Page last updated at 10:02 GMT, Wednesday, 20 August 2008 11:02 UK

Teenagers rally for positive image

By Debabani Majumdar
BBC News, London

Rene Chance
Rene Chance said she puts her energy into dance

In the past few years Rene Chance, 18, has been stabbed twice and arrested three times.

But the teenager, from Cricklewood, north-west London, says she has turned her life around thanks to Youthology - a youth social enterprise which offers activities like dance and music for teenagers throughout the year.

And the group also takes part in the Notting Hill Carnival, in west London, where a group of teenagers from some of the most deprived areas of the city put on a show planned and managed by themselves.

The youngsters choose the theme, music, dance routines, promote the show and even manage the float on the day alongside a team of professional security and 20 trained stewards.

We have got all the top urban artists who play for free for us but no platform for them to perform on
Genevive Dowokpor, Youthology

Rene said the group has had helped her to deal with her anger.

"I have taken my anger from fight into dance," she says.

"I believe if I wasn't in this group I would be in juvenile [detention] or jail.

"It has helped me focus on what I want to achieve."

The founder of the group, 27-year-old Genevive Dowokpor, said the teenagers were able to set their own rules.

'Last minute fight'

"You allow them to set their own rules and be expressive but in a controlled way," which she says helps them cultivate leadership and responsibility.

"We work together as a team but its their show and they understand that."

This year the band's theme is Culture Shock which aims to celebrate the cultural identity of every individual.

Youthology members at Notting Hill Carnival
The group's float and events in the carnival are managed by the youth

But the recent spate of gun and knife killings in London, which has claimed the lives of 49 teenagers since 2007, and the accompanying media glare has had a negative impact on obtaining funding for this year's show, Ms Dowokpor said.

In June every year the group begins its preparations for the event, but the 27-year-old founder said they were far from achieving their budget of 15,000 which they need to perform.

If the money does not materialise in the next few days "we will be forced to wait until next year", Ms Dowokpor said.

"The media has picked up something that was already an issue and this has affected the perception of the funders," she said.

"Last year a funder had labelled the project as high risk and said it was not possible to deliver, because ours is the only float that consists 100% of youth. But we proved them wrong by taking 236 young people to carnival safely to enjoy and achieve!

"Its a last minute fight. We have got all the top urban artists who play for free for us but no platform for them to perform on.

"We have all the icing and candles but no cake."

Children from Urban Touch with the mayor of Islington Stefan Kasprzyk
Urban Touch hopes to dissolve "post-code barriers"

Another band working with children from deprived areas to create a showpiece at the carnival is Urban Touch.

In its second year at the carnival, Steven Montgomery, the group's founder, said they strive to "break down post-code barriers".

"We have children coming from all different postcodes and most from Hackney and Islington, probably two of the most deprived areas of London.

"Everything you hear about young people is negative. These children come and work together and there are no arguments or problems.

"We have had some children who knew someone killed in the area... we have discussions about it and on issues like friendship, choices you make in life and what are you doing for the community.

"Let's show them something positive you do."

Carnival to 'welcome the world'
23 Jul 08 |  London
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25 Aug 07 |  London

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