Abu Mensah: Deputy Young Mayor of Islington

Estimated reading time:4 minutes, 59 seconds

Everyone has a story. Islington has 48 councillors elected by the people of Islington. In addition Islington’s young people are represented by an elected youth council, who serve a two-year term in office. All the youth councillors are aged 13-17. The youth councillors elect amongst themselves the Young Mayor and Deputy Young Mayor. Abu Mensah, who is Deputy Young Mayor for 2015-16, explains what the job involves. Interview by Nicola Baird

Abu Mensah (c) Islington Council

Abu Mensah (c) Islington Council

Not only has Abu Mensah just finished his first year at sixth form college, studying at STEM Academy on City Road, he’s also just completed four months as Deputy Young Mayor of Islington.

“Based upon our manifestos and election campaigns, the youth councillors identified and agreed four priorities – ayouth provision, career and education planning, youth employment, and health and wellbeing – which they work on for the benefit of all young people in Islington.

Abu, 17, has lived in Islington for seven years – before that he was based in Hackney. The move to Islington made him a “default Arsenal fan” but it also introduced him to the possibility of having a bigger voice.

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“Raj, the Commissioning and Engagement Officer supporting the Youth Council, came into my school and gave a talk about the Youth Council. I was feeling that being a young person in this country had a bad reputation – there were all the reports about knife crime and youth crime. So I thought if people aren’t going to make a change then I should try helping myself,” says Abu.

The elections are competitively fought – just like a real election. The 12 candidates who get the most votes are elected as youth councillors and are provided with a comprehensive induction in order to support them in their new roles as youth councillors.

They also join other youth councillors from London boroughs to go on residentials organised by the British Youth Council – giving them a chance to meet other Young Mayors and Young Councillors.

Abu, who lives in the Tollington Ward, enjoyed this: “Now I’m a Young Deputy Mayor I’ve learnt all kinds of things. How to plan, organise and arrange events. Before I joined the Youth Council I was a very shy person, and rarely used to speak to anyone. This role has helped me gain confidence – and I’ve networked a lot too.”

  • Abu Mensah: Deputy Young Mayor Islington does a quick photo shoot for Islington Faces during an Islington Giving event at nearby Islington Assembly Hall on Upper Street.

    Abu Mensah: Deputy Young Mayor Islington does a quick photo shoot for Islington Faces during an Islington Giving event at nearby Islington Assembly Hall on Upper Street.

    Things our deputy young mayor – Abu Mensah – likes about Islington

  • * I like working with Cllr Joe Calouri, Cllr Richard Watts the leader of the Council and the Mayor of Islington, Richard Greening.20150601_163553* Islington has really good transport links and lots of tube stations. A borough like Lewisham only has the DLR.

    * There are loads of youth clubs. I go to Platform on Hornsey Road where I’m learning how to make films. The previous youth council helped to set up Lift (a youth hub) and they even cut the ribbons to open the centre! In Newham they don’t have nearly as many youth clubs as Islington has.

    * I like the way Islington is very diverse, there’s a good mix of race, wealth and talents.

    Work experience crunch
    Abu is linked to the Youth Employment priority and is very clear that all Islington school students “need a better quality work experience. Not all schools give students work experience in Year 10. And the ones who do offer work experience often don’t get it right,” he says.

    Abu talks about how he wanted to develop his skills in computer science – a subject he is taking at AS level, and might study at university – but in Year 10 after GCSEs “I was placed in a nursery for two weeks as ‘work experience’. I enjoyed it but it was not really connected to my career interest and I didn’t find it very useful.”

    Abu is impressed by how much the councillors listen to the concerns of young people, and hopes that this will translate into action. This is one reason why his time as a Deputy Young Mayor has helped him decide that the vote should be for 16 and up. “Before I was elected to the Youth Council I thought it didn’t make a difference. Now I think that if you’re not ready to vote at 16, then why would you be ready at 18 or even 30?” he says in a typically thoughtful manner. So if you are an Islington teenager – or know a teen – do get them to find out more about the Youth Council as it is clear that it offers an effective way to become involved in real politics.

  • More about the Youth Council (plus advice, information and services for young people in Islington) at izzy-info.com or @islingtonYC or facebook
  • Lift youth club facebook 45 White Lion Street, N1
  • Platform youth hub facebook Hornsey Road Baths, 2 Tiltman Place, N7

Over to you
If you’d like to nominate someone to be interviewed who grew up, lives or works in Islington, or suggest yourself, please let me know, via nicolabaird.green at gmail.com. Thank you.

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This blog is inspired by Spitalfields Life written by the Gentle Author.

If you enjoyed this post you might like to look at the A-Z  index, or search by interviewee’s roles or Meet Islingtonians to find friends, neighbours and inspiration. Thanks for stopping by. Nicola