The Interaction Factor - A Story of Youth Services in London

The ongoing changes to youth services in London and how best to champion the interests of young people today

Genre: Documentary

Length: 17:35

Free To View

4 out of 5 stars

Producer/s : Orlando Del Maestro,

Director/s : Orlando Del Maestro, 

Writer/s : Orlando Del Maestro, 

Actor/s :


Poverty of hope

Running through austerity era Britain is the fearsome rise in knife crime among young people. The Interaction Factor wonders if this might be related to the closure of half of London’s youth centres, and similar closures across the rest of the country. With young people having fewer chances to mix with others from different neighbourhoods, they get more territorial. “We’ve lost the interaction factor,” a youth worker says.

There has been a shift from open access drop-in youth centres, to youth work targeted at those deemed to be most “at risk”. The risk in question is that of falling into crime (so why did knife crime rise?). Funded youth work became reactive to “problem families”, and lost any ethos of trying to prevent disengagement in the first place.

Young people’s mental health gets fewer headlines than knife crime, but is just as serious an issue. Cuts also robbed youth centres of the ability to act as an alternative family in times of stress, at home, in school, or on the street. When society presents so few opportunities, the damaging kind of poverty is not about cash, but a “poverty of hope”, as this anger-provoking film says.

It focuses on The Avenues youth centre in  Queen’s Park, west London, which has struggled to survive on charitable donations. It is in part a documentary about a documentary, following an investigation young people did through the centre’s radio station. The commentary is theirs, and it comes across entirely naturally. It’s not all voiceover and talking heads, either, enlivened as it is by devices like stop-motion puppets, and word-cards. Director Orlando del Maestro succeeds in his aim of exploring innovative styles of storytelling, and he does so with a light, almost anonymous touch.