something of their life if they got out of the gang culture.

The young people were given an opportunity to sign up there and then, and given a card away with them should they want to think it over and come to the programme later. It's clear that breaking from the people you've grown up with and spent your life with is difficult, but all the speakers were equally clear that those people who hold you back in life are not your friends, and that better things lie ahead. The choice is in their hands.

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