No place to go

One of the recurring themes of our discussions over various ORBIT weekends has revolved around spaces where young people can feel comfortable and welcome. It doesn't seem like a great deal to ask but for many young people growing up in Scotland it is an issue. In reading over the hundreds of applications we received for the Youth Council there was one overarching theme: lack of places for young people to socialise safely and take part in meaningful activities.

In the application, we asked young people what they would change about the place they lived. We were told about community hubs which were rundown and neglected, town centres which were deserted and parks which were vandalised and unsafe. We heard about littering and fly-tipping and how this portrayed a lack of self-respect in a community. We heard of a lack of opportunities, lack of pride, lack of cohesion. We heard about “no go” areas and anti-social behaviour.

The 'death of the high street' is a topic the Youth Council have discussed both formally and informally as it plays an important part in young people feeling they have no place to go. The concept of a dystopian, nightmarish town centre is one which features in the work of artist Rachel Maclean which we have been studying. It is also one which is increasingly familiar in real life as once vibrant streets become overwhelmed by betting outlets, pound shops and graffiti strewn hoardings.

That's why it was refreshing that one group elected to pitch Cumbernauld town centre as their location for a creative happening. Designed in the 1950s the town centre was a huge multi-storey building housing shops, apartments, a hotel, ice rink, police station and other amenities. Over time most of the amenities have closed leaving only the shopping centre open for business. The centre has good footfall and is popular with families and young people especially at weekends. However, the dated architecture and run-down nature of the centre means residents have a love hate relationship with it.

Charlotte, Finn, Mirin and Hermione decided to champion this location after a lively and thoughtful debate necessitated by the high quality of all the options they brought to the discussion. The team proposed an interactive pop-up store in one of the ‘open’ areas of the shopping centre with a ‘dress-up’ area for kids to try on costumes and have a photograph taken. An additional idea was to take over a commercial unit possibly for a screening of one of Rachel Maclean’s films (a follow-on second discussion around how to get permission for this idea had to be postponed due to lack of time).

The team constructed a well thought out pitch and were able to clearly articulate the benefits of the event to the proposed audience. Observing from the outside it was impressive how many ideas were generated, discussed and either incorporated or dropped from the final presentation in the short time available.

You can read more about young people's relationships with the places they live here

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