Published on June 11th, 2016 | by John OMeara



27587581035_5dea85a4a3_zThe group of young people playing basketball were surprised and a bit amused to see a number of ‘oldies’ with placards and a step ladder gathering outside the Oaklands Young People’s Centre. Some explanation was needed about the risk of closure due to the Council cuts. After that they wanted to be part of what was going on – as one said: ‘this place has been here all my life, I’ve grown up with it’; he could barely take in the possibility that it might disappear. There would be no equivalent provision for the 4,500 Centre users.

Vanley Burke has enjoyed a very high profile in recent times, but today he talked of his need to ‘get out there again’ in order to be in touch with what is happening in Handsworth these days. He orchestrated young and old, and carefully explained to the younger children that he wanted them to bounce the balls but that he couldn’t show their faces.


Professor Black came out to join in, and Vanley was last seen being towed into the building by a small boy who was keen to show him something. Small but telling encounters which embody some of the aspirations expressed in both The Oaklands Centre mural and the Council’s own sign outside the door. How many more formative encounters will never happen if Centres like this are lost? You can see the full Handsworth Against the Cuts press release beneath the photos below.






Handsworth Against the Cuts! press release 10th June 2016 ‘Don’t Even Think About Cutting Oakland Young People’s Centre!’ Legendary photographer Vanley Burke leads ‘pop up’ photoshoot of supporters of Handsworth public services. Vanley Burke’s images available here:

Friends, supporters and users of Handsworth public services gathered outside of the Oakland Young Peoples’ Centre to take part in a unique ‘pop up’ photo shoot, led by the ‘Grand Father’ of Black British documentary photography, Vanley Burke. The photo-shoot was called to show our appreciation of the work carried out by the Oakland Young People’s Centre and to demonstrate our determination to resist any future attempts to cut, close down, or privatise these facilities or any other of our local public services. Photographer Vanley Burke has for the last 30 years, been chronicling the lives and struggles of the people of Handsworth. Oakland Young People’s Centre has been providing essential services to the young people of Handsworth for over 30 years. In 2015/16 over 4,500 young people from Handsworth’s diverse communities participated in a range of activities. The Birmingham Carnival Youth and Art Community development project led by the veteran Handsworth cultural worker Dr. Black is based in the building. At present it is run by one full-time and five part-time members of staff.

About Handsworth Against the Cuts! We are a diverse group of Handsworth residents who have come together because of our deep concern and growing anger at the devastating impact that the latest £250 million of cuts to Birmingham Public Services will have on our local communities, especially the young, the disabled and the elderly. Examples of other Handsworth area public services which could be affected by the cuts: Handsworth Library, Handsworth Well-Being Centre, Handsworth Park, Children’s / Sure Start Centres Birchfield, Houghton Road, Lime Tree, Heathfield Road Rookery, Rookery road Sure Start Soho, Louise Road St. Stephen’s Adult Day Care Centre providing support for the elderly, people with learning disabilities, people with dementia, people with mental health issues and people with physical disabilities For further information email:

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