Rates of violence in Lambeth have been relatively high for many years. British Crime Survey data (Kershaw et al. 2000; Mirrlees-Black et al. 1998; Simmons et al. 2002) show that inner-city residents, particularly young men, are included in those considered most at risk of being a victim of violence. This chapter looks at and analyses the young people's experiences of violence. Here, violence primarily refers to fighting, which was something most of the young people in my sample were familiar with. Almost all of them had been in at least one fight; many had been in several. The first section explores the context, frequency and reasons for fighting, as well as how the young people felt afterwards. My analysis relates these themes to issues of masculinity and working- or lower-class culture. Next, I examine the use of weapons and the young people's attitudes towards them. Lastly, I address the extent to which residential 'territory' was an issue in their lives. Specifically, I attempt to determine the degree to which the young people consider any particular area or space 'theirs', and relate their responses to issues of territory, such as that exercised by US-style gangs, in order to account for similarities and differences. Throughout the chapter patterns are explored between these topics and the different categories of young people.
'Sparked', 'banged up' and 'bruck up' are slang terms the young people used to describe fighting or throwing punches. According to the Youth Lifestyles Surveys, fighting is a common offence, particularly for young men (Flood-Page et al. 2000; Graham and Bowling 1995). In Lambeth, offences of violence among young people were relatively high in relation to other London boroughs. 1 Many in my sample talked about fighting, and only 4 out of 31 mentioned never being in a fight. Table 6.1 illustrates the number of fights the young people were in by their offending category.
Analysing the frequency, motivation and context of the young people's fights threw up some interesting patterns. First, several of the young people less involved in offending said they either had never been in a fight or had only been in a couple. By contrast, all of those more involved in offending had been in fights, about half in more fights than they could recall. Regardless of frequency, the contexts of nearly all the young people's fights were similar: fights were of a one-on-one nature, and