Do a Google search on “Tottenham” and you get 56 pages dominated by the football club interspersed with news and images from the recent riots. Hardly surprising that when we talked to Tottenham residents last autumn – in the wake of the riots – something that came up repeatedly was concern about the negative perception of the area. Residents feel that the area generally has a negative public image and those who are fans of “Tottenham” are fans of the club rather than the neighbourhood. These fans simply come in for match day, go directly to the stadium and then leave again straight away after the final whistle. Yes, many residents are enthusiastic Spurs fans, but they nevertheless would like the area to be known for more than football and riots. And they would like for there to be a reason for fans to stay in Tottenham (and benefit the area) rather than feeling like the stadium is completely disconnected from the neighbourhoods surrounding it.
Many Tottenham residents see the transformation of Brixton as a success story that they would like to find emulated in Tottenham. This is understandable. A quick Google search of “Brixton” brings up the recent launch of inner London’s first co-operatively owned solar power station, news about the Brixton Pound, the latest gigs at the O2Academy, and an up-to-date website with the latest news on what there is to see and do locally. Brixton is vibrant; a place to go and a place to be seen.
What needs to happen to make Tottenham a successful community – a place that people feel proud of being from?
The Tottenham Community Panel – working with the Haringey Council – and the Young Foundation have undertaken an intensive process of engaging the local community in conversations about how to make Tottenham a place where people choose to live, work, and play. Whilst we found that there is a great deal of pride among the people living in Tottenham, there is a disconnect between the positive things already happening in the area and the feeling that people outside of Tottenham still view the area negatively.
We talked to young people who feel proud of being from Tottenham but said they wouldn’t want to raise their children there. They told us that it is tough getting a job outside of the area as having an N17 postcode means they were less likely to be interviewed for jobs and unemployment in the area is among the highest in the UK. These young people need to be supported through professional mentoring, supportive relationships and most importantly real opportunities.
The Community Panel released the Taking Tottenham Forward Report last Friday which outlines a series of recommendations for action and the Community Panel have given themselves a year to review the progress of their ambitious ideas and strategies aimed at making Tottenham a “vibrant, prosperous, and exciting place.” At the same time, a £400 million pound stadium-led regeneration of north Tottenham is nearing approval by the Haringey Council. Tottenham as the new Brixton? The Council and Community Panel must continue to engage in meaningful conversations with residents and the local voluntary and community sector in order to effect transformative change in Tottenham.