Interview: Small Steps founder Nigel BromageThe founder talks to Barnet Post about combating extremism in our communities: “The far right can spread its message of hate anywhere.”
Nigel Bromage was indoctrinated into the far-right at the age of 15. A young boy in Birmingham with a mother dying from cancer, he was looking for community and an ideology to give life meaning. Far-right extremists offered him both.
Nigel’s story has been featured in the Channel Four documentary Leaving the Far Right After Being Radicalised Young and he has spoken to the Post about his experiences.
Nigel said: “I joined in the early 1980s and, at the time, the IRA were just planting bomb after bomb it was always on the television. And somebody simply turned to my school gates, and handed me a leaflet which said: “if you think this is wrong, do something about it.” And that was the open door that you know, took me on a journey for 20 years.”
The group turned out to be supportive of all sorts of racist ideologies. But, with the men in the group taking his mother to chemo appointments, and promising that “if we ban overseas aid, then all that money will be invested in the NHS and for me and my mum”, Nigel felt he had found a family. These “simple answers” are typical tactics used to recruit the vulnerable. Nigel says that when his mother died he just became “more angry” and started looking for even more extreme groups to join.
Nowadays, the internet makes it even easier for extremists to recruit. At Small Steps, Nigel has found that young people sometimes stumble onto the wrong website, perhaps they have been taken in by a conspiracy theory about Covid, locked in their bedrooms feeling isolated from their community, and waiting on a chat forum will be “groomers” who provide simple answers to the big problems of the world.
Looking back on the time he spent in the far-right Nigel said he now, “feels sick at some of the things I was involved in.”
He continued: “But also as well, it makes me realise how easy that path is to go on. And I think it highlights how important it is that people are made aware of that journey. [It’s] so easy with the internet, [so] it’s really important to reduce extremism in any way we can, you know, whether that’s just an individual, a family, a company, a media outlet, whatever it is.”
Extremists utilise social media to recruit and spread hateful messages, staring up fear and discontent in the process.
There will always be new social media platforms to use, even if extremists get banned so Nigel says, “one of the things we say is we can’t burn ourselves out with this problem. We’ve got to use education and compassion, to try and change people’s mindsets.”
This is the foundation for all Small Steps actions. The charity is run by those who have had experience in the far-right and now provide training for local councils to help combat extremism in the community through education. They also provide workshops for charities to identify the signs of extremism. Barnet Mencap recently participated in one of these workshops and have written about their experiences.