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Last Updated: Friday, 16 June 2006, 10:41 GMT 11:41 UK
West: Let them eat pesto?
Dave Harvey
Dave Harvey
Political Editor
BBC West

How do you tackle poverty and crime on a tired 1950s council estate?

Job creation schemes? Apprenticeships and training courses? Zero tolerance policing? Or cookery classes and a multimedia workshop?

Social problems

Knowle West has more than its share of social problems. The highest number of kids in care of any council ward in Bristol.

The lowest number of young people with any qualifications (under half).

A major petty crime problem, drug addiction, and add to that people are fed up with bad housing.

Neighbourhood renewal

This week, a new Community Kitchen was opened. Funded by the government's Neighbourhood Renewal scheme, with extra cash from the local Primary Health Trust and some private businesses, it has a grand aim.

"We want to address the alarming and increasing dependence on processed and ready to eat foods."

Organisers claim they can tackle obesity and chronic diseases like diabetes, arthritis and heart problems.

And that eating well can calm wild teenagers and reduce low level yobbishness.

Street party

The kitchen opened with a big party. "Everyone's invited, come on in!" A cheery youth worker stands on the street outside the community centre.

A free lunch is always a winner, and soon about 100 locals are milling around.

On the menu today? Chicken with pesto mayonnaise, "Filwood Park Frittata" and pineapple and mango kebabs. Healthy, and unusual fare round here for sure.

"I like cooking, but I have not done this before", says Denise Britt. Denise is one of six local women doing the cooking today.

Culinary skills

The kitchen will soon be full of people who can barely boil an egg.

"So many young mums cannot cook, they just eat ready meals and their kids have chips every night."

Outside the youth worker is chatting to two women who've lived on the estate for decades.

"I had one lad in my group who couldn't even butter a slice of bread" he laughs.

It is, of course, no laughing matter. But will these kitchen novices ever darken the doors of the Knowle West Cordon Bleu school?

Or will they just be teaching the converted?

"I reckon they will" Denise tells me, "People want to cook, they just do not know how. And people who already can won't bother coming in, will they?"

Conservative opinion

It is hard to argue with healthy eating. But I meet some local Tories who will have a go. Not with the salad and fruit, no, but the public money behind it.

"Surely this is what Mums are for? I raised five kids, by myself, and I taught them all to cook".

Nicki Crandon has been fighting the conservative corner in Hartcliffe, another of Bristol's more deprived wards. A single mum without much cash, she is no Tory toff.

"But if this is public money, we have to be very careful where it goes".

Another Conservative, Councillor Kevin Quartley, sees another problem.

"These schemes are always in the same places," he points out. His own ward, Bishopsworth, is classic.

Not rich, plenty of social problems, but not poor enough to get the government grants.

"They always give the money to the same areas, and nothing ever seems to change. Where does all the money go?"

Creative opportunity

Up the road from the new cookery school is the Knowle West Media Centre.

In one room here, a group of teenagers are reviewing a film they've made: "Think or Swim" about Global Warming.

In another, four retired people are brainstorming a film they are hoping to make "Passport to Knowle West."

"This place gives Knowle West its artistic expression, we've never had that before" says Cheryl Martin, a local woman who's now one of the trustees.

Yes, there are things for young people to do, and training, but it's more than that. "It is the heart of our estate - it gives people pride in the area."

These are radical solutions to poverty and deprivation. Do they tackle the root causes and offer long term cures?

Or are they just touchy-feely schemes dreamt up by do-gooders, that leave the real problems untouched?

What do you think? We'll be debating on the Politics Show West, and you can join in too.

The Politics Show

Politics Show West wants to hear from you.

Watch the programme, and let us know what you think.

Join David Garmston on the Politics Show on Sunday 25 June 2006 at 12:00 on BBC One.

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