Pepys Estate sits on the south banks of the Thames in Deptford, south east London, and when it was first built in 1973, it was the jewel of welfare living – housing for those who needed it the most. However, after years of austerity, a breakdown of the welfare state and increasing gentrification, the communities living in these estates have found their aspirations limited as much-needed funds have been stripped out of key social work projects.
Born in 1998, Amina Smith-Gul was brought up near the Pepys Estate and was exposed to an upbringing that is sadly the normality for many youngsters from low-income families growing up in central London; an upbringing where gang culture, knife crime, and death are part of the local news cycle.
“Gang culture, knife crime, and death are part of the local news cycle”
Losing her grandmother, who’d been suffering from Parkinson’s disease and who she’d been caring for, at the age of 13; Amina, at the age of 15, then had to deal with the horrific news that her auntie had been murdered by her uncle. When she was 17-year-old, Amina’s friend became another young victim of knife crime in London. These events, stacked up over a four year period, left Amina feeling angry and alone and resulted in her pushing herself away from her mother – something which, in turn, led to her living rough on the streets.
Nobody expects to experience this in their lifetime, let alone over such a short period of time, and Amina’s mental health spiralled. With everything that was going on, she was presented with little opportunity to focus on her passions during her teenage years.