Martina Cole – Girls In Gangs Review: I’m A Yardie Girl In a Yardie World

July 3, 2009 by  
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MARTINA COLE – GIRLS IN GANGS: Friday 3rd July, Sky1, 11pm Alert Me

Comin’ atcha like a slightly less munchkin version of Barabara Windsor, Martina Cole is a woman on a mission – to explore the feminine side of gang culture in the UK.

The crime writer, who has a number of best selling novels and some of which have been adapted for TV, most recently The Take, is curious about the role that young women play in street gangs and is determined to understand what makes them join these potentially dangerous associations.

Nipping down to Peckham, Cole first speaks with a group of young women who like nothing better than to hang around outside their estate at night chatting clothes, boys and DON’T YOU BE DISRESPECTING ME!

Watching the girls get into a dispute with some local lads, fists soon start flying and Cole looks on sheepishly from the fringes. You get the impression that Cole’s vision of criminal fraternities is based on the somewhat dated lovable Cockney rogue stereotypes who abide by a code of honour (or some other bollocks).

Later, as she reveals that her first boyfriend was a bank robber you can almost hear the phrases, ‘heart of gold’ and ‘he only hit me cos he loved me’ fall from her lips.

But she’s nothing if not thorough and soon we are introduced to a bevvy of ex-gang members (it is a bevvy, isn’t it?), the people who work to keep girls out of gangs and all that comes with the lifestyle.

There are more active gangs in the UK than you might expect and girls’ involvement within these groups is on the rise. Between April 2007 and March 2008 15,000 violent crimes were carried out by young women, a huge increase on previous statistics.

But why are violent crimes and gang related incidents perpetrated by women on the increase?

With a strong Essex twang and a brash peroxide swagger Cole appears to be the perfect women charged with the task of infiltrating gang culture. Yes she’s getting on a bit and may be out of her depth in places, but she genuinely cares about what is happening to young women living in the inner cities. And once she gets into full swing with a group of south London teens any semblance of proper grammar goes straight out the window.

Be warned though; what emerges from Cole’s direct investigative approach is some pretty dark stuff that even she couldn’t dream up.

Jack McKay