Guardian angel: a Hackney hero takes his team bowling

In our new column, in which we make nice things happen for nice people, we meet Marvin Birch, who turned his life around – and now spreads the community love

Marvin Birch has lived on the Kingsmead estate in Hackney his entire life. It’s never had a good reputation. There was a terrible murder of a young boy there in 1985; in 1994 a newspaper article wrote the place off as “one of the most notorious estates in east London”. But Birch has always found it a place of community. “It’s a family,” he says. “When people who don’t live on an estate come to visit they always comment on how everyone is together: ‘You can go out of your house and kids are playing.’” That’s what inspired him, as an adult, to make a difference for children growing up there today.

As a teenager, Birch, now 26, was a prisoner of geography, subject to restrictions that made the simple act of visiting a supermarket a few roads away a life-threatening gauntlet. “There were a lot of postcode wars,” he says. He couldn’t walk a mile in either direction without being targeted. At the time, a member of his family was a gang member, which put entire swathes of Hackney off limits.

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