Community has always been a huge part of my life. I grew up in Hackney and was part of a really tight-knit, multicultural community with no frills. I'm from a working-class background; my dad was originally a bus conductor and my mother was a nursery assistant, so they were both pretty important to our neighbourhood. It was a place where everyone knew everyone. Hackney wasn't as gentrified as it is now. Houses were filled with families and there weren't many young professionals within the community. In a way, being working-class made us even closer, everyone looked out for each other.
There was also a lot of respect for adults among the youngsters, something that I think there isn't as much of now. A community that works is a community that cares. I'd go as far as saying that some communities are dying in parts of London. But it's interesting that when things do turn sour - like during the London riots, for example - people fight back. It was clear that communities were disgusted by the rioters' behaviour and everyone pulled together to clean the place up. I think that community spirit does still exist, it just needs to be remembered and rediscovered; people need to invest the time in their communities to make them work.
My first involvement in my own community was when I joined the Scouts Association as a Cub. I was encouraged to join to keep me active and I attended a club which was run by my neighbours. It was back in the day when kids had to make their own entertainment - long before the internet. It was a different story throughout my teenage years though; there was just nothing for me to do. There weren't many opportunities so I created my own by promoting gigs and selling records, it took a lot of hard graft and I didn't earn anything for five or six years.
After my career took off, I realised a lot of young people were looking up to me and listening to what I was saying so I became a Prince's Trust Ambassador and a Patron for various youth charities. I was closely involved with the Millennium Volunteers initiative a few years back which encouraged 15 to 24-year-olds to get involved in the community. It's amazing what can be achieved when you galvanize people. The project involved me travelling up and down the country visiting projects in deprived areas where there is more of a breakdown in the community.
The most memorable moment was meeting a disabled girl who had followed her dream of becoming a football coach. People who lacked self-assurance found themselves in an environment which built their confidence. It made me realise that the years from 15 to 24 were wilderness ones for me. Summer holidays were dull, I couldn't realise my interests. Volunteering and community work lets young people fulfil something they are passionate about and gain some valuable experience along the way.
That's why I decided to partner with HTC to launch the HTC Community Project, it's an initiative that will make one person's ambition to help their community into a reality. I will personally support them with a three-month mentoring programme. I will not be doing the work for them though, I'll be like their trainer in the boxing ring, giving them moral support and guidance, cheering them on and pushing them to realise their potential.
I'm not the kind of person who will take part in something for the sake of it and this project is the best thing that I have been asked to do since Millennium Volunteers. It's genuine. We are looking for someone who is single-minded, motivated and passionate. If you think you've got what it takes or know someone who does then visit http://htcuk.tumblr.com/.
The winning applicant will star in an online documentary about their journey. I think being recognised is so important; thousands of people out there are doing great work for their communities and nobody knows about it. This is the perfect way to share their work with the country to encourage and inspire others.Suggest a correction