Minutes of the Youth Forum held at the Burgess Room of Bridgwater Town Hall
at 7.30pm on Thursday 17th September
1. Representatives present;–Cllr Diogo Rodrigues (Chair-BW Dunwear North) Cllr Brian Smedley (secretary-BW Westover) Cllr Moira Brown (BW Eastover) Cllr Leigh Redman (Mayor-BW Dunwear South). Jeff Brown (Somerset Youth) Robyn Seeley (YMCA) Julie Cooper (SDC-Community Development) Nikki Doughty (Dep Head Bridgwater Academy) Kristy Blackwell (SDC @Together Team Co-ordinator) Elaine Williams (Citizens Advice Bureau) Chelsea White (Member Youth Parliament/Richard Huish Student) Deb Richardson (Somerset Film & Video) Harry Young (Bridgwater College student) Kizzie Proctor (Bridgwater College student) Craig Lloyd (Youth Unlimited) Kate Goodale (Bridgwater Arts Centre) Steve Baker (Somerset Rural Youth Project) Gemma Lay (SRYP apprentice) David Harding (Labour Youth) Jane Knowles (Somerset actiivity and sports partnership)
2. Apologies for Absence;– Gareth Hughes (Victoria centre) Jacqueline Jones (Robert Blake Science College) Beth Hampton (Chilton Trinity) Rachel Leech (Westfield Church)
3. Introduction;-DR welcomed everyone to the meeting and introduced BS as leader of Town Council to set the scene. BS explained that in a spirit of openness BTC wanted to increase community involvement through a network of Forums which would be delegate based so that members could report back to their communities. All minutes would go to the next BTC meeting with recommendations.
4. Chelsea White, Member of Youth Parliament for Sedgemoor spoke to the meeting about her role. She said she had been elected for 3 years and her 5 areas of special concern included Mental health, Sexual Health, Stress, Self Esteem and body image. Her role was to represent her constituents which was harder in a widespread rural area than in a city. She also mentioned that last Autumn term over 875,000 secondary school pupils took part in a national campaign , “Make your Mark”. This ballot decides what Members of the UK Youth Parliament (MYPs) should debate and vote on to be their campaign for the year ahead.
JK mentioned the ‘Girls Can’ campaign (for instance ‘do sport’) and invited CW to speak at some youth sessions .
KB said that her project ‘Together Team’ was based in Sydenham where ‘mental health’ was a key issue especially at what stage to intervene and also asked CW to take part.
5. General Discussion on Youth Provision/Services in Bridgwater. DR said The Town Council held a stall at Bridgwater College Fresher’s Fair on Tuesday 1st September. The stall was run solely by Cllr Moira Brown – she was meant to have two young people running the stall with her but they unfortunately cancelled at the last minute. The objectives for the stall were:
1. To find out what young people wanted from Bridgwater
2. For young people to register their interest in the Youth Forum
The outcome from the stall was quite exceptional. We received comments from over 170 young people, with almost 75 registering their interest in the youth forum.
There were 4 main concerns/ideas put across and each was debated by the Forum
A LEISURE CENTRE
i) A large proportion of people said that they would like to see a leisure centre placed on the old splash site.
BS explained that the Northgate site was currently part of a consultation which BTC through its Town Development Forum was a key partner. Part of the land owned by SCC was earmarked for a school but the SDC part of the land (Splash site and Brewery field) was undecided. BTC policy was for lei-sure led facilities and preservation of green space. It was however crucial for the Youth Forum to have an input into this
MB said the loss of Splash had created a vacuum in the town and young people who responded to the survey overwhelmingly wanted a leisure centre on the site which could include bowling alley, ice rink, coffee bars etc
ND said she understood that people wanted somewhere central where students from all the schools could meet, eat,drink and socialise, that was cheap and accessible and where they can be them-selves. The closest they have to this kind of ‘social hub’ is McDonalds
MB said it was unusual for a town of 38,000 not to have such a facility
JB said this wasn’t the case and that all 3 large towns in Somerset had lost or never had such a sig-nificant town centre facility. He believed a leisure centre on the splash site actually wouldn’t meet the needs of young people and wouldn’t be provided as it was too expensive for local authorities to consider
CL said he felt young people needed an environment where they could safely move from teenage into adulthood, such as a bowling alley or café
KG noted the facilities offered by the Hollywood Bowl in Taunton as an example
RS pointed out that the town already had a town centre youth facility-the YMCA, with a large new building with sports equipment, gyms, café, meeting rooms and a skate park. It was clear that the YMCA was an existing space we could do more with. He suggested schemes such as the ‘pubs without beer’ initiatives
CW mentioned Spennys Sports Bar in Eastover where lots of young people went until late
DH said Splash was in a great central location and the new pool had poor transport connection . Transport was a key factor in people getting about. He also cited Timewarp Arcade (behind Insane Games) as popular with young people. He said for older teenagers the nightclub scene was very limited in Bridgwater
CW said Bridgwater had lots of nightclubs and didn’t need any more. She felt that people got bored easily and looked for legal highs and so nightclubs were the problem not the solution
DH felt that Taunton had a better selection of bars and clubs than Bridgwater and ‘had it all’
RS said it was about money which young people generally had a lack of.Everything becomes too expensive and so the problem is commercial ventures therefore the solution is subsidising provision otherwise young people will continue buying 1 coffee between 3 to last them the afternoon
DRi said that the Art Centre, the Engine Room and the YMCA all provided free or subsidised events for young people but they needed to be able to attract and inform these people to these existing offers in the first places
KB felt it was about marketing and promotion and getting the message across to young people in a medium they related to
ND said not all young people were the same and there was a wide difference between these target audiences and the kids who hung about on the streets outside her school
DRi said the Engine room was purposely a High street location so people could wander in from the street and discover what was on offer. Maybe the schools could be an additional gateway for this
KG said the Art Centre had a scheme of apprentices where young people could get involved and the ones who started this were now involved in marketing and concert promotion. She mentioned the Big Bash street festival was a new and hopefully annual event which was free and could attract young people
JB said 40% of youth provision was unused and so was a tremendous waste of money which led him to the thought that they might as well simply give the money to McDonalds to expand their provision if that was all that was wanted.
CL said that from his time as a youth street worker he was aware that many young people just want-ed a space and that could be outdoors. He said the Rollercoaster was well attended with about 60 members but was largely a ‘local’ facility that doesn’t suit people from out of the locality. 20 years ago young people didn’t want to go to youth clubs and preferred to congregate for instance by the Parkway Shops which was where people passed by and so they could find information about what was going on, now they have social media to do that. Any new facility ought to be affordable, attractive, central and safe
KB said not all youth were the same like not all adults were. What was needed was a mapping to show the opportunities available so people knew what was on offer
JC felt it was the middle school age youth that were worse served. She also thought maybe a ‘lei-sure pass’ would be a way to encourage more people to use the facilities on offer
RS said young people needed their own spaces put the problem with leisure centres was buildings came with rules. What they want is a space that’s warm, dry, open late, and has food and Wi-Fi.
SB said this was why ASDA was so popular
KP said that young people didn’t necessarily need places they needed ‘events’ –like the Fair, Carni-val and even smaller and spontaneous events.
CW said these shouldn’t be focused around sport as there was already ample provision for that. There were too many gyms in Bridgwater. People just wanted to chill with their Wi-Fi in a safe place. She said McDonalds wasn’t a good example of this as the food was unhealthy
JB said if there was a profit to be made anywhere someone would be doing it. Project Zero in Yeovil had been subsidised for 4 years. There was no bottomless pit of money
RS said everything has to be paid for and we all end up going to JB for money. Youth provision has to be paid for.
CW said she goes to Richard Huish not Bridgwater College and there was nothing in Bridgwater for her. The town had to try to attract people like her to it instead of her spending £600 a year on bus fares
KB disagreed and said in fact Bridgwater College was a fantastic place with a lot to offer and many students made different choices
KP said she disagreed with CW and liked Bridgwater
DRi pointed out that where people went to school was where their peers were and they therefore used those places and that in fact Bridgwater was expanding
JB said in fact in Taunton there was the same view, that there was nothing for them there and other places were better
RS said when he worked in Taunton people preferred to come to Bridgwater
More Youth Support
ii) Many said they would like to see things such as more youth clubs, mental health support and counselling available. There was also a concern over how easy drugs are made available from as little as £10.
DR asked if this was the case, that mental health etc. facilities were largely not easy to come by
KB pointed to the MIND operation and the café in Hamp
ND said that at school they have a school counsellor but there are too many young people needed access
CW said it was a huge issue and crucial was the fact that young people didn’t have the confidence to raise the issue
JB said early intervention was critical
DRi said that mental health services had suffered heavily in recent years
CW said there was a lack of PSHE in the schools
ND said there was still a delivery of this and if there wasn’t at a school then it was a matter for OF-STED as it was a legal requirement
CL said he had certainly delivered PSHE to 6th forms
KB said that as part of her Sydenham project she would do piloting work into early intervention and may come up with a low cost model
KG mentioned the ‘confidence club’ which operates in the Brewhouse, Taunton which was essentially one person facilitating a conversation and could be trialled.
Safe areas and coffee shops
iii) Many would like somewhere to go such as a coffee shop or safe areas as there is a lack of.
DR said he felt this had been covered adequately in the initial discussion.
DRi said there were lots of coffee shops which were safe places
CW said that these coffee shops might cater for her – for the 30-40 age group and closed at 6pm- but not for the people she represents who prefer KFC, McDonalds, fast food outlets where you could walk into at 2am.
JB said young people preferred places which were their own sort of space, they like the food and basically it smells like their space. He also felt a central location wasn’t necessary as provision was needed on the estates where people lived.
CW felt that areas like Durleigh and Wembdon had nothing and people preferred to come into town centre and this is the area that should be used.
iv) Transport was also a big concern. Transport needs to be improved as there is very little way for young people to go out and come back of an evening.
JC said that transport was a key issue and that often people could walk into town of an evening but didn’t feel safe walking home
KP said edge of town places like McDonalds were attractive because there were safe routes home that didn’t take you through the centre of town
CW said transport was appalling and late busses were needed
6. Recommendations to Bridgwater Town Council. BS said the minutes of this meeting would go to BTC
7. Any other business;- none
8. Date of next meeting ;- TBC early November
Cllr Diogo Rodrigues
Council Youth Spokesperson