Fair Trade: ‘These were the people I grew up with’

A film that tells the story of gangs grooming vulnerable young people to sell drugs has been released on YouTube.

Fair Trade addresses the role that recreational drug use plays in the tide of youth violence impacting disadvantaged communities and the idea of it being a victimless crime.

It comes a year after writer and director Leon Oldstrong, from Brockley, released the documentary That’s Not Ours about his younger brother who survived a stabbing from an unprovoked attack.

Mr Oldstrong’s new short drama centres on Jason Bolaji, a normal 15-year-old growing up in South London.

Still from short film, Fair Trade

He has a loving mother, great friends and has always managed to stay out of trouble.

But everything changes when he comes to the attention of a local drug dealer, and his world is turned upside down. What ensues is a tragic tale of innocence lost.

Fair Trade tells a story that is playing out across the UK.

With knife crime rising 57 per cent in the past four years, and the number of victims under the age of 18 doubling, there has been increased attention on this new wave of violence and the causes behind it.

Still from short film, Fair Trade

Yet the complexity of the issues driving the surge in young violence, alongside cuts to policing and youth services, have made them extremely difficult to tackle.
Fair Trade shines a light on the human cost of the trade, and also poses questions over the responsibility of drug users.

In the UK, one in 10 adults aged 16-59 years reported illicit drug use in the last year, and the demand for drugs is as much a part of the story as that of the suppliers.

Still from short film, Fair Trade

“When I was asked to make a film that addressed the role of drug use in youth violence, I was initially apprehensive to tell a story that takes place in the usual inner-city setting showing the same stereotypical imagery,” said Leon.

“Then I realised that this was a story about the people I grew up with, the young people I taught when I was a teacher, my nephews, cousins and friends, and that this was a story that we know all too well in our communities.

“This changed my perspective and I felt that I had been issued a challenge to tell this story in a way that would compel audiences who are not from our community to empathise with the characters in it.

“I wanted viewers to see that these young people all have a story.”

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