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City hosts Kidulthood screening with star Adam Deacon

Discussion around knife crime and gang culture in London with relevant experts follows film showing


Adam Deacon, star of the cult film Kidulthood, joined staff and students and others connected with the activities of the University to discuss themes arising from the 2006 classic at a special School of Health Sciences Film Club screening in early July.

Dorcas Gwata, a clinical nurse specialist with Westminster CAMHS and Integrated Gangs Unit, and her colleague Matt Bailey, joined Adam for a discussion about the film. The three of them fielded questions from the audience and encourage further thinking about relevant topics arising from the film around gang culture in the UK, the prevalence of knife crime and also other public health issues.

Released in 2006, Kidulthood documents the experiences of young people, including bullying, suicide, sex, pregnancy, substance use and fighting in West London, an example of an inner city setting where social divisions are most evident. The discussion after explored how violent experiences raise a child’s threshold of what is acceptable and those who come from war torn countries, violent homes or families with gang members develop a tolerance and expectation of violent lives. Adam, Matt and Dorcas all confirmed that this fictional account of young people is a credible portrayal of inner city life.

Discussing the film, Adam spoke about how many of the issues still remained over a decade after its release.

“Since the cuts things have gone sky high again [with knife crime],” said Adam. “Young people are aware that there are less police on the streets and there needs to be a change. Young people don’t always realise you can kill someone by stabbing them in the leg. What needs to be taken into consideration is that for some kids they are scared and feel like they have to have a knife on them.”

Dorcas and Matt also spoke about their experiences as part of the Westminster CAMHS and Integrated Gangs Unit, which offers community mental health services to children and young people with complex mental health difficulties.

“The film shows how vulnerable they are and also the exposure to violence. We are increasingly seeing young girls also executing increasing levels of violence themselves,” said Dorcas, while touching on the realism present in the film and also the vulnerability of young people.

“From a public health point of view, gangs like to recruit vulnerable people such as those with mental health problems and you can see that trauma through the film.”

Dorcas also discussed how there are significant public health issues which underlie such behaviour:

“There are real issue of identity and masculinity, and also literacy,” said Dorcus. “80% of cases are from minority backgrounds. Are we doing enough for each them? How can be engage these populations better? I think social media has a role,” she added.

When the film was released it also picked up political momentum, with David Cameron – then the leader of the Conservatives – referencing the film as part of his ‘Hug a Hoody’ campaign, in which he called for more 'love' to be shown to adolescents.

“Growing up in Hackney at the time this was filmed it was all happening, and while the film opened up a lot of debate I don’t know if anything really happened,” said Adam.

Towards the end of the discussion Dorcas spoke about how her unit is “taking what works in the clinic to the streets”, and how it is urgent that we address the broader issues and see them as public health issues with appropriate multi-layer agency to confront these problems.

“We have to name knife crime as a public health issue. We are losing our young people to knife crime, so let’s use the best technology and innovation to address it,” said Dorcas.

The film club is an award winning educational initiative attended by students, staff and others connected with the activities of the School of Health Sciences including service users and alumni.

Films screened so far are Trainspotting (1996), I, Daniel Blake (2016) and The Theory of Everything (2014). The club meets on the first Wednesday of the month in the afternoon 2-5pm.

The next film to be shown is One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) on Wednesday 2nd August between 2-5pm, with a discussion about incarceration in mental health care, and also about the stigmatisation of stammering following the screening.

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