Report into community tensions in St Pauls, November 2007. 1. Background – reason for survey 1.1.
This research was undertaken by Bristol City Council’s community cohesion team, in partnership with St Pauls Unlimited, as a response to some tensions in the area, which had culminated in a fatal stabbing at a local pub during the late summer of 2007. It was felt that, whilst there clearly were tensions in the area, and there clearly was a perception as to what those tensions might be (between the Somali and African-Caribbean communities), nevertheless we did not want as a Council to be making assumptions about those tensions and acting on the assumptions. We have found elsewhere in the City where there has been tension, that the apparent visible issue – the issue that is “on top”, that people talk about – has often been one part of the story only, and that below that there has been another substantial cause of friction within that community. Accordingly we wanted to find out from local people what if anything they saw the issues as being
To some extent this survey has perhaps simply reinforced impressions that workers and residents intimately involved in the area, already had, and may for some hold few surprises. Nevertheless it is useful to have those perhaps subjective impressions evidenced as widespread by a body of residents, and it may provide useful new information for those less intimately connected with the area.
2. Background – the area. 2.1.
St Pauls lies in the inner city area of Bristol, within Ashley Ward, and the geographical area which it comprises could be loosely seen as being boundaried by the main roads of the M32 and Newfoundland Way to the South and Stokes Croft to its West, and thence along Lower Ashley Road and Sussex Place, these latter forming a slightly ‘softer’ boundary. It is a vibrant, ethnically very mixed community, and whilst it has been ethnically diverse for many years now, nevertheless the ethnic mix has changed significantly in recent years.
The Ashley Ward breaks down into Super Output Areas, one of which is named ‘St Pauls’, however the neighbourhood seen as St Pauls does not fall conveniently into that boundaried area. The three SOAs into which the ‘soft boundaried’ St Pauls comes, are all within the top 10% most deprived neighbourhoods nationally, and the St Pauls SOA itself is the 3 rd most deprived SOA in Bristol.
For Ashley Ward as a whole, the population totals 13063, of whom a total of 25.6% are Black and Minority Ethnic people (BME). These however are Ward Profile figures taken from the 2001 census. There is a sense that, as elsewhere in Bristol, the ethnic mix of the area has changed considerably since 2001, and this is borne out by statistics from the two local primary schools which show that in 2006, St Barnabas pupils were 87.5% from a BME background and Cabot pupils were 98% from a BME background. The schools have 50% and 61% respectively of pupils whose first language is not (or is believed to not be) English. The biggest single ethnic group in both schools is ‘Black or Black British - African’,
with Pakistani children second (in both schools) and ‘Black or Black British – Caribbean’ and ‘mixed – white and Black Caribbean’ third and fourth respectively. White British children form 2.7% of the pupils at Cabot and 10.6% of the pupils at St Barnabas. These school statistics provide early indications of substantial changes in the ethnic make-up of the neighbourhood. 2.4.
It should be noted also though that this localised population shift is part of a pattern of change affecting the whole of Bristol. At the time of the 2001 census, the total population of Bristol was 380,615, of whom 8.16% were BME. Since then however, it is estimated that some 15,000 Somali people have come here, as well as a further estimated 15,000 Polish people. If (and at this point this can only be conjecture, albeit informed conjecture) these figures are more or less accurate, and there were no significant increase in the white population, this would mean that the overall population of the City had risen by just over 9%, that this population rise would be all BME, and that the percentage of Bristol citizens who are BME had gone up from 8.16% to 14.88%.
48% of homes are owner occupied (compared to 61% for Bristol as a whole); but of rented property, a lower-than-average figure of 11% is Council housing, with 23% being private rented (city average 14%) and 14% from social landlords (city average 4%). Crime overall is higher than average but not getting worse or better, however violent crime and robbery are getting worse and are much higher than average. (total recorded crime 2939, city average 1900; violent crime 477, average 249; robbery of personal property 206, average 40).
The Ward Profile’s community cohesion indicators show that higher-than-average numbers of people feel they can influence decisions, and are involved in a voluntary or community organisation – and these figures are rising. On the other hand, whilst a higher-than-average percentage also feel that people from different backgrounds get on well together and people can influence decisions by working together, both of these indicators are getting worse. 75% feel that ethnic differences are respected in their neighbourhood.
3. The research. 3.1.
The research was conducted using a questionnaire as an interview tool – i.e., the questionnaire was filled out by interviewers with respondents, not left with them to write and return, although a small number of respondents did fill it out themselves with an interviewer present. The format for the body of the questionnaire was a loose one, this was deliberate so as to ‘get people talking’, as it was felt more important to do this, and sift through the text of the responses, than to get a ‘tick box’ type set of responses which can be thin and a little ‘two-dimensional’. We were after what people actually thought, described by themselves in their own words. Alongside this though, equalities data was sought, in order to check that the sample of people who we interviewed, were at least roughly representative of the population as a whole. A copy of the questionnaire is included as Appendix Two to this document.
Some interviews were conducted by community cohesion team staff; most, however, were conducted by interviewers who are themselves St Pauls residents.
A total of 148 questionnaires were returned. All interviews were conducted during November 2007, by which time the immediate agitation from the pub stabbing had settled down.
The sample of people interviewed did not exactly match the make-up of the neighbourhood, however as far as we can tell, the only major distortion is that lower numbers of over 65s were interviewed than would be representative of the population as a whole. Regarding the ethnic mix of respondents, this is diverse but, in the absence of up-to-date ethnicity data for the neighbourhood, can at best only be a guess or approximation in terms of its comparison to the neighbourhood as a whole.
Full details of the sample can be seen in Appendix One of this document.
4. The findings. 4.1.
What conflict is there? Residents were asked firstly whether there was any conflict or tension locally (99 said yes) and if so, to score from 1 (=bad) to 10 (=excellent) how well people locally got on together. The average score in response to that question was 6.6, with the largest single portion of answers being 7, 8 and 5. Only a total of 17 people who scored this question, scored it at less than 5. What came across quite strongly was a theme that ‘people get on well here together except….’ …the follow-on being that there was conflict in relation to either a specific issue or population group.
When conflict happens. Whilst the largest group of respondents (33) simply said “any time”, a substantial number – 25 – said that conflict happened in the evenings, late evenings and at night. 18 said it happened “all the time”, “24 hours”. “I leave work, at 10-11 pm, After that there are two groups and it gets scary”. “Especially at night-time, people shouting scares me. It wakes me, and it is scary if a woman is alone in house, if her husband works nights.” 6 thought it was worse at weekends. One said that the daytime trouble was just arguments whilst at night it was ‘bigger trouble’. Two singled out school time (outside the school) as a time when things happen.
Where it happens. 38 respondents simply said that conflicts happen “all over”, and a further 16 said “on the streets” (generally, not named streets). 12 however specifically mentioned the area immediately around the traffic lights on Sussex Place, the so-called “frontline”. Pubs were mentioned a total of 10 times (the Inkerman was named 3 times) and Tasties was mentioned 5 times. Outside schools was again mentioned, 3 times. “Parks” were mentioned 4 times and 3 times the laundries were mentioned as a continuing source of friction. The Learning Centre was also mentioned 3 times. Other places that were mentioned more than once were St Pauls Gardens, Ashley Road, Brighton St and Flats (4 times each) and Winkworth Place (3 times). Three respondents said “Everywhere in st pauls and Easton”
Key groups. Respondents were asked who they thought the key groups in the conflict and tension were. The most commonly mentioned group was young
people, mentioned by 39 respondents, several of whom added that they did not have enough to do, or that they lacked parental guidance, didn’t understand each other, and one person commented that “young people and police just wont work together”. One, however, added that young people, whilst “causing problems, are often scapegoated within the community”. Apart from young people, 12 respondents mentioned the rivalry between African-Caribbean and Somali people (and one, rivalry between Somali and Asian). Women were mentioned by 5 respondents, and “turf war” and gangs were mentioned by 4, as were drug users/dealers. Groups such as FABU, Shakti Imani, and the Council got two mentions each, though whether they are seen as fuelling conflict or having a role in resolving it was unclear. 15 felt it was the community generally (“young old male female”) or the mix of cultures and changing demographics (“mass influx of other ethnic groups”). 4.5.
Five respondents made the point that “no-one’s too keen on Somalians, who are ‘very visible’”. This echoes feelings expressed elsewhere in the data.
One further item worthy of comment is about the relationships between Somalis and Kurds locally. There had been murmurs of tensions between these two groups prior to the research being undertaken and they were referred to a few times by respondents (“there was some stuff between Kurds and Somalis but this has faded”). The message however was very much that this tension, whilst recurring, was over minor issues. One specific issue was of rubbish dumping by the ‘front line’ traffic lights as this has been a source of friction between the Kurdish restaurant and Somali shopkeepers. It was also however mentioned by other residents, including one (who was neither Somali nor Kurdish) who lived round the corner and had previously worked “on the bins”. He made the point that there is frequently an issue about shop waste, as – in this respondent’s view – Somali people who were newly in business were not familiar with the protocols of commercial waste disposal, and suggested it would be useful to have some Somali language information about this subject to avoid inappropriate dumping and the friction that this causes.
Key issues. The responses for the questions ‘what are they (the tensions and conflicts)’ (q7) and ‘are there any key issues’ (q11) have been combined for analysis purposes, as there was so much overlap between the answers given.
4.7.1. The biggest single specific issues, are drugs - referred to by over a quarter (35) of all respondents – and crime generally. Mostly responses related simply to the usage and dealing of drugs in themselves, but also comments were made to the effect that it was causing “arguments, stabbings and shootings” and some reference was made to drugs causing problems between the African-Caribbeans and the Somalians. Regarding crime more generally, a total of 16 respondents referred to this with a further 17 specifically mentioned violence and weapon crime, and another ten referring to ‘gangs’, ‘crews’ and ‘turf wars’. 4.7.2. Nearly as many – 29 respondents - referred to the lack of facilities for young people – a theme which recurred in both the ‘what can be done’ questions. “Why have a Learning Centre that they (young people) can’t go in”, “there is a lack of activity for teenagers” “it affects many youth groups and loses vision for their
future”. The issue of what was, or should be, provided for young people was also referred to by some respondents: suggestions included provision in open spaces, a youth centre “for everybody”, as well as holiday activities, and work about understanding heritage. There were also answers which related to improvements in education and preparing young people for the world of work.“Kids are leaderless, hanging around streets or the bookies and/or being stuck in dreams of making it big in music etc. Too much equipment, like studios milking their hopes and farming their dreams”. 4.7.3. However, one way or another, the issue of race and cultural differences was the biggest general theme. 25 respondents referred specifically to the sudden change in population make-up, with comments such as “tensions caused by presence of new communities, and inadequate preparation for the local community”, “Too many foreigners, Polish and Somali”. Reference was repeatedly made to the strain on services and the newcomers being seen as ‘queue-jumpers’: “Too many refugees in a small area”, “Housing. Some people a long time on housing register, makes you angry when other people get a flat very quickly”, “why place everyone in one small patch – then local services are stretched to the limit. I know parents who cant get a place at nursery ‘cos they’re not a ‘special category’”, “waiting list at schools. People who don’t have siblings do not get a place and have to go out of the area”. The Somalis are seen as “not contributing to the comm., keeping secluded”. Whilst some clearly expressed the view that Somalis in particular were simply not welcome, some said more specifically that there were simply too many Somali immigrants in the small geographical area (and thus the strain on services) and they should have been dispersed more widely so that services in a small neighbourhood were more able to cope. In the context of race relations, specific mention was made by a further ten people to tensions between Somali, and African-Caribbean people (particularly young people), and women. More generally, a total of 39 respondents made mention of poor race relations: “one-to-one communications between people of different cultures”, “people disrespecting each other”, “myths about different community groups” “lack of understanding of each others cultures”, and “not knowing how to talk to ‘new’ people, language and cultural barriers”. 4.7.4. Returning to the theme touched on in the previous paragraph of over-stretched resources, a further 20 respondents mentioned this as an issue, with comments such as “lack of resources in an already over-stretched community”. In this context, jobs were mentioned, as were poverty, open spaces, businesses – and the communal laundries, which have been the subject of past work and attention in the context of community relations but where there is apparently still a continuing problem. 4.7.5. Another significant issue was that of rubbish. This was mentioned by a smaller number (7) but very specifically: “rubbish is terrible, especially around restaurant. The frontline is a dumping ground, with rats etc now. When I worked on the bins you could spot the Somali shops because their rubbish was disgusting and visible, they need educating about waste management here”. “Somalis accuse the Kurds of dumping”. (Both of these quotes referred specifically to the area by the traffic lights where there is a Kurdish restaurant in very close proximity to
Somali businesses). More generally, reference was made to the dirty streets, and general upkeep of the area. 4.7.6. A few respondents (8) indicated that really the conflicts were just “basic issues of everyday life”, but conversely that these can get blown up out of proportion: “If there is an incident it all goes OTT - e.g. there was a car accident in my road. A Somali taxi driver was off his head and my Jamaican neighbours all jumped on him”. 4.7.7. Following on from all the previous questions, there were two specific questions about what can be done to improve things. These were divided into what agencies can do, and what residents can do…. 4.8.
What can agencies do? The biggest single item named here was youth work, mentioned by 20 respondents across all age ranges. More provision, better provision, a youth centre is wanted – “what is open every night”, “for everyone”, “I was born here but there is still no youth centre for me!”. One young person asked “if we can’t meet anywhere how do you expect us to communicate?”. Apart from youth work, another 13 respondents identified support for young people to continue in education and into employment. “Local government needs to be more focussed with targets within education for BME students”, “more work-based training, not just dancing or art which is what is on offer”
4.8.1. Agencies were advised to improve their partnership working, both with each other and with residents, by 14 people. St Pauls Unlimited was singled out for praise by several respondents. Further responses included one interviewee saying simply “Council messed up, Council fix up,” but some made the point that agencies “are trying” but others felt they should do nothing, that it should be the “residents themselves as it is their problem”. Two felt there are too many agencies in St Pauls and some should leave the area. 4.8.2. 15 respondents suggested that agencies put on more events, more activities for the community, and one mentioned having more events that were shared with neighbourhoods such as Knowle West and Lawrence Weston, to improve relationships across difference and de-bunk some stereotypes about St Pauls and the people who live here. Specific mention was made of helping the community to develop a sense of pride, of bringing people together across difference, and of being a “specialist lead to work” being done or planned. 4.8.3. The emergency services got 15 mentions: the views expressed were that they are “not doing enough to tackle issues” of weapon and drug crime. “Warnings and informal stuff don’t stop crime”; and their response times need to improve. The police need a greater presence and to become more familiar to local people. Whilst one said simply “hate police” others said “a lot of people welcome the police here” and that since Operation Atrium a lot of pride in the area has grown. 4.8.4. Several respondents again, one way or another, made the points that a) agencies are overstretched, and
b) agencies should treat people equally: “Other people are waiting for housing etc…and then you see some people given priority because they are refugees?!” 4.8.5. More generally for the future: some respondents expressed the wish that in retrospect they would have liked some help with, and “warning” about, the population shift, so that they might have been better enabled to adjust to it, and understand more about the new incoming strangers. This is similar to wishes that have been expressed in other neighbourhoods where similar change has occurred (e.g. Barton Hill, Hillfields). Conversely, issues were raised in relation to educating new arrivals about issues such as waste management. Thus, there are differences in manners and customs, which need to be understood by both longstanding and new residents. Examples: one respondent spoke of how exasperated he was that whenever he went into the Somali grocery store, if there were Somali women in front of him in the queue they would let him through first. He found that offensive – they were there first, so they should have been served first. He now goes outside again if there are Somali women queuing and waits till they have been served. Another example is the previously mentioned one about giving information to Somali businesses about waste management. These are tasks which require planning and forethought, and, following on from the tensions not only in St Pauls, but also in the other neighbourhoods mentioned and elsewhere, it would seem that it may be useful for agencies to think more, join up more, and be much more proactive about managing population change to avoid such tensions happening again elsewhere. 4.9.
What can residents do? 50 respondents – more than one third – said that residents need to meet together, work together, socialise together and generally build links and bridges across the community divides. Suggestions included street parties, a school ‘meet your neighbours day’, talking and “listening with respect”, community meetings, socials. One specific mention was made of events which attract men. Getting involved in (“positive!”) local groups, and to lobby for improvements to services, was referred to by several further interviewees, as were issues relating to mutual respect.
4.9.1. Also mentioned were thoughtful parking (which got several mentions as a ‘key issue’), and people keeping their houses clean and putting rubbish in the bins provided. 4.9.2. Youth clubs and activities were also mentioned as things that residents could be setting up, by ten respondents. More parental guidance and discipline was mentioned by 5 people. 5. Conclusions 5.1 We were surprised – and pleased – by the honesty of the responses; there had been concerns prior to the research being undertaken that residents would not want to discuss such matters with workers from agencies. 5.2 The key messages that come through very strongly are that:
a) there is a lot of ill-feeling towards the new incoming communities, in particular towards Somali people b) there are a lot of tensions between the communities, in particular between African-Caribbean and Somali, which is being played out primarily between groups of young people c) there is not enough for young people to do and become positively engaged with d) there is a massive amount of resentment at the way that large numbers of incomers with high support needs have been placed in the neighbourhood which has left longer-term residents who also have support needs, feeling as if they have been pushed ‘down the pile’. e) The rumoured tension between Somalis and Kurds seems to have settled. f) There are ongoing issues about services being stretched 5.3. In terms of actions needed; a) more provision for young people is needed – in centres, on the streets, in the holidays, leisure, sport, all sorts. b) It would appear that there is some resentment towards the Learning Centre because it is felt to be unwelcoming to young people and not providing enough that is work-related training for them. As young people do use the centre though, this may be an issue of marketing/communications; but perhaps this specific area (whether about the Centre’s programme or just its marketing) could be looked at. c) Agencies are asked to help the community build bridges amongst its own. Residents seem to have a strong sense of wanting to communicate across cultures and between long-standing and new, but want some help with that. d) Some ‘myth-busting’ work would be useful, especially if this could be combined with some work themed around community pride and cohesiveness. e) activities could be developed based on “twinning” a group or groups from St Pauls with groups from other outlying areas such as Lawrence Weston and Knowle West f) “cultural briefings” from specialists for both residents and agency staff should be offered, particularly in respect of both what newcomers need to know, and what long-standing communities need to know about those newcomers. g) More generally for the city as a whole; reference was made at the start of this paper to the substantial changes in the overall population of the City. Where these new incomers have gone has largely happened by choice and default, without any significant ‘planning’ as such. But the strain on the inner city in particular has become so serious that it may be worth managing any further significant population influx in a more structured and planned way.
With many thanks to the research team: Musaniya Babatunji, Lisa Blackwood, Lorna Heaysman, Iman Ibrahim, Mahmoud Matan, Sue Njie, Abda Parveen. Felicity Russell January 2008.
Appendix One: the sample of interviewees. Gender Male 59
Age u18 =
18-25 = 33 26-35 = 28 36-45 = 24
Disabled Sexual orientation 9 Heterosexual 92 Lesbian 2 Gay 1 Bisexual 1
46-55 = 24
Prefer not to say 21 Why? 1
56-65 = 9
Transgender No 87 Yes Prefer not to say 14 Maybe
66-75 = 3 75+ = 1 Blank 15
Black British Caribbean Black British Somali Other African
41 13 17 10
Kurdish/Iraqi White British White Irish White (all white boxes ticked) White/African-Caribbean other mixed Blank
4 22 2 1 5 3 10
English Patwa / Creole Somali Arabic Somali / Arabic French Urdu Punjabi Mix Urdu/Punjabi/English Kurdish
104 2 12 2 1 2 5 4 4 4
Muslim Christian Rastafarian Jewish Hindu Muslim Rasta Other Not pract. All boxes ticked None
48 41 10 1 1 1 6 1 2 27
In Saint Paulsâ€™ Yes No blank
Living 95 50 3
Known St Pauls: Under 1 year 1-5 years 6-10 years 11-15 years 16-20 years Over 20 years Whole life blank
4 20 19 16 21 44 7 17
Working 69 73 6
Socializing 105 19 22
Appendix Two: the questionnaire. Interviewer
Do you live in St Pauls? Do you work in St Pauls? Do you come to St Pauls socially? How long have you known St Pauls, either living, working or socialising here. On a score of 1-10 (where 1=bad and 10=excellent) how well do you think people in St Pauls get on together? Do you think there are any problems or conflicts in terms of community relations? If yes: what are they?
Where do they happen?
When do they happen?
Are there any key people/groups?
Are there any key issues?
What do you think residents could do that would make these issues better, improve community relations
What about other agencies, what could they do to improve community relations
Do you have any other comments about these issues?
1 2 3 4 5 6
Yes / no Yes / no Yes / no
Yes / no
Gender (please circle) Age (pls circle)
Female / Male
Under 18 18-25 26-35 36-45 46-55 56-65 66-75 Over 75
Ethnicity: White (Please tick one box)
Black / Black British
Asian / Asian British
British Irish Other White European (please state nationality) Other please specify Caribbean African Somali African Other Other Black, please specify White and Black Caribbean White and Black African White and Asian Other please specify Indian Pakistani Bangladeshi Other please specify
Chinese Other please specify What is your first language? Do you consider yourself disabled or do you have a limiting long-term illness? Yes / No How would you describe your sexual orientation? (please circle) Gay
Are you transgender?
prefer not to say
Yes / no / prefer not to say
What is your religious faith? (please tick box) Buddhist Christian Hindu Rastafarian Sikh Other
OPTIONAL: Name and address if you would like to be contacted with information about community events etc. This info will be separated from the rest of the questionnaire before it is read. Name Address Phone