People of Corby to walk through town in solidarity against knife crime
'Young people in Corby need to know that there are people out there who care about them and want to help them'
People from across Corby are being urged to turn out to walk through the streets of the town in solidarity with our young people against knife crime.
The walk, organised by Corby-based East Midlands Knife Amnesty and local North Northants Councillors Zoe McGhee and Simon Rielly, will take place on Saturday (October 16) afternoon.
It follows two recent high-profile stabbings in the town: one that left Rayon Pennycook, 16, dead and a second, on September 17, that left a boy in hospital.
There is growing concern among parents and community leaders that youngsters are beginning to routinely carry knives that they think will protect them.
The route will pass through the Hazel Leys estate, where Rayon lost his life in May, and move to the public area outside the Corby Cube where there will be speakers.
Cllr McGhee, who along with Cllr Reilly grew up in Corby and became an elected member for the first time this Spring, said that key to tackling knife crime is pulling the community back together after years of under-investment and neglect from the authorities.
Cllr McGhee recently organised a community walkabout to speak to people living on the Kingswood and Hazel Leys estate about their experiences. She was joined by Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Stephen Mold, MP Tom Pursglove, Chief Constable Nick Adderley, leader of North Northamptonshire Council Jason Smithers and local community leaders.
"I thought it was important for everybody to get a real understanding of what's going on on Hazel Leys and Kingswood," she said.
"Some of the most important people on that estate are Alexis and Liam from the Kingswood Neighbourhood Centre Youth Hub.
"After the stabbing I reached out to Alexis and me and Cllr John McGhee had gone to the estate that night and it really brought to light the situation people are in there.
"We took our leaders along to Hazel Leys park to speak to some of the people there. They used to have a pirate ship there and it was burned down and it's just never been replaced. That says something to the people who live there.
"We spoke to a man who's had to put swings up for the kids.
"We really wanted the people who make decisions to see all these things for themselves.
"When I stood for the council I was clear that I would be campaigning on youth issues but our campaign doesn't just stop at the BP Garage. It's across the whole county that we need to see change."
Cllr Rielly, who works in education and organised the delivery of free meals to Corby children during the pandemic, said that this is not about 'quick fixes'.
"There's so much that needs doing," he said.
"But the community there needs to be the driving force behind that change. It's not just about changing streetlights - we need to change the culture behind how we live and care for each other and our neighbours.
"There's infrastructure needed. These areas have not always been loved or cared-for. The grass in communal areas hasn't been mowed, there's broken fences. That's not just on Hazel Leys, that's been throughout Corby and Kettering.
"Some of the areas are so neglected. I just ask myself why people should be living like that?
"They need to realise there's people out there that care for them and want to help them. We need to get the community on board.
"We need to be asking what we can do to raise aspirations and get our young people on early career pathways.
"So many of the traditional ways into work have been pushed to the side.
"The young people have been alienated and what we are seeing now is a product of that alienation."
Cllr Rielly said that many people living in Corby who would once have had a career in the steelworks or in manufacturing, with decent rates of pay and good pensions, have only insecure, low-paid warehousing work on offer, which has a knock-on effect on the ambitions of young people.
"The aspirations are not always there," he said.
"It's about changing that culture.
In July, Cllr McGhee spoke at the full NNC council meeting to ask the authority to develop a plan within six months to help level-up the estate, which has been confirmed by the Government as a 'left behind' area. Although members said they would send the issue to be looked at by their scrutiny committee, they did not say how much time it would take to do so.
Cllr McGhee, who herself attended Hazel Leys youth club as a teen, said: "We can't wait for them to do that. We've got to act now. People are crying out for help and we're going to keep shouting that there is someone here to help until people listen.
"We need to work closely with people on the estate to look at what can be put in place and what support we can offer. We know that we need to get the youth clubs going again."
One of the main issues for groups being set up on estates is that funding is often only in place for a short time.
"You're having to go back every six or twelve months and try to get more funding," said Cllr McGhee. "So many of the groups that are set up can only ever run on a temporary basis because of that.
"We need an overarching strategy for our estates. The detached youth workers are the backbone of places like the Kingswood but some of them are volunteers. We need a funding strategy in place to acknowledge how vital they are."
To ensure that people in Corby feel heard and to start to rebuild the links between the authorities and the community, Cllr Rielly and Cllr McGhee, along with members of the East Midlands Knife Amnesty, who revealed in May that they had taken 300 knives off the streets of Corby, have organised a march against knife crime that is taking place on Saturday (October 16).
Cllr McGhee said: "We want to show them that people do care. We would like people from across the community to join us. If there's a young person who's been assaulted, or who's sitting in their bedroom worrying, we want them to know that we care."
The march will leave Hazelwood Neighbourhood Centre in Gainsborough Road at 2.15pm then make its way to the Corby Cube where there will be a range of speakers. The event is scheduled to finish at about 4pm. All are welcome.