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‘No ball games’ signs banished from estates

Commission set up by Islington Council finds that signs make teenagers feel ‘you’re not welcome, you’re a nuisance’

23 February, 2018 — By Samantha Booth

A sign banning ball games on the Barnsbury Estate

“NO ball games” signs are set to be taken down on housing estates to make young ­people feel welcome.

The move is suggested in a raft of recommendations proposed by a commission set up by Islington Council to improve the prospects of teenagers. The idea is to make young people feel they are not banned from everything.

Jermain Jackman, a former winner of TV ­talent show The Voice who chaired the Fair Futures Commission, said: “I remember going on one of the street team visits and they saw the ‘No ball games’ signs and they said it doesn’t feel welcoming. It’s bright red and makes you feel like you are not allowed to play around here, you’re not welcome here, you’re just a nuisance.”

Mr Jackman, 23, presented the commission’s findings at an event on Monday at his former school in Stroud Green, Islington Arts and Media School. He wants the council and social landlords to look at taking down the signs

He later told the Tribune: “I made my stance clear to everyone – to the young people, to Islington Council. The report is not a PR stunt, this better not be used to try to win votes, this needs to be used to change people’s lives.”

Jermain Jackman with Islington Arts and Media School pupils

The commission wants teenagers in Islington to have access to 100 hours of work experience before they are 16, and to be consulted on major building developments which affect them.

Mother of two teen­agers Sarah Brakes, who lives on the Park View estate in Highbury, welcomed the news that the signs could be removed. She said: “The kids need to play. They are going to get themselves into trouble if they don’t have anywhere to play.”

Angie Slater, a mother-of-two who lives on the same estate, added: “If you’ve taken everything else away from young people, what are they meant to do? They are complaining about them carrying knives but they can’t even play outside their front doors.”

She expected some residents might complain, but said parents should educate children on how to respect neighbours when playing outside.

Council leader Richard Watts said: “We need to consult with the communities and the estates. I think we go into that conversation with a view that we accept the recommendation and these things could come down.”

He added that “intergenerational unfairness” had worsened with eight years of austerity, but said the council had “protected” youth services.

Jeremy Corbyn: ‘So many younger people tell me: if only they had been taught at school some basic skills for life­’

“It’s about changing the narrative about young people in this borough,” Councillor Watts said. “We spend an awful lot of time, public, politicians, professionals and others, worrying about two to three hundred young people who spend their time doing the wrong kind of stuff. Not the 41,500 young people there are in this borough who spend their time doing the right kind of stuff.”

On how the work experience schemes could work, Cllr Watts said: “We are looking at a much more sophisticated approach. It’s not just about what happened in my day with kids making tea in a garage somewhere. It’s about really preparing people for the world of work.”

He added that none of the recommendations appears to be a “non-starter” on cost grounds.

The council spent £12,900 on commissioning the report, including on venue hire for consultation events. The commissioners were unpaid, receiving only travel expenses.

Labour Party leader and Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn told the audience: “So many younger people tell me: if only they had been taught at school some basic skills for life, like opening bank accounts, like how to rent a flat, like all that sort of basic stuff, then they wouldn’t have got in such a mess in other things in their lives.”

The council will respond to the recommendations this summer. To read the full report, visit


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