Manchester gang culture will be put under the spotlight during a special event, led by writer and DJ Dave Haslam, at the Royal Exchange Theatre next week.
A panel of experts, chaired by the Manchester, England author, will explore the city’s gangs, their psychology and behaviour, and possible future solutions on February 28.
The Gangland panel will include Ruth Ibegbuna, CEO of the youth leadership charity Reclaim, and Greater Manchester Police Assistant Chief Constable Garry Shewan.
Dave – who has performed more than 450 times at the Hacienda – witnessed the negative impact of Manchester gangs during the infamous ‘Gunchester’ period.
He told MM: “I saw first-hand how Manchester gangs infiltrated some of the clubs I was working at in the 80s and 90s. I had a few encounters I’m not keen on remembering for one reason or another.
“At that time Manchester’s gangs were quite conspicuous but new gangs are inconspicuous. Things have moved on in terms of clubs and bars but not in some of the neighbourhoods around Manchester.
“There is still a lot of criminality and alienated young people in Manchester who are still tempted to form gangs because of a lack of opportunities.
“I think the term ‘gang’ has become quite loaded. There is a tendency for the media to portray any group of young people, particularly boys, in an urban environment as a gang.”
Dave hopes the Royal Exchange event will enable people to re-examine Manchester’s current gang problem.
“Today Manchester is a progressive and partly regenerated city but we need to take time to look at things that are a bit uncomfortable – we don’t live in a perfect city,” he added.
“Sometimes looking at problems like this can be a little unglamorous but it’s good to have a forum to discuss something more challenging. Manchester keeps progressing but there are still uncomfortable issues that need to be solved.
“We have assembled a panel which can discuss how to make Manchester a better place and a more pleasurable place to grow up. We hope members of the public will turn up with lots of positive ideas and an open mind.”
Senior Lecturer in Criminology at Manchester Metropolitan University Robert Ralphs, who thinks the city’s gang problem is greatly overstated, will also be on the panel.
He told MM: “Too many resources and too much focus are given to the problem and this culminates in a range of negative outcomes and stereotypes that are bad for the city of Manchester and certain groups of people who reside here.
“Despite the combined best efforts of the government, the police and numerous UK media outlets to ‘talk up’ Manchester’s gang problems over the last decade or so, we do not really have that much of a gang problem at the moment in Manchester.”
The talk is being held to coincide with the current production of Rona Munro’s new play Scuttlers at the Royal Exchange.
Drawing parallels with the 2011 Manchester riots, the play explores the Victorian ‘scuttler’ gangs that proliferated around Ancoats during the industrial revolution.
For more information on Gangland Manchester or to get your tickets for just £6, click here.