In the upstairs room of the Pear Tree Baptist Church, “The Club” which consists of 50 or so local youngsters, predominantly from the Roma community, were enjoying a traditional “pancake flipping” race on this Shrove Tuesday. The acoustics from the room and the combined excitement of the prospect of their team winning the prize made for a noisy and excitable occasion.
Just prior to this in the kitchen, some of the volunteers who support “The Club” as well as guest visitors from the “Youth With a Mission” (YWAM) group were busily teaching some of the youth how to make pancakes, particularly ones that could be “flipped” competitively.
As the teams were under “starting orders” one of the YWAM group was valiantly trying to explain the background to this event and the connection with Easter. Michael from Roma Community Care was able to amplify this message through his translation but the impending “pancake battle” created too much of a wall of sound for all of the detail to be heard.
When “battle” commenced the room was focussed on “flipping” and “tossing” at great distances, maintaining their lines, and some semblance of fair play and order. It was a vibrant event.
The group meets for 2 hours each Tuesday and gives them an opportunity to meet in a safe environment and get involved in many new activities and meet new people.
Unknown to most of the youngsters, outside the closed doors of safety, in the night air of nearby streets, a threat existed. A number of people were seen – waiting. One small group, who it was suspected had connections with a local gang, were loitering on the corner of Goodale street. One of them had a small blow-torch and bursts of fire were seen occasionally. The Police were alerted and the small gang was asked to move on. The section 30 dispersal order was in operation to provide a safer environment.
Shortly after, another person was seen outside the Church who it was suspected was involved in an incident at the Madeley Centre a few days prior. Nothing was said, nothing was thrown, it was a perceived threat, but one that felt very real to the people running The Club.
A few yards down the road, the leaders of the Impact Derby group had noticed something happening and maintained a quiet watch from a safe distance. Impact Derby work closely with young people and especially those who are involved in gangs, or are at risk of offending. They made a brief visit to the Church, and supported with some inside knowledge and advice.
The Police from Pear Tree Station were available to support with a presence, although they were powerless to “stop and search” those who it was felt were representing a “threat”. In the circumstances it could have been unnecessarily inflammatory to have searched people who subsequently moved on at the Police’s request.
When “The Club” finished at 8pm everyone left the Church, promptly, and made their way home. There was still a concern for the safety of the Roma youth once they had left the immediate vicinity. Fortunately there were no reports of any problems.
The leaders of “The Club” had to consider a number of options for that evening but the alternative, to close the Club early, was dismissed in preference to allowing the youngsters the opportunity, and the right, to freely enjoy themselves. For a few hours a week the members of “The Club” can experience a glimpse of a different world, and enjoy the kindness and hospitality of the array of Volunteers who are committed to making this venture work despite the lingering threats from malcontents in the area.