I have read a few posts on this site relating to Kingstanding, and would just like to offer my own view, relating to the many opinions I have seen, and also my own experience of living in Kingstanding.
I lived in Kingstanding from the age of eight, and left the area when I was eighteen (I am now 24). Over the ten years or so I lived in the area, I lived on Kings Rd (“The Charlie”), Firbeck Grove (near “The Circle”) and in Fulwell Grove (near “The Hawthorn”).
While I was never very popular amongst the “in-crowds” when I lived in Kingstanding, through family connections etc, I was quite well connected and knew a lot of the goings-on in the area.
Many of the people I know from Kingstanding are from traumatic or underprivelaged backgrounds, including myself. Lots of them have experienced (either directly themselves or indirectly via family/friends) things like divorces, mental health issues, prison, abuse, deprivation and social exclusion. Many of the people I knew in my youth had never completed school, had never had jobs and had never really experienced life outside of their little safety net of Kingstanding. There ARE a lot of racists in Kingstanding, and this is bred mainly out of fear and ignorance.
I remember a family member telling me that “P***s” were taking all the jobs in this country, and didn’t deserve to be here (yes, THAT old chestnut!). This family member had no qualifications and had never had a job, and had never tried to get one. Many Asian people traditionally have a strong work ethic and work very hard to provide for their families. Asian cultures tend to greatly respect the elders of their communities and work hard to support them, hence why many Asian homes have several generations of a family living together. Because of this, many British-Asian young people inherit the same values from their families.
It seems to me that people from areas like Kingstanding, that have high rates of crime and unemployment, find it easy to blame their situations on things that they do not understand (As noted above, “Asians take all the jobs”)… I know many of the people I knew in Kingstanding would not be prepared to work 70 hour weeks in shops, waking early and going to bed late, managing their own business and being accountable.
For many of the people that live in Kingstanding, being white means that they are superior and that they have rights over people from ethnic backgrounds. I remember once, when I was with a group of people near The Hawthorn, seeing a white girl holding hands with a black boy. The group I was with were outraged, and said the girl should be shot!!
I was once kicked by a group of boys who made sure their shoes were covered in mud so they could coat me in dirt… My crime? Wearing a rock band tee-shirt!
By the time I was sixteen, I had stopped trying to ‘fit in’ in Kingstanding, and had found my own interests and friends. I started collecting vintage clothes and listening to 1960s music, and because of this, I was shouted at in the street, called a “freak” and laughed at, even by family members. What I found the funniest through all this, is that the people who criticised me wore their Kingstanding uniform of cheap sportswear (or for girls, market clothes!), yet in fashion terms, their clothes weren’t even on the radar… tell me the last time you saw Reebok on the catwalk… Now tell me the last time you saw vintage-inspired gear on the catwalk…EXACTLY!
I know people who love living in Kingstanding… the rough pubs, the cheap shops, the gangs and well-known families, the run-down streets and facilities.
However, I HATE the place. I have family that still live there, and every time I visit, I leave feeling depressed! When I was eighteen, I moved to Highgate and since then have lived in Moseley, Edgbaston, Smethwick, Handsworth and Balsall Health! You know what… I love seeing different people, whatever colour their skin is .. I love having neighbours who have different experiences and a different outlook from me. I love being able to live among different cultures (indeed, my local Muslim shopkeeper taught me how to cook Asian foods — saved me a fortune in takeaways!), I love knowing about different lifestyles and different attitudes, opinions and approaches to life.
The problem in Kingstanding is that people are very ignorant and intolerant. They view life in black and white (sometimes literally!) and because people know they are inferior, they tend to make up for it with bravado, violence and their ignorant views.
My final comment is this… Gee, am I glad to be outta there!!