South Norwood youth scheme that offers a clean slate

“It means clean slate.”

A true youth scheme, organised and paid for out of their own pockets by half a dozen young people, is launched in South Norwood tonight, with the first session of the Tabula Rasa Youth Project being staged at the Samuel Coleridge Taylor Centre on Selhurst Road from 6pm.

“There’s a group of us, me and six friends, and we decided we wanted to do something positive for the young people in the area,” says Natalie Ajibade, the project manager. “Tabula Rasa is Latin. It means ‘clean slate’, which is something we thought young people locally needed the opportunity to start with.”

That was last July, before the Croydon Riots gave the Tabula Rasa group – who include Steely Willson, Kieran Parris, Lashana Ricketts and Berzhang Karimi – even greater impetus for their cause.

Not that Ajibade and another member of the group, her old school friend, Anthea Mills, needed any more drive for the scheme: both young women had separately lost friends or family to a south London stabbing and a murder.

“When the riots happened, that just underlined the need for something for local youngsters,” Ajibade says.

What Ajibade and her friends, all of them aged under 24, are doing is nothing short of remarkable. Not all of them are in full-time employment, yet between them they have found £300 cash to pay for uniforms, they have paid for promotional materials, hosted a promotional stand at the recent St George’s Day festival in Surrey Street, and raised the considerable amount of money needed to pay for music studio equipment.

They have even managed to get Croydon Council, through IYSS North Locality, to agree to the use of the hall. For one evening per week. For just six weeks.

They are working hard to find other sources of income – grants, donors or sponsors. And they hope to persuade the council over the course of the next few weeks that the demand for the sort of mentoring, training and help being offered each Thursday night by Tabula Rasa will get them to extend the arrangement. Big Society, and all that.

Some of the Tabula Rasa team, promoting the scheme at the St George’s Day festival

“The youth project is run by young people for young people,” Ajibade says. “This means young people will always have a say on how to improve the project or if they would like changes.

“We aim to give young people a chance to learn new skills and encourage them to use them to find work and higher education courses. We will be running workshops on weekdays 6pm-9pm which will allow young people to get involved and try out tasks linked to different areas of interest.”

The workshops on offer include:

  • Clothes – designing, creating, printing
  • Hairdressing, Make-up and Modelling
  • Music and Production- Song writing, composing, vocals, music laws
  • Art & Design
  • Photography and Filming
  • Using IT
  • Sports, leisure and other activities

“The project will help young people learn new skills or expand on those they already have, which can then be submitted on to their CV,” Ajibade says.

Young people will also be provided with services such as:

  • One-to-one support sessions (advice and guidance)
  • Anonymous text messaging support service
  • Homework workshops
  • Career advice and support/CV writing
  • Mentoring

Tabula Rosa, 6pm-9pm each Thursday, starting tonight (May 17), at Samuel Coleridge Taylor Centre, 194 Selhurst Road, SE25 6XX.
For more details, visit their Facebook page.
Email to
Or follow them on Twitter @tabula_rasa_p

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