Street Stories: Dante Lauder Hawkins - Sabotage Times

Street Stories: Dante Lauder Hawkins

Often the most interesting stories come from the people around you. In the first in a series, we chatted to ex-prisoner Dante about football, the north / south divide and his future.
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Having spent his formative years being shoved around the criminal justice system, Dante is a young bloke like so many others in the UK. The kind of statistic politicians and journalists like to bicker over to score points but ultimately keep at arms length. The truth is, whether found in gangs on estates or mobbed up in pubs on a matchday, young working class (if such a thing even exists in 2014) men - your 'chavs', 'hoodies' or 'hooligans', are still a completely misunderstood section of society who rarely get a voice.

And so, after a busy few years for the both of us, I met up with Dante on a bright Spring morning in Fitzrovia to tell his story for Sabotage Times, having not seen each other since an eventful awayday in West London many moons ago. We met as young bucks with a shared interest in weekend exploits at the football, and as the big man came bouncing down the road, fresh out of a stint at her Majesty's pleasure, all smiles and booming character, it didn't take long for us to get back into the old patter. That's the thing: no matter what direction your life goes, how much you grow up or how far removed your interests are from those of your younger self, that invisible bond which brought you together with other likeminded blokes in the first place never deteriorates. You never stop being a football casual, you just stop going to football.


Tell me a bit about where you grew up.

I grew up in Ladbroke Grove, West London, on the Suttons Estate. It was rough growing up, you know. If you weren't out doing crime or you couldn't have a row you was in trouble. People would start on you. So you'd have to know how to defend yourself.

What did you want to do when you were growng up?

Well everyone who was around me who had money was selling drugs.

Do you go back now? Is it still like that over there?

Probably worse now. There's been a big rise in the guns in London. When we were growing up it was all knives, now 14 year olds are walking around with shooters.

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How did you end up following Tottenham then if you're from West London?

My Dad's family are from Milton Keynes way. After the war they moved a lot of people out that way from North London, so there's a massive Spurs following from that region. My uncle used to go Tottenham in the '80s but he got into a bit of bother, so his Mrs said he could go back to football on the condition that he took me. So I was in the pub with all the older lot when I was about 8 or 9.

I'd see them all in their designer gear, Armani, CP and that and think they looked the nuts, and I'd hear their stories and that. That's where it all started.

I don't want to dwell too much on the violence here, but to you think that side of the game is finished now?

It goes in highs and lows, don't it. We had a few big cases, Chelsea, Brighton, Arsenal, West Ham, and even if only 40 geezers get banged up it has a trickle down effect. Then you might have 100 more blokes who've got mortgages who start to think twice, you know, but it was only a couple of years ago that our younger lot ran West Ham all over South Tottenham.


Is there still a cultural difference between up north and London when it comes to football?

Yeah. Up north they've got nothing better to do, haha. Nah but the difference is if you're a football lad up north and you go to a club birds think it's cool, down here they think you're a div. You can't just rock up to a club with a Stone Island t-shirt on. It's a different scene, the lads up there are revered, down here they're like "what you do something like that and you don't make money for it?"

Very true. As you know, when you're banged up for football people look at you shocked, because you've put all that effort and risk into doing something and there's no real gain from it.

I did just under a 4. I was in Pentonville with a couple of fellas who did a gold bullion robbery. £1.6 million they got out of it, and they did the same bird as me.


How's that made you feel about it all?

I can't keep doing it, you know. I've been to jail 3 times and it's got to the point where I can't keep rebuilding. When I first got weighed off I was in uni, if I'd just stuck at it for another 2 years I'd be in a top job. Then you come out and rebuild again then you get weighed off again, you know.

What are you looking forward to now?

I'm getting married, going back to work, getting my own house and building it up. Just looking forward to getting out and getting my own gaff. I wanna have another littl'un as well.


How would you stop your kid going down the wrong path in life?

Keep him busy. I think that's how you get involved in crime and that, by not having something to do. I used to be good at sports, when I stopped doing that that's when I became a little villain. All the kids in the area who did football or boxing, they were the ones that stayed focused. I'd just make sure he's kept busy and doesn't want for nothing, you know?

Overcoat, jacket, scarf all from Crombie

Trainers from Nike

Photography by Liz Seabrook