Idris Elba has said no child is born with aspirations to be a gang member and highlighted the importance of offering young people “options” away from knife crime as he backed a major campaign against violence in the capital with Arsenal FC and adidas.
The Hackney-born actor, known for The Wire and Luther, said giving young people alternatives to joining a gang — such as youth clubs or sports facilities — was the best way to keep them off the streets.
Elba, suggested that the pandemic could have put unprecedented pressure on young people and led to more violent crime.
There were 30 teenage killings in the capital in 2021 – passing the previous record of 29, set in 2008 – with most involving knife attacks. Police figures show over 10,000 knife crime offences in London between June 2020 and June 2021.
Elba said more people needed to “stand up” and speak out about knife crime to make a difference.
The adidas campaign, No More Red, aims to prevent bloodshed by providing more safe spaces for young people and working to eradicate causes of violent crime.
The campaign was launched with Arsenal wearing a one-off all-white kit in their FA Cup defeat away to Nottingham Forest, with the kit later being donated to organisations supporting the cause.
Elba said: “It is about options. I don’t think any kid is born into a gang or wanting to be a gang member, but if those gang members are giving you more options about who you are or giving you some credibility.
“You are naturally going to go towards that. What do we give these young people? Adidas and Arsenal are working to make sporting facilities more available — that is a practical method of getting kids away from the streets for a couple of hours. It nurtures talent and gives kids an option.”
About the pandemic and how it might have impacted London’s young people, Elba – who established his anti-knife crime organisation ‘Don’t Stab Your Future’ three years ago – said: “For two years we have gone through the worse pandemic that we could ever have imagined. I am speculating here, just speaking from the heart.
“After two years of a horrible pandemic and a lot of death, a lot of depression, a lot of financial strain, community strain, government strain, that is going to weigh in on a kid whose brain is just exploding at that same time. It is no wonder that there has been an uptick in violence.”
The No More Red campaign will invest in creating and refurbishing safe spaces for young people to be creative and play sports — starting with the pitch on Harvist Estate just minutes from Arsenal’s home ground, the Emirates.
It will also establish a mentorship scheme where youngsters doing positive work in the community will be advised by Elba and others such as Arsenal legend Ian Wright, DJ Emerald Rose Lewis and artist Reuben Dangoor.
About wanting to make a difference, Elba said: “There aren’t enough of us banging the drum, saying we have to say something about this.”