This blog post has also been picked up by The Voice Online here: http://voice-online.co.uk/article/meet-londoner-using-hair-and-beauty-educate-youth
Michael Roberts is the owner of Michael’s Styles, a salon and hair academy in Willesden High Road, North London. Last summer, he ran a six-week programme called Save a London Life as his proactive response to the increase in violent crime perpetrated by young people in the capital. The programme recruited 20 teenagers to weekly classes in hairdressing and beauty; it was so successful that he will run the programme again this year but needs our help. He has started a gofundme page to raise £10 000 for this year’s project.
Michael, what inspired you to start Save a London Life?
The level of violence amongst our young people last year was too much for me and I felt that I had to do something. I looked around my neighbourhood and asked myself, ‘what are we doing, especially as business owners and entrepreneurs, for these young people?’ Something had to be done. And now this year, things seem worse, so I must do this again and make it bigger and better.
How does Save a London Life work?
The programme will start in July and run for 6 weeks as it did last year. It’s open to any young person who simply wants something to do. They sign up to weekly classes at the salon where they will be taught hairdressing, styling and beauty techniques. I am currently recruiting professionals in the industry and have recently confirmed the services of a nail technician. There is homework too so this is a serious thing!
At the end of the programme, each student will be awarded a certificate of achievement at a presentation ceremony. They will also receive a basic level qualification that they can use as a foundation for further education should they wish to do so.
I think this ceremony is important not just for the show, but also because it celebrates achievement. We need to celebrate these young people – it makes them confident which in term helps them make positive choices.
What else will the programme offer?
In actual fact, someone questioned why I was doing something that most colleges offer for free anyway. Well first, this programme is also free! The salon and the programme will provide a safe environment for that youngster who for whatever reason doesn’t feel safe in their own environment.
The other thing these days is that a lot of teens don’t have basic skills around etiquette and communication and building relationships. We will teach them to answer a phone call not with ‘Yeah’, but with ‘How can I help you?’ And then of course, we will show them how to dress and carry themselves professionally. The idea is that we will teach them a range of skills that will hopefully help prepare them for the adult world. We will also offer group therapy sessions where they can all just be open with each other and us and share.
How was last year’s programme received?
It went really well! Really, really well. We would have had more students but were limited by space. Let me put it this way, some of our students want to come back this year.
What is one thing you want to achieve with Save a London Life?
One thing? If I can save one life that will of course be the greatest achievement. Just getting one child off the street, making sure their parents know where they are, that’s something too. And of course if we can unlock someone’s potential, pique their interest in something, to perhaps become an entrepreneur in their own right in whatever field they choose, then we’ve done good!
What support have you had so far?
As I mentioned, we are starting to secure volunteers to teach but we still need more. Last year the Brent and Kilburn Times ran a story on the programme and hopefully this year they will do the same and help spread the word. I am also hopeful that Brent Council will support us too. However, we definitely need more help. Interestingly, I have contacted several leading figures in London who you would think are interested in supporting causes like this, but have had no response.
So what else do you need?
Gosh! What don’t we need? It would be good to have more space to accommodate more people. We nearly did get that extra space last year but things fell through at the last minute though that didn’t stop us as we still went ahead in my space.
Right now we need a barber, products, tools – combs, shampoos, tongs – and uniforms. I’d like the students to wear black tees and trousers. It will be great for anyone with the right skills can give their time to teach these youngsters. And of course funds. I have set up a gofundme page to raise £10 000 that we can use to purchase equipment and tools.
Who is Michael Roberts? What qualifies you to do this?
I was born in Northwest London and grew up in Stonebridge so I know what it’s like to live in the so-called ghetto. As a youngster, I was very mischievous I won’t lie. I was actually labelled as a troublemaker and sent to a special school called Vernon House at the time. My life was not easy by any means, especially as a gay, black man in London in the 80s and 90s! But this is my home and I must give back to my community.
In all that mischief, I knew what I wanted to do though. I was good at cooking and I loved to do hair. At the age of 14 I was teaching catering, and I went on to become a qualified chef, cooking professionally for 5 years. After that, I followed my second passion, hairdressing, and here I am.
Through all your challenges as a youngster, what kept you going?
First, I always knew what I was good at. I was confident about that. Secondly, my family knew what I was good at and in their way supported me. They knew that with Michael, their hair would get done, so they’d look good and eat good at the same time!
To help raise funds for Save a London Life, go to: https://uk.gofundme.com/michaelstylestomorow
For more details on the programme, contact Michael Roberts on
firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Tel: 07956671242; 02088303579
Michael’s Styles, 186 High Rd, London NW10 2PB
IG: michaelstyles186 – https://www.instagram.com/michaelstyles186/?hl=en