Art Against Knives – Katy Dawe

By Jason Taylor 26th August, 2012

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CITIZEN FUNK recently caught up with Art Against Knives (AAK) Charity Co-Founder Katy Dawe, for a chat in between her intensely busy schedule. Before you go ahead, here is an brief snapshot of the purpose of AAK. Art Against Knives was set up to tackle some of the problems of violent crime amongst the youth, driven with the aid of art. AAK recognise the importance of projects which are genuinely youth-led, can help combat issues related to youth crime.

By providing creative resources and opportunities, it gives young people a sense of ownership and purpose. AAK feel this can bridge the gap created by the influx of development in London and the young people who already live there. The charity is supported by a number of high profile individuals and organisations, which include Antony Gormley, Christopher Kane, Tracey Emin, Mary Katrantzou, Lovebox Music Festival, Central Saint Martin’s and the Prince’s Trust to name a few.

Photography By Sal Maxuda 


What inspired you to set up Art Against Knives?

Art Against Knives was created in an attempt to salvage something positive after my best friend Oliver Hemsley was stabbed in an unprovoked attack in Shoreditch in 2008, which left him wheelchair bound. I originally organised an exhibition and auction to raise awareness, and thanks to the overwhelming support from the art and fashion world, it quickly escalated into something that people were talking about…it was Oliver’s strength that inspired me.

From the word go, both Oliver and myself wanted to continue the positive momentum and support we received and channel this into doing something that made a difference. I can’t believe that was three years ago…what inspires me now, alongside Oliver’s strength, are the young people that I get work with.

Do believe more locally run charities tend to be more effective? 

I think that it is vital local communities work together to support young people on their doorstep… so much can be done if everyone joins up and shares resources to support individuals and smaller organisations who work closely with young people. Every community is different and has specific needs, these need to be addressed on a small scale so that projects, opportunities and support can be sustained.

What do you enjoy most about your job? 

Every single day is completely different.

How does Art Against Knives seek artwork for its BoxPark Gallery? 

All the work in the gallery is donated to us from students to new graduates, to big names and the young people that we work with.

Art Against Knives is supported by the likes of Christopher Kane, Tracy Emin, and The Prince’s Trust, describe the process of getting established people and organisations involved? 

We were fortunate that from the word go we received support from established artists and designers. Oliver was attacked in East London where the majority of the art and fashion world live and work. It was definitely something that effected the community that lived there, and we have been fortunate that the support has continued over the past few years. All of the projects that we run are designed by the young people themselves and we hook them up with industry professionals to support them…what’s been amazing to watch is the way in which all of our supporters have continued to be involved, not just by donating their work, but also by working in collaboration with young people.

How would you like to see Art Against Knives grow? 

To be honest, it’s hard to picture where it will be in the future. If you had asked me two years ago, I would never of guessed it is what it is today. The majority of the young people that we started working with a couple of years ago are still involved, and now deliver workshops for us and help in the day to day running of AAK… I love that it is taking a full circle and I hope this continues to happen in the future.

When your not busy working, what do you do to unwind? 

Hmmm… to unwind. Good question, not enough! My favorite thing to do is to disappear and stay with friends who don’t live in London, but outside of work when I’m in town there is always something going on… the good thing about having friends who are involved in the creative industry, there is always plenty of places and events to gatecrash.

Do you have any hobbies?

I graduated last year from Central St Martins where I studied Print Design…. I still print when I can, although to be honest I definitely don’t do as much of won work as I want to. Although having said that, just because I’m not putting pen to paper, I still feel like I’m being creative in my day to day at Art Against Knives. It’s definitely something I need to make more time for though… I’m working on it!

Personally, where do you see yourself in 5 years time?

In 5 years time I will be 30… not sure where I will be. I quite like not knowing, so lets see what happens.

Finally, any forthcoming projects we should look out for in regards to Art Against Knives?

Yes… Come and check out our current exhibition, ‘FREEDOM’ on at the Art Against Knives gallery at BoxPark until the end of August. It is a creative response to the idea of freedom and safety, in our communities on the anniversary of the London riots. All the work had been created by young people, collaborations with creative professionals and youth providers we work with across East London.

The exhibition kicks-starts ‘STOP AND TALK’ a nationwide campaign that calls for better and fairer relationships between the police and young people. The work is AMAZING!