The 'culture clash' at London Fields

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London Fields has in recent years become a destination for east London's young, fashionable, arty crowds to congregate.

Police at London Fields One man was shot in London Fields last Saturday

Last Saturday, people flocked to the Hackney park, to make the most of one of the hottest days of the year so far, be it to sunbathe, drink cider, meet friends or people watch.

Then, in the middle of the afternoon, two gunshots were fired that ended the festival atmosphere.

Following a disturbance between two groups of youths, a bullet fired from outside the park hit a 27-year-old man in the stomach. One man has been arrested.

This was the latest in a number of gang-related shootings or stabbings in Hackney in recent months that highlight a clash of cultures in the area.

'Aspirational lifestyle'

As well as being a weekend destination for east London's wealthy and trendy, Hackney is a borough where gun crime and gang related violence are growing problems.

There have been 185 offences involving a firearm in Hackney in the past 12 months according to latest police figures, an increase of 27% compared with the previous year.

Start Quote

You can't buy an aspiration lifestyle and live here without ignoring those who don't fit into that lifestyle”

End Quote Gary Budden, The Complete Works

Meanwhile, in the last month, Hackney police officers have undertaken an intensive operation targeting gang related violence.

So far, the operation has resulted in 125 arrests for offences including firearms possession, drugs supply and robbery.

Gary Budden, who mentors troubled children for charity The Complete Works, believes gang culture is created by factors like "poor housing, lack of education and a feeling of exclusion from mainstream society".

The 27-year-old from Hackney, who also writes for community newspaper Hackney Citizen, says: "You can't buy an aspiration lifestyle and live here without ignoring those who don't fit into that lifestyle."

'Wrong area'

Last year, Sophie Akehurst, 33, a literacy teacher from Hackney, worked with Shian Housing, a charity which aims to get some of Hackney's young gang members out of gangs and into work.

Hooded top Operation Trident tackles gun crime within the black community

"On the project I worked with gangs that operate on all three sides of London Fields," she says.

"The gangs would fight each other over who could walk across each area of the park.

"If you were in the wrong area, you got killed. It's become that bad."

Anna Codrea-Rado, 22, from east London, who was at London Fields last Saturday, says there is a "complicated and volatile clash of cultures" in the area.

'Tense' atmosphere

"People who don't live around London Fields visit to enjoy certain aspects of Hackney's tourism trade but don't look at the community around them," she says.

"You have Broadway Market nearby, which is really expensive and attracts a wealthier clientele.

"Yet right next to it, there are lots of council estates and the atmosphere feels a bit tense," she adds.

"A lot of people try to distance themselves saying 'It's gang related. It has nothing to do with us.'"

But she thinks people need to open their eyes to the links between their actions and gang culture.

"A lot of the people sitting in London Fields last weekend looked like they hadn't come home from the night before," she says.

"I wouldn't be surprised if some of those people go out and buy drugs at the weekend."

"But they distance themselves from the fact that drugs are linked with gangs," she adds.

"People should get more involved in the community and give something back."

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