Idris Elba has urged young people to “make an impact” and fight against knife crime during a youth event in London.
The actor, 47, addressed his own upbringing in Hackney, east London, during a rousing speech at the We Day UK charity event on Wednesday.
The Luther star topped a roster of speakers, including Lewis Hamilton and Laura Whitmore, at the event celebrating the charity work of young people.
He told the audience of 12,000 schoolchildren and teachers: “Happy is my normal. Yes, there was crime. Yes, there was poverty. Yes, there were gangs.
“Some of the people I grew up with, people I saw around the neighbourhood, went down the wrong path, ended up doing the wrong thing.
“I was different. I was lucky, maybe. I wanted different things. I was an only child by immigrant parents from Sierra Leone, west Africa. And they worked hard for what they had. This way of life taught me the importance of independence and relying on myself for my own success.”
Knife crime has risen rapidly in London in recent years, killing scores of young men across the capital.
He urged the crowd: “You are all capable of making an impact so speak out about what matters – whether that is fighting against knife crime, global hunger, housing, education, sexism, combating racism.
“We all need to be conscious about the world we live in because it is our responsibility to make things better together.”
Racing driver Hamilton spoke about the threat of climate change before introducing youth speaker Noga Levy-Rapoport.
Hamilton said: “We don’t have to be perfect to be part of the solution and it shouldn’t stop us from fighting for what we believe in.
“As a powerful voice in my industry, I have the responsibility to effect change from within, as well as personally.
“I can play my part and so can you by putting pressure on our leaders to change their own industries for the better. You are the champions. You can change and restore the fight for our planet.”
Singer Leona Lewis kicked off the event with a performance of Higher Love by Whitney Houston and Kygo, joined by dance group Living The Dream.
She told the audience: “I’m someone who knows how far a voice can take you. I won a little show called X Factor 14 years ago. And that never would have happened if I had not learnt to use my voice.”
We Day founders Craig and Marc Kielburger led the audience in a back-and-forth discussion about climate change and mental health.
Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver then took to the stage alongside youth speaker Christina A to promote his Bite Back 2030 campaign for healthy eating.
He said: “Everyone deserves an equally healthy life. Obesity is a normal response to an abnormal environment – we are being manipulated every day.”
Game Of Thrones star Gwendoline Christie delivered a speech about equality and acceptance before Love Island host Whitmore celebrated teachers with a short address.