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No GCSEs but coffee fan Alfie calls the shots

Grounds for celebration as YouTube channel leads former gang recruit to filmmaking

23 August, 2019 — By Emily Finch

Alfie Sajir

ONCE chased by a man brandishing a samurai sword as a young recruit of the “Cally Road gang”, Alfie Sajir felt he might not live long enough to get to university.

But despite being excluded from school and failing to achieve any GCSEs he has found a passion in life that has got him into university – coffee shops.

He said: “Two of my friends were stabbed to death. If you have a pedal bike and you’re young you get tied into gang life. I left it, I didn’t want to be a part of it. One day I said to myself, ‘I don’t want to be that person’ and that’s because I’ve always been a pacifist.”

Mr Sajir was excluded from St Mary Magdalene Academy at the end of Year 8 and sent to the borough’s Pupil Referral Unit (PRU)  in Barnsbury. He described life at the PRU as being “like a family” with small classes and “decent” teachers.

Alfie on his YouTube channel

He said: “One of the buildings felt like a prison with high walls and metal gates. When you’re there, you can’t take any abuse from anyone because it will get worse. I wasn’t going to get bullied there. It was hard because some of the gang’s top members were there and I was the youngest student there.”

Despite enjoying his time at the PRU he didn’t manage to pass any of his GCSEs.

“Everyone else was going to university around me. I thought I was a nobody and I was in the midst of giving up on life. I was very depressed and anxious,” said Mr Sajir.

He realised that he had a passion for something that ran in his blood – coffee.

“I was given coffee from when I was five years old. My dad is Moroccan and runs a coffee shop in  Holloway Road and I spend a lot of time there. I love the atmosphere in a café and I decided to channel this into a YouTube channel where I review coffee shops in London. I think I was the first person to start this genre,” he said.

Through making his own films he found he enjoyed the process of filmmaking and so he started a course in Kensington and Chelsea college. He then applied to do the filmmaking degree at MetFilm School, which sees him take part in projects at Ealing Studios. He’s been asked to return to his old PRU to talk to the students there.

“I’m going to tell them to not stress about GCSEs. If you’re passionate about something you’ll get there.

“By following one passion I got into another,” he said.

He added: “I’m going into my second year now and it’s hard but I love the editing and the whole process of making a film. I didn’t think I’d ever make it to university.

“I’m not afraid anymore like I was when I was at school. I’ve got my journey now.”

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