On October 22nd 2018, 15-year-old Adam Abdullah was elected as the new Young Mayor for the Lewisham Borough, with Nike Ajijola as Deputy. His successful mission statement covers five bases; from free sanitary products in all Lewisham state secondary schools, to organising sessions for police officials and politicians to be accountable to young people. We visited the young mayor to discuss his new role, his vision for the future and his relationship with Catford.
Let’s start with an introduction to yourself and how you became young mayor.
I’ve been active in politics for almost 2 years now. My family are Kurdish, so I’ve always been into politics because of that and watching the news. Before I heard about young mayor and young advisors, I was mainly engaged with the US general elections which got me involved in politics.
After that, I engaged with several local campaigns and local groups. There was the justice for cleaners movement in Goldsmiths, which was for in-house cleaners to be given better wages, for example. Being young Mayor, I saw this as an opportunity to actually represent the young people of Lewisham, alongside a great team of people who’ve done it before.
How did you go about selecting the main points for your manifesto, and deciding what is most important to the young people of Lewisham?
At first, I was influenced a lot by what I read in the news. But then I was like, that’s just what’s in the news, how do I know people actually care about this? So I did it by speaking to a bunch of friends, but also speaking to people from other schools that I would meet. As well as friends I have in other schools, social media is also a big thing.
The final five points that I did choose, like the period poverty point, for example. When I first started my campaign, I talked about it on social media and people were messaging me saying it was a problem. They were receptive and open to the idea. The question times and with police officials and politicians came about as the general consensus among people in my school, they felt isolated from the system and didn’t know how to engage with it. It’s about finding ways to hold power to account.
As you know, Catford is soon to be regenerated. How do you feel about it and how could more young people in Catford get involved?
I feel like regeneration should be centralised around the community and bettering the lives of local people in the area. Any new structure, or whatever is being built, should prioritise social housing.
I think for all regeneration and redevelopment in Lewisham, we need to find a way to tackle the rate of air pollution. Outside of my school, the pollution is above the world health organisation recommended rate and it’s illegal by EU law. Air pollution is such a big issue in Lewisham. Lewisham sadly had the first death linked to air pollution and asthma.
What do you know about the work that Team Catford is doing?
I feel like the way Team Catford is doing consultation, should be how it’s being done all over the place. Finding ways to engage young people, especially. I’m worried about how am I going to be able to afford to live in London when I’m older.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
This is the beginning of an exciting time for Catford Town Centre. The more people involved, the better the needs of the whole community will be reflected. Have your say via Commonplace, and share the project with people you know locally.