Sunday, February 28, 2021

Gangs - this time GIRLS. An EXCITING adventure in Informal Education = Youth Work.

Thinking about GROUP WORK 
with teenage girl gangs.
This group of young humans who I have worked with. 

Cold contact. 
Impact needed quickly. 
Or they will face tough times in coming weeks.

I describe::

Behaviour issues
assaults on other girls.

No purpose
No hope
At risk
Seek excitement
No responsibilities
No accountabilities
Beautiful humans.

I need to design a session with them
It is sometimes called::
Informal Education
It is that + more than that ...........
It is Youth-Work.

Context:: a group of teenage young women 
who terrorised others in the community. 
Real intimidating, oppressive and aggressive. 

They were a gang really. 
Beautifully dressed and without boundaries...........
Then …………..
A couple of women youth-workers & myself
encouraged them to come out in a mini-bus. 
We had to sell the adventure - 
it sounded so exciting - so they came.

We travelled from the inner-city 
well into the countryside in the evening darkness. 
We left the urban inner-city scene behind as we had some fun singing in the bus.
We ended up at Fellowship Afloat. 

It was, and still is, a boating activity centre with a converted Light Ship as their base.
Suddenly the young women became out of their depth. 
They entered a place called uncomfortable where growth resides!
There was an immediate impact - 
their high heeled shoes trouble walking down the gravel path towards the Light Ship. 

It was pitch dark. 
Our inner-city environment never dark as the street lights stay on all night.
We only one torch to show the way. 
Water lapped each side of the footpath leading out to sea.
Walking into darkness from darkness. 
They started to cling to me and the other workers like their lives depended on us.

Eventually the lights of a motor launch appeared ahead 
and we clambered aboard and set sail - motoring 
into the darkness ........ blackness ….

There was much more clinging to the workers.
I was nervous too.

Later ……..
We returned to the Mother Ship - 
sipping sweet hot tea - 
experiencing fellowship aboard.

On the way back in the mini-bus there was an incredible sense of relief and achievement. 
And from the girls too!
We talked and talked all the way back. 

I remember some details of those interactions.
I asked a question to everyone, as I often do.

"Chose an animal for each one of us in the bus - what animal are you?
Which human has the characteristics of what animal - and say why?”

I don't remember the details other than it was a most wondrous experience of fun /openness/ listening.
I said I was a 'Cart-Horse'.
They told me that I was a 'sheep dog' - 
"loyal - 
working hard - 
AND always running around organising getting people together & yapping a lot …"

I don't remember us having any great hassle with the girls after this adventure. 
I guess we still had some. 
But relationships were great and we started a group for them which was once a week.
So they had a 'closed group' forever 
Just for them
Same two female workers - same group of girls  = 
Boundary Management/security/safe space.
Loads of decision making and participation.
+ plus they were regularly involved with other Youth Club / programmes. 

Get out of our comfort zones - the girls & staff too.
Create a totally new experience.
Work at the belonging & becoming.
Use the mini-bus as a group room.
Ask questions & start with your own revelation/vulnerability.



Saturday, February 27, 2021

More of strategic work with Youth Gangs

 I posted memories from working with gangs yesterday.

SO I must follow it up with some more of strategic work with Youth Gangs

For much of my life I have worked as my mission in life with Young People on the edge or over the edge in terms of their offending behaviour. Beautiful humans.

Working with gangs has been a big stretch and also a massive learning.
I strive continually to understand violence and aggression to help me to be better able to be in a helping relationship with these BHP’s.

A Youth Club as often been the base of operations. Where contact is first made.
Where relationships commence and then ……..
Branches off that base have been events outside the club life. 
Such as residential experiences in the wilds of the country - or evening or day trips in the mini-bus AGAIN to build relationships as well as extend their life experiences.
Group work conducted strategically has been a major part of developmental work for me and the teams I have led.

I want to take you into an experience that still lives in my soul - 
join me ………


It had always been normal for many of our teenage boys to carry knives. 
One club evening we noticed other ‘tools‘ beginning to be smuggled into the club. 
Sticks, some with nails protruding, iron bars and hammers. 
At the same time sticks, stones and bottles were being hidden outside the building ready for the end of the club evening. 
The gang was preparing for battle.

One older age  gang, late teens, numbered only a few at this stage. 
Much work had been done with them over the years: their own Sunday club with their own bank account, holidays, weekends, many court appearances. 
Now they came to the club irregularly. 
The younger gang, up and coming powerhouse - aged around 15 - 18, were maturing and were now less disruptive, 
but well prepared to do battle with the hyperactive, disruptive, violent older gang. 
It was becoming a regular occurrence for them to attack and bait each other concluding in a street battle at club closing time with sticks, bricks and bottles being thrown.

It became so bad that we shut club completely for ten days to cool off. Never ever done before.

One evening, as the workers met to discuss the strategy for the future, the meeting was ‘steamed’. 
Forty or so kids came in and all of a sudden it became a gang meeting with two older boys taking the chair between them. 
I facilitated the meeting but in no way was I in control. 
First of all they berated me and the other workers for running a lousy club – “you can’t handle it” – and then they turned on the other gang and ran their own kangaroo court.

After the slagging off came the verdict. “Stay away,” said the older gang leader, 
“Stay away for a year from now. 
You’re barred and if you roll up you’re nicked!” 

That was authority speaking, and the workers’ meeting that eventually took place that evening affirmed that decision. 
The younger gang were barred from the club for a year, the first time that a long-term suspension had been imposed. 
It wasn’t left like that, but we decided to work with the gang outside the club. 
Not reject them but, with love and commitment, intensify our youth work with them.

Two of our team members were chosen to head up the group work with me in support. 
One of our volunteer youth workers was in his late twenties, a working-class Londoner who came to us from a drug rehabilitation centre and a natural for making warm contact with the kids. 
Another worker, a total contrast from a middle-class background and was studying to be a doctor. Both had a keen sense of humour, resilience under pressure and lots of enthusiasm. 

So we commenced a Group work programme for this gang and several others including girl gangs.
Each had a maximum of eight in their group and two volunteer group workers, the same workers only. 
The same youth members only..
They met only in the mini-bus and/or the group room separate from the Youth Club.

The objectives were designed to give each group a place and a sense of security including conditions to form closer and developmental relationships. A sense of belonging was developed in each group because there was a climate of trust and participation.

The story rolls on and has much more details in my books.
But the group work method was a major break through. Negative turned into positives. 
I became a group worker.
I believe in groups.
I belong to a group.
I yearn to belong.
I believe that for you too - and all humankind …………


Friday, February 26, 2021

Inner City Youth Work

The strategy is to programme in taking a group of teens outside their comfort zones. EXPERIENTIAL 
This then becomes a leveller where we all need each other. 
This one - years later I get an email & a reflection regarding a visit to a remote ex farmhouse. A dry farm. The water table was no longer +
No electricity 
No water on tap. 
Outside civilisation. 
No street lights. 
Total blackness at night. 

So years later I receive a reflection::

I asked a question to Rob::
What experience you had re Mayflower is the one you remember most?
This would take a 600 page book to honestly answer, in short Profound life changing a positive life experience that would go on to effect the rest of my life, my faith my family .....
My world.

I remember all of it, with Cristal clear vision, and I owe the Mayflower, you and all the staff.
More than you could ever know.
If you were to force me to pick a memory this would be it ............ 

I was feeling very down my father had just had to have an eye removed due to cancer (he went on to make a full recovery) and 
.... my parents marriage wasn’t going to last to much longer, 
I was 14 angry rebellious and scared.
And to add to this I had to go to club tonight and tell you that I couldn’t go on the trip to Wales as my parents couldn’t afford it. 
You on hearing this was your normal reassuring 
Self, and boomed don’t worry Jesus loves ya,
2 days later a Mayflower staff member went to my house and told my Mum my trip had been payed for anonymously. ( I never found out who)

On that trip we’re the usual suspects (Ren Slug Tallman two of the Neale brothers etc)
One night I was up alone down stairs unable to sleep, and all the staff had to be on their toes as the lads kept raiding the tuck shop.
As a city boy, I had never been anywhere so dark and so quiet, you and some of the staff
Had been outside on some kind of walking ramble in the dark as you came back I feel that you became aware
Of how scared I was, although I would never admit cause I was a Sniper.
You said "look out the window Rob look at all them stars Rob you're never really alone."

I don’t know if you remember it Pip but those few word were so reassuring I’ve never forgotten.


Good afternoon Pip,

You have ......

Thursday, February 25, 2021



Signs of Emotional Unavailability in a Person::

1. They avoid the “big” or “deep” stuff.
Diving down into the world of emotion and feelings makes them uncomfortable. They’ll be happy to listen to their partner’s emotional “stuff” but only up to a point. When the subject matter gets too heavy they’ll change the subject. And talk of formal commitment may rattle them or even push them away.

2. They have intimacy in the same basket with something else.
A person with trust issues often connects intimacy with high drama or conflict or inevitable loss/rejection — things that have happened in their past. Even when willing, they’re not free to love for love’s own sake because it means something uncomfortable for them.

3. They are naturally distrustful.
When a person’s been hurt or suffered significant loss, they struggle to enter relationships — even close friendships — with an open heart. That’s because they’re scared it’ll happen again and they can’t bear that sort of pain.

4. They can’t express their feelings 

Emotionally unavailable people often don’t have a language for expressing their feelings. It may be that they never learnt to match words with their feelings or had sound emotional expression modelled to them. It’s not that they don’t have feelings. They just don’t know how to release them appropriately.

5. They can cut people out of their life easily and often without reason.
Relationships — including friendships and family ties — can be terminated suddenly and without explanation. This is very hurtful, and confusing, if you’re on the end of it. These acts may have a toxic agenda. But they also just think it’s easier to end a relationship, than wade through an explanation of why.

6. They’re most comfortable with people outside their day-to-day orbit.
Emotionally unavailable people will often choose relationships they can keep at arm’s length. Affairs, long distance relationships, cultural divides: People who are not free to commit to them. It’s less stressful to keep some space between them and they don’t have the pressure of moving the relationship forward.

7. They respond to others’ feelings rather than offering their own.
They’ll often find it easy to show a lot of interest in you, especially at the beginning of a relationship because asking questions is non-threatening. It can be seductive because it makes you feel fascinating but it also keeps you away from their feelings, which is the whole point.
Is it over?

Not my work or wording

BUT I am an Emotion Detective

and want to learn from EVERYTHING



Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Reflecting on Lockdown life at Wilson Mansions ............

 Here I am.

Lockdown like you are.

Alongside that I am working daily at living with cancer. The meds - increasingly needing to be more powerful, sleep & sleepless plus fatigue which is only one of a few side effects.

Otherwise life goes on. A walk a day and built in shopping (I have never been in a shop for a year other than the pharmacy  -   '1 in 1 out' shop!) The walking plan is waiting for spring and warmer weather to enable more exercise.

Moreso is the chance/hope of seeing family together especially our two grandaughters (5 and 10) - last time they did a drive by - I cried ......... some feelings can't be articulated enough.

5am out of bed this morning to start the 8 a day pain killer tablets. Normal life now - to time table life around the meds schedule. I drink loads and loads of water. I don't touch alcohol at all now. I used to have a glass of red if we were out for a meal - but never done either for a pandemic year!

Other aspects of life rolled on. No gigs which I miss madly - the preparation, working with teams of teachers, therapists, youth-workers, student teachers, and various groupings internationally - all experiential learning - I love it. Feeds me!!

Close behind the above number one is my meeting 121 in my Central London 'Cafe-shop home' (now disappeared - off the map via covid damage)

I write every day. I promote the Blob Tree resources online & reflect on life via my BLOG.

Then there is my ever so bursting email inbox .......... AND in the last couple of days I have had two surprising cold contact' out of the blue. 

1:: someone interested in tapping my crime and gangs experiences. Right up my street as I have had to work and live through such experiences -  you will know about this if you have read my books 'Gutter Feelings' 'Backstreets of Heaven' and others.

2:: A young lad who I lived/worked with who is now in his 60's - never heard from him since 1967 = 54 years.

I can't tell you more - respecting confidentiality. 

More tomorrow and ever after ........


Tuesday, February 23, 2021

LOVE:: Be passionate with it / learning LOVE is non-stop =Love steps outside our comfort zone


YOUTH WORK is being on the same level - valuing the human - seeing beyond behaviour BEYOND BEYOND .......


Let me break this down:
1. If you have to demand respect, it’s not respect.
2. If you see our youth as Sacred, what’s there not to respect?
3. Correcting unacceptable behavior is effectively done with respect.
4. Recognizing the pain behind the behavior is only seen with eyes of love and respect.
5. If it’s not unconditional love and respect, then it’s not love and respect.
6. If love and respect are not the foundation of the work with our youth, it’s not youth work.
7. Put that ego away before you hurt someone.

Our character is disclosed .....

Monday, February 22, 2021

One Day .................. children will ask ................

 One day..... 

youngsters will learn words 
they will not understand. 

Children from India will ask: 
What is hunger? 

Children from Alabama will ask: 
What is racial segregation? 

Children from Hiroshima will ask: 
What is the atomic bomb? 

Children in schools will ask: • 
What is war? 

You will answer them. 
You will tell them 

Those words are not used anymore, 
Like crucifixions, galleys or slavery 

Words no longer meaningful. 
That is why they have been removed from dictionaries. 

Martin Luther King, preacher, civil rights activist

With training and a will to love we can train our brain to take over when under pressure/threat.


I WAS ONCE  on a Bus in central London.
There was a vicious racially motivated attack.
It was an attack.
Language and blows.
Aggression and violence.

It disturbed all on the crowded bus.
Fear more than disturbed.
I have seen so much of it in my life.
I have seen a young mans head being kicked around like a ball.
I have experienced knives, pick axes, meat cleavers
all in the hands of humans out of control.
As today.

I once was passing a Youth Club corridor with two young men fighting with knives.
I walked on because what I had to deal with 
was much worse.

I hate violence.
I lead training sessions for workers
about managing aggression and violence but
I hate it hate it.
It is a result of surges of emotion taking over the human.
Fear, insecurity, anger alongside lack of emotional intelligence.

We do it too,when we snap back at the persons we love.
It comes out of the same place.
It is built up in tribes, gangs, crowds and Nations too.
Lord have mercy.

We have much to do.
We have so much loving to do.

If we are not part of the solution
we are
part of the problem.

Sunday, February 21, 2021



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WORKING WITH GROUPS - building a climate of trust.

When it comes to talking about feelings,
touching on any sense of 
emotional interior activity -
often the shutters come down.

Most will walk up to a Blob Tree,
on a big screen, and place a sticker
where they are/ describing how they are feeling non-verbally - 
then they often won't talk about their feelings - but this is still a step forward.

Emotional literacy is about being able
to express feelings with words.
Not just 'happy' or 'sad'.
Every feeling comes under those headings.

The Blob Teenage cards get them talking.
Talking about how the Blobs are feeling.
It is a forward step to be able to say how a Blob is feeling.
The Blob Jigsaw gets them active
but struggle to respond to questions.

The best methods I have discovered
is to show slices out of a movie.
This engages them, moves them,
stirs their feelings and then they spill.
All depending how free/insecure they are.
All depending how chained they are
by their own peers. + depending on the climate of trust in the room.

If I can get them to write something
about themselves - wondrous
= self revelation spills.

Out of older groups I get these::
"Today I told someone I was bullied at school."
"I don't want to be in a comfort zone -
I want to make a difference."

Sometimes, if the climate of trust is good,
usually when I am with a group for 24 hours,
there are stories of abuse, beatings, rejection informally spilled,
alcoholic Parents - self harm and more.

How do I get through with the 'hard to reach'?
That's what I need to spend time on this.

If we don't let these things out,
these last words is for you,
they don't reside in your gut dead,
they are buried alive and will come back
to haunt you.
In body
In mind
In spirit
In dysfunctional relationships
because the person who is relating to you
is only building a relationship
with your shell -
not the real beautiful thing.
You are beautiful -
even more without the MASKS.


Then they came for me .....

Saturday, February 20, 2021

We had been married for one year and THEN this !!!!!!!!!


Joan was 21, I was 26 when we sold up, burned bridges, and moved to live & work in a Young Offenders Unit as Houseparents.

It was a school by name but - really an education prison for young boys 14 to 17. All from Manchester.

We had been married for one year and then this !!!!!!!!!

(I am on my laptop.

I am expecting a knock on the door by Joy. 
She was born in this unit place.
Joy our first child born with 15 ready made teenage 'brothers'.)


It was the start of our journey - break away from home town to
follow the 

risk failure
inability turning to competence - well ....

..... not so much the competence.

Before this job, I was working at Pilkington Glass in their Research Laboratory.
They used to call me 'the Rocking Vicar' because I was always singing as I worked.

I want to write about our above work. Yet it so sensitive. 
I have lots of letters from these boys/men by now methinks letters I would love to share - some powerful stories too.

I wanted to reflect today on other mission experiences as I have shared over the last two days. Reflecting on the work/mission we was engaged in. It is delicate - so many stories I can't spill.

This was 1965 and all that ...................... how can that be? - me being a teenager still ..!!