Calisthenics in action at the Steel Warriors gym at Langdon Park, Tower Hamlets.
With knife crime on the rise, Ben Wintour of Steel Warriors, a charity hosted on our Regent’s Place campus, and Juliette Morgan of British Land talk about an unusual project that is melting down confiscated knives and turning them into outdoor gyms.
Sparking new conversations about knives
Ben: Steel Warriors is taking a different approach to an issue that’s been here for some time and is growing. Over the last few weeks even, there have been tragic knife crime related issues. Every single month, the Metropolitan Police confiscates roughly one tonne of knives off the streets of London. Together with our partners, we’re turning that negative steel into something positive – creating outdoor gyms where people are building the physical confidence to walk the streets unarmed. Importantly, this is also sparking new conversations about knives with young people and communities.
Juliette: We’re aware of the rising challenge around knife violence and how it scars lives – physically and emotionally. One of our core principles at Regent’s Place is inclusion: it’s important to us that everyone feels welcome here, all the time. So, we’re proud to support the Steel Warriors team by hosting them at Regent’s Place as they tackle an issue that impacts all Londoners.
We encourage anyone interested to get in touch
Ben: It’s unusual for a small charity to have such a great space to work from in the middle of London, and all for free. We’ve been blown away by how welcoming the Regent’s Place team has been and how open British Land is to engaging with us on many levels. The campus is also full of inspiring businesses, who we’re starting conversations with about how they could get involved, which could massively increase our reach. We encourage anyone interested to get in touch.
Juliette: The more we work with Steel Warriors, the more opportunities we see. Our development team is highlighting the charity to our construction suppliers, who could help build more gyms. As a placemaker, it’s part of our role not only to create places where diverse people and organisations thrive, but also to help them form connections that deliver lasting benefits. So, we see this as just the beginning.
Helping people build real muscles to flex
Ben: We opened our first gym a little over a year ago and the early signs are really promising. There are 40-50 people down there in the evening, using the equipment and forming friendships. It’s created three new personal trainer jobs, along with clubs and classes for local people, who tell us they’ve lost weight, gained muscle and built confidence.
Over time, what we’re particularly hoping to see is an impact on knife crime levels, as the gyms divert people away from activities that could lead to trouble. Two of the main motives for young people carrying knives are protection and ‘muscle flex’; they want to feel strong walking the streets and to look tough. Steel Warriors gets to the root of this, helping people build real muscles to flex.
Juliette: Steel Warriors inspires us in different ways, as they highlight an important societal issue and do something about it. We want to be connected to people and organisations who have a strong sense of purpose. We think about placemaking a lot and find that partners like Steel Warriors help us think more broadly about what’s going on in London and the contribution we can make.
Lives should be built on steel, not destroyed by it
Ben: With our first gym up and running, we hope to set up at least eight more in the UK over the next year. It’s great to see Steel Warriors starting to take shape as something that could play a big part in reducing knife crime. Ultimately, we hope to become obsolete; when there’s no more knife steel to build with then our work has been a success. Lives should be built on steel, not destroyed by it.
Juliette: Together with Steel Warriors and other local partners, we play an active role in the capital. Regent’s Place has been a good member of the community that it sits in for more than 30 years. We’re excited about our future as a place founded on the principles of knowledge, inclusion and sustainability.
Ben Wintour is Cofounder of Steel Warriors
Juliette Morgan is Head of Campus at British Land