I sit at the computer screen following a very hectic week. A week where I attended the Mayor Making, my first Town Planning Meeting and a little trip over to Amsterdam with my fiancee, Laura and our best man, Tom and our Maid of Honour, Nikki. Now I sit at the computer with my nephew and my niece who eat bananas and dance round the room. The fact that I can concentrate to put this blog together is miracle.
Earlier this week, during the town planning meeting, As it was my debut in the Town Planning Meeting, my only objective was to sit, listen and learn. It was my goal to take Jimi Hendrix’s advice when he said “knowledge speaks but wisdom listens”. It may be a little disingenuous to suggest I am wise, but I am certainly not hesitant to admit I am new to the council so it is important to listen and learn. I believe it was my fellow Councillor, Ken Edwards who raised the issue of further youth provisions within the community. Ken, along with the other councillors have done a great deal of work to improve youth facilities and provision in Bollington. For instance, the skate park at the Adlington Road park is a great example of the hard work and dedication of the council to provide for the youth of Bollington. Furthermore, there has been a great deal of work and planning into upgrading the parks in Bollington such as the Coronation park on Palmerston Street and further work is being completed on the Adlington Road park. I would also encourage you to check out the work which is being carried out on Bollington Cross Youth Project (BCYP) which is a great initiative (click here). The councillors sat around the table discussing what other things could we make available to improve youth provision in Bollington. Essentially the question on all the councillors lips was “what more can the children of Bollington to do?”
I feel that this question overlooks the biggest factor in this issue, the interests of the children themselves. What more can the children of Bollington do? I am unsure of the word ‘do‘ in this question. Children go to school and do work, they come home and do homework, they do extra curricular activities and many have a part-time job to do. There’s always something we want these children to actually do. According to Happy-vally.org.uk it appears there is a plethora of activities for children to do in Bollington, including but not limited to:
- Bollington Junior Festival Players
- A number of out-of-school clubs
- Bollington Cricket Club
- A number of different football clubs
- A high number of Brownies, Girl Guides, Beavers and Scout groups in and around Bollington.
Not only do the children have these groups, there is also the brilliant skate park on Adlington Road, tennis and basketball courts on the Recreation Ground. So I feel we are asking the wrong question. It is not about having somewhere where children can do, rather, the question should be about having somewhere to be!
What exactly does that mean? What do you mean when you say “somewhere to be?” The point I am making is this; all of the above clubs, groups and societies have all got on thing in common, they have an agenda. People, in this case children, go there with an objective, or in other words something to do. If we give children to much to do, it can be over bearing and probably stressful. I wasn’t surprised to read a few weeks ago that children as young as 10 were smoking before exams as a way to reduce stress (you can read that article here). Why are children so stressed at such a young age, that smoking is an option? A discussion of possible reasons is too big to go into here, it could be a possibility for a future blog perhaps. So anyway, what do I mean having somewhere to be? In essence, I feel that rather having somewhere to go and do something is misguided. I feel that the question overlooks something much more important. Could it be that what children need isn’t somewhere else to go and do something, but somewhere to actually go to be themselves? Would it be beneficial for the children to go somewhere where they can just relax, be themselves, and hang out in a safe place? So essentially, the more appropriate and, indeed, accurate question would be “what can we do for the children where they have somewhere to go?”
Knowledge speaks but wisdom listens – Jimi Hendrix
A few years ago, I wrote a blog criticising some areas of Bollington which I felt could do with improving such as parking, the doctors and housing development. It was widely accepted and was shared profusely around social media. In fact, I was in Chopsticks on Palmerston Street, when someone turned to me and said “that blog you wrote Tom was fantastic, you should be a councillor”. What she didn’t know was that I was planning on doing so. However, not everyone was impressed with the article. I learned two important lessons from that blog. 1. You can’t please everyone. The second lesson came in the form of one individual commented saying “what do you propose then Thomas?” and I didn’t have any suggestions at that time, and I learned that it may be foolish to criticise something without offering some form of improvement or solution. So with that in mind, allow me to propose a solution.
When I was a teenager growing up in Bollington, there was nowhere for us to go. We used to play football down at The Recreation Ground, but in the summer they took the football nets down. We never understood that, and this still happens today. This lead us to socialise at the bus turning circle near The New Con Club and The Cotton Tree where we would play football there and there would be shelter from the rain under the bus shelter. We also used to seek shelter at the “Tin Hut” at the Bollington Bowling Green when we socialised with our friends. It is likely we were viewed as “yobs” littering the street, but the reality was, we were a bunch of kids with no where to go to hang out. However, what we did have was a youth club. This was on Water Street and took place on Tuesdays and Thursday nights, and was well attended. There was a pool table, CD player, tuck shop, activities and work shops were organised, for instance we engaged in a workshop whereby we were taught about drug awareness and learned to DJ. Importantly, it was a place we could be relax, socialise, hang out and be somewhere to be proud of. What a fantastic pro-social initiative, don’t you agree?
According to Bollington’s PCSO Jenny O’Reilly, she is still receiving complaints about the number of young people gathering on the Recreation ground who are engaging in Antisocial behaviour. Complaints relate to smashing of bottles, underage drinking and the setting of fires. They have increased our presence there and have confiscated alcohol but have also found evidence that some young people are using laughing gas. So how do we, as a community, address this issue? What we need to address is why the young people are doing this. I can tell you when I used to socialise down there, we never set fires or smashed bottles, but we also had a youth club. Now I’m certainly not saying that a youth club is the Holy Grail or the key to all the problems that face youth in Bollington but I think it is a good start and an effective way to engage and work with the younger members of Bollington’s society.
In the issue of youth provision the easiest and most simple thing to do is ask the youth themselves and listen. That is something I take very seriously. Thomas Mayers
I propose we look to re-ignite the youth club on Water Street and give the youth of Bollington a place to go, even if for one evening a week, to be able to just chill, hang out in a pro-social capacity and just be themselves. I now work as an Offender Manager and my specific client group are people who have Drug Rehabilitation Requirements attached to their orders, meaning that I support them to address their illicit drug use. With my connections within the Probation Service, Cheshire and Greater Manchester Community Rehabilitation Company and local Youth Offending Teams it would be a great opportunity to co-ordinate pro-social activities and areas to empower children with knowledge on first aid, drug awareness to use as a deterrent against such use. According to the aforementioned happy-valley.org.uk, they mention that the Water Street Youth Club is closed. They reason that this was “brought about by the lack of adult volunteers to supervise the sessions”. I, along with fellow councillor and Bollington First member, Andy Langdon, would be more than willing to work hard to re-ignite this initiative. Of course, we would need some help to do this.
Therefore, on the subject of youth provision in Bollington, I propose the following:
- To re-assemble a youth club committee at the Water Street site in Bollington.
- To engage and include youth opinion
- Contact local school governors to enquire if they would be interested in being involved as they already volunteer in a youth capacity
- To reach out to parents of the local community to enquire if they could volunteer some time
- To involve local services to engage with the youth club to promote pro-social engagement such as: healthy living, drug awareness, 1st Aid, mental health and other initiative
With enough volunteers, perhaps a rotation system could be implemented so that the it would not be too intrusive on volunteers time and overall commitment.
Take a moment to watch the following clip taken from Michael Moore’s documentary called “Bowling for Columbine” where he interviews controversial rock star, Marilyn Manson.
Whether you like his music or not, or agree with a man that wears make-up, Manson makes an excellent and profound point, to listen to the youth. The philosophy of Occum’s Razor which is officially called the “principal of economy”. You’ve probably heard it before: The simplest explanation is usually the right one. Detectives use it to deduce who’s the likeliest suspect in a murder case – you know, the butler did it. Doctors use it to determine the illness behind a set of symptoms. This line of reasoning is called Occam’s razor. It’s used in a wide variety of ways throughout the world as a means to slice through a problem or situation and eliminate unnecessary elements. In the issue of youth provision the easiest and most simple thing to do is ask the youth themselves and listen. That is something I take very seriously. What is the point in trying to guess what the children want? Isn’t it better to ask and get their input?
Just because the youth are not voters, that doesn’t mean we should ostracise their capacity and right to voice their opinions and concerns for the place in which they live. Is it any wonder why the youth feel disillusioned with politics, and indeed excluded from their own communities? Perhaps giving them an opportunity to be apart of the community will increase their sense of community and demonstrate to them that they have a voice and it can be used to make their lives better. Let us not forget, although children, youth and adolescents may not vote now, they will one day and we better make sure that they feel it is worth it.
What do you think? More importantly, what do your children think?