HADDINGTON YOUTH ENQUIRY Creative new ways of engaging young people in the future of their town
Haddington Town Centre Vision Committee
Back story During 2011 and 2012, people in Haddington were worried that their town centre was in decline. Businesses were struggling. Buildings were tatty or derelict. Community groups and the Council decided that something needed to be done. But what? How could the town centre once again become the attractive, bustling heart of their community? Hundreds of people of all ages shared their ideas about how to make the town centre better. From that wealth of creativity, the Haddington Vision (see www.goo.gl/z4V8O) was developed around eight priorities:
The best town square in Scotland Getting about Bringing our assets to life Re-using empty buildings Telling the world: marketing Community Development Trust Get local Enterprising Youth
The vision’s Enterprising Youth priority is based around the belief that Haddington’s young people are its future.
It sounds like a cliché: but if the town doesn’t hold onto its young people, or attract them back after they’ve gone away to study and travel the world, then it is losing its lifeblood. Enterprising Youth is about the town doing more to help young people feel part of their community. When the vision was prepared, young people gave plenty of great ideas about what they wanted. More things to do during evenings and weekends were a common theme. This might be helping young people to build a new skate park, run a youth film club, promote more gigs, or involve them in mapping out the town’s future.
The Community Development Trust implementing the vision should let young people have a say in what it does and how it is run, building on the excellent work of the town’s schools and youth organisations. To start turning these ideas into reality, social enterprise Space Unlimited (www.spaceunlimited.org) ran a two day youth enquiry with young people from Haddington. This is the story of that youth enquiry.
The youth enquiry Space Unlimited facilitate youth enquiries across the UK. Young people are the catalysts in Space Unlimited projects because they see things differently, approach problems imaginatively, and aren’t afraid to say what they think. Space Unlimited facilitators are there to create a safe space for young people to explore ideas, take responsibility, broker relationships and turn their ideas into action. Over the two full days of the youth enquiry in Haddington’s Bridge Centre in December 2012, eight young people aged between 13 and 25 explored these questions: How can we work with young people in the new vision for Haddington’s town centre? And ensure their ideas and opinions are heard, taken seriously and acted on? This was a quest into the unknown for those eight young people. Scary, exciting, nervous and rewarding were some of the words they used. As their quest progressed over the two days, the young people took more and more responsibility – so that by the end, they had developed actions and principles that they wanted to take forward. At the end of the second day, they presented their ideas to a group of influential people from Haddington Town Centre Vision Committee, East Lothian Council, Knox Academy and local social enterprises.
Priorities for action When the Haddington vision was prepared in 2012, hundreds of ideas were put forward – many of them by young people. The young people at the youth enquiry looked at those ideas afresh. By the end of the first day, they agreed nine ideas that they would like to see happen in Haddington: Better skatepark Improve Neilson Park Mountain bike track Activities to encourage young people into the countryside Promote facilities like The Bridge Centre; it’s too little known More events for young people: e.g. band contests, festivals Use derelict buildings for boxing club, music shop, bands etc Portal/website to promote events & facilities for young people Take better care of green spaces Some of these ideas could combine. Some might happen in the town centre, others might not. Some should be led by young people; others should be led by other people or organisations in the town.
The young people at the youth enquiry decided on two priorities for action that they would like to take forward themselves.
Priority 1 SKATEPARK The existing skatepark is out of date, too small, badly maintained and has become a focus for anti-social behaviour. It needs to be upgraded and expanded, probably in a new location where it is more prominent. This is something which young people could lead, with appropriate support. Priority 2 MUSIC Programme of gigs and band contests to draw bands from Haddington and further afield, using the Bridge Centre and other venues in the town. This is also something which young people could lead, with appropriate support.
Although skateboarding and music were the priorities that this particular group would like to take forward, the group was keen to point out that other young people in the town might have other ideas. This led to them agreeing that there should be a third priority for action. Priority 3 MORE YOUTH ENGAGEMENT Roll out the youth enquiry process to more young people in Haddington, to give a more representative picture of youth priorities across the town. The group had good ideas about how to encourage more young people to get involved, such as competitions, a range of days, good venues and maybe a little compunction...
Principles for the future
By the end of the youth enquiry, the young people put forward some important principles that were essential if the Youth Enterprise element of Haddington vision is to be successful:
At the end of the second day of the youth enquiry, the group presented their priorities and principles to the group of influential people from Haddington Town Centre Vision Committee, East Lothian Council, Knox Academy and local social enterprises. Several of them offered the young people support to help turn the ideas into reality, such as:
Roll out youth enquiries to more young people in the town, to build a wider platform for action and get a more representative view of what young people want. Support young people to take forward their ideas – skateboarding and music being the two action ideas that emerged from this group. There could be other ideas around too. Some action will by led by adults, others by young people. Skateboarding and music should be led by young people with support from adults and organisations. Other things, like better public transport or improving Neilston Park, will be better led by adults or organisations, in close consultation with young people. Action is vital – it will demonstrate to young people that it’s worth getting involved. Young people should be encouraged to be ambitious and creative, but also realistic about what can be achieved.
Helping put young people in touch with key people Greater use of Knox Academy facilities by young people Helping get venues and publicity for gigs Helping set up a music shop Helping get more gigs and bands, and improving publicity Those offers of support are just those who came along to the presentation. It’s reasonable to expect more from others in the future.
What next ? As the Haddington vision says, something needs to be done! What is critical now is action. During the first part of 2013, Space Unlimited will help by meeting with key people and organisations in the town to broker relationships, plan for action, and find funding and resources – including the Council, schools, youth organisations, Haddington Town Centre Vision Committee,. and the proposed Community Development Trust. We hope to involve some of the young people who attended the youth enquiry. Our focus will be on helping local people and organisations to work out how they can take forward the three priorities for action that emerged during the youth enquiry: involving more young people music skateboarding
Thank you… … to the Bridge Centre, Knox Academy, Haddington Town Centre Vision Committee and everyone who participated in the final presentation. Most of all, thanks to the eight young people; without their creativity and commitment, we would not be at the start of this exciting venture for Haddington. Gill Gracie & Nick Wright, Space Unlimited, January 2013
We at Space Unlimited will do as much as we can in the early part of 2013, but as a social enterprise our involvement will be limited by resources. In the medium to long term, local organisations must take responsibility for supporting young people to take forward their ideas themselves – and for involving them in wider projects that fall under the umbrella of the Vision. Future action should reflect the principles for the future identified by the young people at the youth enquiry. It is important that the proposed Community Development Trust works closely with young people, as it will have responsibility for delivering Haddington's vision. This is an exciting venture for Haddington. There is a real opportunity for the town to pioneer new ways of engaging and integrating young people in the life and spirit of the community.