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Ipswich neighbourhood finding hope for future in wake of tragedy

Reverend Peterson Anand leading a prayer before the community event at Nansen Road Baptist Church in Ipswich. Picture: Neil Didsbury

Reverend Peterson Anand leading a prayer before the community event at Nansen Road Baptist Church in Ipswich. Picture: Neil Didsbury

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A community once shattered by tragedy spread a united message of hope this weekend.

The Nansen Road community event took place just yards from the spot where Ipswich teenager Tavis Spencer-Aitkens was murdered. Picture: Neil DidsburyThe Nansen Road community event took place just yards from the spot where Ipswich teenager Tavis Spencer-Aitkens was murdered. Picture: Neil Didsbury

Nansen Road Baptist Church, in Ipswich, hosted an event designed to tackle the root causes of youth violence and drug related crime.

As the neighbourhood continues to heal from the murder of Tavis Spencer-Aitkens last June, the church invited people to enjoy live music and food, and hear from two passionate speakers affected by crime in different ways.

Reverend Peterson Anand said: "This is about establishing trust we have lost between young people and the community.

"Building a personal network is the best way to achieve that.

Ex gang member and drug addict Mark Clarke turned his life around and now supports young people to do the same. Picture: Neil DidsburyEx gang member and drug addict Mark Clarke turned his life around and now supports young people to do the same. Picture: Neil Didsbury

"We don't want people to see our building and think it's a secret society - so we've gathered passionate people to spread joy and construct a hopeful society."

Roseann Taylor managed to find forgiveness after the murder of her only son, 18-year-old Azaan Kaleem, in Luton last March.

"I realised that to be angry and spread resentment would make me no better than the perpetrators," she said.

"There's a lot of finger-pointing and blaming.

There was entertainment, food and inspirational speakers at the Nansen Road community event in Ipswich. Picture: Neil DidsburyThere was entertainment, food and inspirational speakers at the Nansen Road community event in Ipswich. Picture: Neil Didsbury

"We need to listen to what our children are saying.

"We need to look beyond the crime and ask what went wrong.

"A community that chooses to look the other way is part of the problem; not the solution."

Mark Clarke, founding director of Walk to Freedom, left behind a life of crime and drug dependency to run peer led services for people who need further support in the community.

Roseann Taylor's only son, 18 year old Azaan Kaleem, was murdered in Luton last year by a knife gang. Picture: Neil DidsburyRoseann Taylor's only son, 18 year old Azaan Kaleem, was murdered in Luton last year by a knife gang. Picture: Neil Didsbury

"No one organisation has the solution," he said.

"It begins with everyone being on the same page.

"It's going to be a long process to change minds.

"Grass roots organisations, working on the ground, need the support to have the capacity to manage.

Reverend Peterson Anand from the Nansen Road Baptist Church which hosted the community event. Picture: Neil DidsburyReverend Peterson Anand from the Nansen Road Baptist Church which hosted the community event. Picture: Neil Didsbury

"While everyone else is trying to effect change in young people because of a symptom, we're looking at the root cause.

"I had no one to tell me there's another way - a legitimate way."

Mick Earrey, organiser and leader of the Noisy Group collective of local church volunteers, said he hoped the event would help strengthen the community and win the trust of younger people.

The event was supported by the borough council and the office of the police and crime commissioner.

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