Young boy standing next to a tree in front of a fence. Tree and surrounding ground are covered in pictures and flowers of the deceased.

Transforming tragedy: Living Romario’s Legacy against knife crime

In the heart of Islington, a small community initiative – Living Romario’s Legacy – has blossomed from tragedy, aiming to transform grief into hope and action.

Living Romario’s Legacy (LRL) emerged following the devastating loss of 15-year-old Romario Opia to a knife attack in Archway in January 2021.

Now, the legacy of Romario, along with others affected by knife crime, is being honoured through a remarkable project: the transformation of Romario’s Flowers and Martin’s Memorial Space into a Youth Memorial Garden in Cornwallis Park.

Founder of LRL and friend of Romario, Tyler Clancy, said: “I hate that Romario has just become one of those statistics and that’s why I want to work hard to do this and to push his legacy in such a positive way.”

Over the past three years since Romario’s passing, LRL has tirelessly maintained the flowers at the memorial space.

However, recognising the need for a more permanent tribute, the organisation is calling upon the wider community to support their efforts in creating a lasting memorial.

Tom Jewkes, operations manager at The Ben Kinsella Trust, said: “The kind of primary objective is often to prevent other families from suffering that loss.”

The vision includes planting permanent flowers, erecting Fencing Screening to provide privacy for those grieving, and recently securing a permanent memorial bench for Romario through Islington Council.

Romario’s mother Katrina Opia said: “I would like to thank everyone for being a part of this community project and knowing the memory of my son Romario will live and grow on in this beautiful Memorial Garden feels me with joy.

“I look forward to seeing the garden when it’s complete.

“Thank you all again from myself, our family and our Angel Romario.”

However, the significance of this project extends beyond commemorating Romario alone.

Martin Dinnegan, who tragically met a similar fate to Romario in June 2007, is also remembered within this space.

Martin, who was just one year younger than Romario at the time of his passing, underscores the cyclical nature of knife crime and the urgent need for collective action.

The Youth Memorial Garden symbolises more than just a physical space; it embodies resilience, remembrance, and a call to action against the persistent issue of knife crime.

Jewkes said: “Knife crime is a huge systemic problem.”

He highlighted how the last decade has seen the most significant increase in knife crime, with London accounting for 26.3% of the England and Wales’s knife crime offenses in the year 2022/23.

Teens are the single most affected group by knife crime.

In the last year, 82% of teenage homicides were a result of a knife or sharp instrument.

Clancy added: “These young people are petrified for their lives.”

This is especially true in Islington, which consistently remains one of the boroughs most affected by knife crime.

He said: “We need to throw anything we possibly can at this issue, this issue of knife crime is not going away. In fact, it’s getting worse.”

Importantly, despite the rising number of attacks, young community members believe that local councils are not doing enough.

Importantly, young members of the community feel there are not enough services available to support young people.

Clancy said: “I don’t understand why they’re not listening.

“It’s just been me and the projects and all my other friends fighting against the council, rather than getting support from our council.

“I’m having to keep chasing and keep chasing.

“There’s no funding in the right places where they should be and the right people aren’t being taken seriously.

“I just think that we need to stop doing that whole publicity business, and we need to actually get the work done.”

Katrina added: “I had limited support. I found the whole process around housing overwhelming.

“I referred myself to therapy sessions and had support from my GP.

“It was mainly family and friends that gave me the  support I truly needed and still need.”

Islington Council has declined to comment.

As a result, all the work that LRL carry out is funded through charitable donations.

It stands as a testament to the solidarity and togetherness of the community in confronting this pressing challenge in a borough where the scars of knife crime remain all too visible.

Clancy said: “The fact that we’ve got such amazing funding and support on social media, from the local community so far, is really amazing.”

To find out more or get involved, contact @livingromarioslegacy on Instagram. To contribute to this cause, you can donate to Living Romario’s Legacy GoFundMe page.

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