A STRETFORD woman who galvanised communities against gang culture in the wake of Manchester’s gun crime epidemic has been given Royal recognition.

Angela Jean Lawrence, who receives the MBE in the Queen’s birthday honours list, said she ‘cried with joy’ after receiving her letter from Clarence House.

Through ground breaking awareness campaigns, the 50-year-old spearheaded community resilience that helped turn the tide against a surge in gang-related deaths, which saw the city dubbed ‘Gunchester’ in the 1990s.

“I used to socialise in Moss Side,” remembered Angela, of Gorse Hill. “Some of the early shootings that took place were of people I’d grown up with.

“I lost friends through gang violence and was affected by it.

“I thought: ‘Someone has to do something, and that someone is us’.”

But the notion of community action and politicians’ talk of a ‘Big Society’ were years away.

“It hadn’t been done before. It was a new thing for these communities,” she explained.

“Sometimes, the people that are making decisions are far removed from what’s happening on the ground. It’s is about bridging that gap; making people aware of the services that are out there.”

Angela helped set up ‘Mothers Against Violence’ in 1999, devoting her time to mentoring, counselling and rehabilitative support to young people and families affected by gun crime.

In 2009, she founded ‘Manchester Active Voices’ to engage and empower young people, particularly vulnerable young women, in order to help them become positive members of their community.

Her partnership with Manchester City South Housing Trust supports young people within housing estates to increase their employability skills.

Despite witnessing Manchester’s transformation over the years, Angela warns against complacency.

“I’ve seen a real reduction in the number of deaths in Manchester. I’ve seen the community galvanise itself. We now have a lot of groups that are working together to address issues,” she added.

“But you can’t be complacent. Even though things seem quiet there are still isolated cases.

“There is also the legacy of what happened, the generational impact – young people that have grown up without a father, brother or uncle because of gang violence.

“We’re still dealing with those issues.”