Editor’s comment: Free festival must be rescheduled

More than 1,000 people gathered outside Quamari's school in the wake of his death last year - the sa

More than 1,000 people gathered outside Quamari's school in the wake of his death last year - the same venue his family had planned to use for a community festival. Picture: ANGELA BLAKE - Credit: Archant

It is such a shame that the festival in memory of Quamari Serunkuma Barnes has been postponed.

Quamari’s father Paul told us last week he had organised it as a way to bring the community together – not just to enjoy themselves, but for a discussion about knife crime. It was something positive to come out of his son’s tragic, senseless murder, and perhaps even a way to save lives. I am sure the rescheduled festival, whenever and wherever it ends up, will do just that.

Knife crime will only be beaten by communities coming together, valuing each other and talking openly. The passion and drive of Quamari’s parents and friends is a powerful weapon in that fight. It won’t be won by criminalising, stigmatising or patronising young people, but by engaging with them through events such as this.

Imagine the impact on hundreds of teenagers of hearing Paul speak first hand about his heartbreak.

If that message gets through to just one person, it will have been a worthwhile event. I suspect it will get through to a lot more than that, and that some of tomorrow’s brightest campaigners and leaders will be in that crowd.

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There is a large handwritten poster on the wall behind me headed “active murder cases”. As journalists, we are sometimes accused of being desensitised, over-familiar with the horrors of violent crime by reporting on too many horrific killings.

But I would challenge anyone to be unmoved by hearing first-hand the words of a grieving parent.

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I believe confronting young people with the consequences of knife crime is the best wake-up call there could be.

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