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Godmanchester Teenagers 2003
Max Cashback

Godmanchester Teenagers' Views and Needs - 2003

Below are two articles produced in 2003 with the input from our young people. There remains need to help and provide support to our young people and volunteers are much needed to facilitate positive action.

From "The Bridge" 2003
Much has been written about the problems in the Town related to our teenagers, but like any community the solution to such problems must be worked upon by everyone. The following two articles provide an insight to some of the issues that these teenagers have and solutions that these young people have proposed.

The comments from the teenagers are very well made and I hope that this focus in The Bridge magazine will help to gain support from the entire community in developing appropriate long term solutions.

The Bridge team were highly supportive of Stephen Spencer and Alan Hooker in their initiative to discuss the issues of boredom afflicting our teenagers. The first article is based on transcripts of the conversations held on The Causeway. Cherie Williamson has provided the second article including written submissions from a few of our young people. My thanks to all involved and especially to those young people for their time and input on this subject.

The solutions now need to be agreed upon by all involved and successfully implemented.
Stuart Bond – Editor

Godmanchester Teenagers Speak Up
On a Friday night late April, Alan Hooker and myself went out onto the streets of Godmanchester to interview some of the youth of our beautiful Town. Our mission was to find out what it was that they felt would stem the tide of vandalism and anti-social behaviour in our Community.

So off we went to the Causeway, where after a brief explanation of our aims to a group of approaching youths (average age 14 to 15), we interviewed them. The conversations are reproduced, thus:

What would you like to see in Godmanchester? “Well, we have a skateboard park and the local school along with the Town Council has provided a caged/floodlit area for use once a week to play football, but we would like to see an Astroturf area with floodlights and the chance to play more football so we could keep out of the way of the coppers.” Amongst the group were two girls so we asked them what they wanted. They replied that they just wanted to watch the boys and listen to music, perhaps even run their own disco.

What other social activities would you like to see in Godmanchester? They replied that they would want somewhere where they could play indoor football, cricket etc. Discussion then surrounded the Skateboard Park and comments were made that it had been “mullered”(vandalised).

Why do people vandalise the Town? One of the group thought that the reason why the vandals did it was because they had nothing better to do. This seemed to carry agreement with the others in the group.

Does Godmanchester have a drug problem? The comment was that they did not take drugs themselves, but some older teenagers are taking drugs and the locations were well known to everyone. One of the boys was fairly disgruntled that the Police would stop them if they went to the shops to buy sweets and soft drinks, and take their names and ask them what we were up to, but instead he wanted the Police to focus on local drug dealers and users.

Where else could you go, other than hang around on the streets? “Obviously, we are not allowed to go to the pub”. “If we had a place to go to, we could MC and stuff. We need a Drop in centre, something like a “Nite Café” or a Youth Centre so we could go on decks and play our own music. A snooker table where we could play snooker would be great.” They also wanted a floodlit area to turn the lights on when they like. One youth said “Perhaps we could have the school lights every other day – Just for a kick around”. Another one said, “If the floodlights were on, on a Friday night there would be very little trouble in the area. They felt that they could organise little football tournaments”. One youth said, “The Comrades Club is good, yeah, because it has got good facilities like snooker and that. My dad is a member and they said they might let us go there on a Sunday night to play snooker and darts”.

Do Characters from outside the town bring trouble to the area? Yes they did cause trouble. Generally, it was felt that quite a lot of the trouble came in from outside the town.

If the Tennis court area at the School was opened up on a more regular basis, what else would you need? They said that they would want proper goals with nets etc. In discussion Alan Hooker suggested, if the Town Council or the Community Association sponsored say £1000 for this type of equipment, would others take a Stanley knife to it and damage the equipment. This would be an area for concern. One youth commented that the school has Cameras and he did not think that would happen.

Do Cameras make a difference? “They make people a little bit more wary”, but were thought to only be partially effective.

What do you think of Picnic in the Park? – “It’s wicked, brilliant, it’s a laugh, everyone gets together to listen to live Music and a Barbecue”.

What do you think to Gala Day? – “It’s not been as good this last couple of years, prices on the stands have been much higher”.

Are you members of a Club? Next year one of them suggested he might play for Godmanchester Rovers Under 18’s, another already played for Godmanchester Rovers under 15’s. Another might start playing next year. It was pointed out that there was a Girls team, but the Girls did not think they would be good enough to play.

As we stood there an elderly Lady approached on the footpath, the youths courteously moved aside and showed respect. When she had passed the group recognised that they could appear intimidating in numbers, but also that saying “hello” could help avoid such concerns. One of the youths suggested that they should have Newsletters advising on Group meetings and Events, so they were informed and could participate. “We want to be listened to, we're not all on drugs or drink”.

During our interview, the Police observed Alan and myself surrounded by these youngsters, they did not get out of their Patrol car, but asked if we were all right. We assured them that we were. One of the group then said that this happens a lot and if there was more to do to keep them off the streets, the Coppers could spend more time on catching the people selling and doing drugs.

It was suggested that the 16+ age group were getting drunk on Friday nights and were more involved in the Vandalism. When asked about the Police Helicopter, this was thought to be a complete waste of time in deterring these activities.

One of the youths suggested that we met again on a Tuesday night, when they could think more about what they wanted and asked if we could spare them 15 minutes or so. Alan also suggested that they might like to write to the Town Council or the Community Association with

ideas and if they wanted Goals and nets down the school, they start doing something for themselves and write to the Town Council.

As we came to a close in our interview Alan & I reminisced with the kids. Alan had come from the East End of London, where you had to be a bit more street wise, and I had been brought up in St. Ives where we had a Youth Club, but it was not always plain sailing, even in a sleepy Town like St. Ives.

There were such groups then as Mods, Rockers, Skinheads and Hippies and the most we could expect from the local bobby was a thick ear for minor disturbances. We could not help thinking as we left them for a pleasant drink at the Exhibition that we adults had somewhere to socialise, but they did not.

Thinking back to our own youth, can we all hold up our hands and say we have not been at least a little boisterous?

Yet despite Computer Games and more interests like Ten Pin Bowling, Cinema, Swimming, Ice Skating, Football, Cricket, Athletics, Dancing etc, these all cost money. Where have these kids got to go?

To be honest, if these youths were representative of today, which we think they are, then not only can the parents feel proud but the future looks bright. But how much brighter would it be with someplace to call their own?

Stephen Spencer

“What is it like to be a young person growing up in Godmanchester?”

Is one of the questions I frequently ask as part of my job as a Youth/Community Worker. I have been working in Godmanchester in various youth work settings and forums for almost 8 years now and recently have been doing a large research project into the needs of young people in semi-rural settings such as Godmanchester. The findings have been quite interesting some of which were quite predictable, others quite surprising, particularly in light of the dark picture our young people are so often painted in, through the local press.

As part of writing this article I asked several young people to write a paragraph or two, describing some of their experiences and perceptions of living in Godmanchester. The three contributions included are fairly typical of the comments and experiences many of the young people I work with within the town often express, particularly in the >15 yrs age range:

I am 13 and have lived in Godmanchester for 11 years. There are some activities for teenagers in Godmanchester - for example, Scouts and Guides, Rovers Youth FC, the cricket club, CIMA bands, Rock Solid youth club run by the Baptist Church and judo. This suits those who are happy to join organised groups, however there is only the skate-park for teenagers to go to other than that. It would be good to have some sort of drop in centre or youth club in Godmanchester for youth to go and hang out after school/evening and at weekends, with activities such as pool/snooker and table tennis. Perhaps the youth of Godmanchester would be willing to raise money if they thought they had a site/building available for a youth centre. (Ben, 13 years)

As a teenager living in Godmanchester I have found that there is a wide range of activities for me to participate in. There is a good range of organised activities to join including Scout’s, Guides, CIMA bands, youth group and the Godmanchester Rover’s Football Club. If organised activities aren’t your thing then there is the skate park available, and plenty of park areas.

There are several convenience stores and a fish and chip shop in Godmanchester, which is good because then you don’t have to travel to Huntingdon just for a packet of crisps or some dinner.

Although there are several parks for us to meet up with our friends there is nowhere else especially during winter, it would be good to have an indoor basketball pitch and a hall with other social and sport facilities. If there is nothing to interest you in Godmanchester it is possible to get the bus, walk or bike into Huntingdon to do a wider range of activities.
(James, 13 yrs)

I like living in Godmanchester but there are a few things I would change about it - if I had the power to do so. There are many good things about Godmanchester; for example, there is a community swimming pool in the local primary school that is easily accessible, but the timetable is not well advertised. This means people could turn up at the wrong time and have to go back home.

Another good part of Godmanchester is the tennis courts, also situated in the school. They are not available all the time and it would be better if there were lessons available to children so we don’t have to go up to Hinchingbrooke for them.

What I would really like to have in Godmanchester is a Community centre (maybe the Queen Elizabeth Hall). There could be a sports room and a café (outside?) so kids have somewhere to hang out together in Godmanchester. (Mark, 12 yrs)

Reaching the age of 16 years is recognised by several government agencies as a key transition age and is often characterised as a troublesome or stressful time, particularly for those young people who do not ‘transition smoothly’ into either further education/training or work. It is also a milestone on the road to social and literal independence from parental control and structures. This of course means that the latter teenage years for most young people, means greater opportunities for developmental growth as well as widening their social experiences.

However, when this stage of development is combined with a growing population in a semi-rural area, which does not yet have the facilities that are desirable to enhance this stage of development such as greater youth provision, it can lead to an environment that encourages ‘social disruption’. Having said that, the majority of young people I meet on the streets of Godmanchester are generally friendly and approachable even though rather bored.

As a youth/community worker I think that it would be a great step forward if Godmanchester’s young people were seen as a valuable and equal part of the community but there is work that needs to be done before this is realised.

One way of working towards this would be to begin to realise that many of the town’s young people are already contributing to wider community in a variety of ways, whether that is through organised activities such as the community service elements of the Duke of Edinburgh Award schemes, through Harvest Festival distributions, fund raising for charity events or through the performing arts or various ad-hoc contributions to name just a few.

It is clear from all the young people’s comments and recent research that there is a need for young people to have somewhere within Godmanchester where they can go and ‘hang-out’ particularly in the cold, dark winter nights. This of course raises many questions and highlights many hurdles to be overcome. However, as an adult community member it is easy to take our choices and socialising opportunities for granted and to forget that young people do not have the same choices as us i.e. warm places in the winter to meet our friends outside of our homes or easy access to facilities outside of the town without transportation by others.

I hope that the focus of this year's Bridge Magazine, on the experiences of living in Godmanchester, has encouraged us all to begin to think about our neighbours, whether young or old. I also hope that it will provide the necessary impetus for us as a community to work towards a better future for us all.

Cherie Williamson (Dip Theol. JNC MA)

Copyright © Godmanchester Community Association 2003

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