Yesterday was a long day for me, but by the end of it I was so grateful to be considered an adult and not a ‘young person’. I’m on an advisory panel for ‘The Unit’ where a group of young people have taken over a small empty shop unit opposite a Bus Station and along from the Bingo. The idea was to open a youth information centre, and these intrepid young people have raised funding, surveyed local opinion and been along to the Tourist Information Centre to gain advice and guidance and yesterday we were hanging up the baubles, dressing up the tree and applying a modest amount of snow to the proceedings. The previously unglamourous corner shop has recently been painted and now sports an address and the name ‘The Unit”. Theres a kettle in the under stair cupboard, fire extinguishers, a water unit it’s really quite habitable, ready for our opening launch tomorrow night.
We were delighted when a lady popped her head in and said “can I ask a question?” Yay! We thought, interest already. There followed a rant, it became very clear that the lady considered all connection to Music (Pop) was a passport to a drinking and drug culture for young people and that they should all be out in the countryside, route marching and that all young people should be forced to be academics…. possibly you get the drift by now. It was fairly shocking that a well presented and seemingly intelligent adult should think it was acceptable to speak out in front of the four adults and four young people present in such a sweeping and ill considered way. It was apparent that she felt that by opening up anything in the city centre with the label ‘youth’ attached to it that this would result in her car being vandalised again, and her sleeping hours disturbed by more drunken brawling and that pretty much all young people who get involved in music bands are going to fall into a pit of reckless, abusive behaviour and that even sport, led people into the ‘club’ culture of drink and drugs. It was a depressing episode on many levels but the four volunteers present took it on the chin and Firestarter Arts, Director Ruth managed to bring the rant to a close by asking the lady her name at which point she made a speedy exit on a final “You won’t listen to me”.
We had, of course listened for ten long minutes, inwardly shaking our heads as she confused vandalism and night club culture with a group of young people trying to make a difference, and now horrified at the thought that an adult should think that being ‘academic’ was a magic cure-all for violence, drunkeness and the rest. We expect more of this but for every negative we experience twenty positives. It is profoundly interesting to hear the ill-formed opinion of someone who feels threatened by our activity and humbling to realise that with our enterprise and hard work comes a huge responsibility to protect the young volunteers who help out at ‘The Unit” but also to ensure that the people who look in from the outside, understand what we are doing, what we hope to achieve and what we are – not a youth club, or a youth hang out so that when they pop their head in the door to ask a question, they are satisfied with the answer. A debate may ensue, an exchange of views and opinions this is after all, social enterprise, an opportunity for young people to learn business and social skills and it would seem, to act as youth spokes people to the local community.
I wondered how many people living in our city share a similar view of young people, a fear almost? I also wondered if the lady stopped in at the bingo next door and gave all those adults out for a good time with friends and a little flutter on the bingo, such a hard time?
You can see Lotties response here http://www.sstreetteam.livejournal.com/3060.html
and photos of how The Unit’s looking here: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=124526919644&ref=share