Equipped for life’s dramas

“Is this the way to asbo-rillo?” they sang to the tune of
recently revived 1970s hit Amarillo. And alternative song lyrics
were not all that was unconventional about the performances of a
group of young people at a recent youth arts weekend organised by
charity NCH.

Stereotypes were challenged as old ladies in a puppet sketch
engaged in happy slapping of young people, in a role reversal of
the craze where violent attacks are filmed on mobile phones. And a
play, which depicted the labelling of a young person as a hoodie,
drew gasps from the audience in the final scene as the character
reached into his jacket to removeÉa bunch of flowers for his

Beneath the laughter, though, was a serious message concerning how
young people feel about the way they are viewed by society. Their
performance was the culmination of workshops held one weekend when
some 80 young people from the charity’s projects came together to
express their views, kicking off a year-long programme called
ARTiculation. Six young people who took part last year, and who
performed a play to decision-makers from government, returned this
year as “buddies” to help new participants. Here’s what they had to

Mark Randall, 19, is with Lincolnshire Leaving Care
“My teaching assistant – she’s more like a friend and
we’ve been through thick and thin – encouraged me to come. It’s
helped with my confidence and I’m more confident now than I have
been most of my teenage life. It’s awesome. I went to the poetry
workshop. I really like writing poetry.

“We need more entertainment, more cinemas. Where I was growing up
there was nothing, not even a BMX track. There’s nothing in
villages. I was brought up in one and there was just one shop. You
get people of 16 and 17 smashing windows and having a go at the
police. I know it’s wrong but there’s nothing to do. The government
keeps putting prices up all the time, like alcohol. I know they are
trying to put people off binge drinking but if you only have a
couple of quid you will just buy a big bottle of something and then
spin around trying to make yourself more drunk. I know, I’ve done
it and it doesn’t work! There should be more youth groups. If there
was I’d volunteer. I think the government has young people’s best
interests at heart but they’ve got other stuff to worry

Sarah Hardman, 17, The Extra Mile, Bury, Lancashire
“The project has given me more confidence. There needs to
be more youth clubs to stop trouble. There are some but not enough.
But if you have no money you can’t go to them – they should be
really cheap, like 50p. Asbos are OK if you have done something
wrong, like smashing something up. But I read about a 12 year old
getting one in school. Sometimes it’s problems at home and they
can’t express them any other way. As for hoodies, it was really
silly because the ban came out in winter. What are kids meant to
wear? If it’s raining you need to put your hood up. I have been
booted out of places because I’ve had a hood up. It’s not like
every person is going to cause trouble. It’s not fair on young

Becky Daley, 19, is with The Extra Mile, Bury, Greater
“I was told by my care worker I had to come here last
year. I was having a bad time, self-harming. I started doing work
here that built up my view of myself. It was an emotional thing and
it made me think differently. I started writing poetry. Some of my
poems are going up on to the Extra Mile website.

“I like being a buddy because I feel important. I feel needed. I
like giving people support. If I could get the government to change
things, I would tell them to remove the age barrier to

“Criminal Records Bureau checks should be free. A lot of people
like me want to do youth work but we can’t. It costs £60 to
get a check and I’m on benefits so I can’t afford that. Services
should run at night, not phone services but things like drop-ins
where kids can go for a few hours if things go wrong at home.

“Asbos? Hmmm. When people behave like that there are obviously
reasons for it. I don’t think people should get Asbos straight away
but, if their behaviour continues, they should. There should be
independent workers because often when people from social services
ask people whether they want help they will say no because they are
scared social services will get involved. The government asks you
what you want but doesn’t listen. Nothing ever changes.”

Shaun Chadwick,21, The Extra Mile, Bury, Lancashire
“I don’t really like the government that much. I can’t
really think of anything they have done. There should be services
round-the-clock. There should be more youth groups. We’re quite
lucky in Bury because we’ve got a lot. There’s one place where you
can get free acupuncture but it’s not always been like that. I
think the message is getting through that we need things. I think
Asbos are a good idea.
On my estate you’re given a sheet where you can fill out the names
of people, what they have done that is antisocial and at what time.
But it’s not right for 11 year olds to get them. They should be
listened to first and then it should be a last resort.”

Donna Brown, 18, Eastbourne & Hastings Youth
“Young people need better housing and support services.
I’m moving into a flat soon but it’s hard to find places because
lots don’t take housing benefit. Youth clubs are really important
because it’s somewhere safe for young people to go to. There are a
lot of young people who misbehave but I see the other side: kids on
the streets because they are bored. The hoodies thing is stupid and
if someone told me to take mine off I’d tell them to pee off! The
government lived in the 1960s and 1970s but they don’t know what
it’s like to be young today. There are more problems now.”

Lisa Evans, 19, West Suffolk  Leaving Care
“Since I’ve been to ARTiculation I am more outgoing. I
can be my true self here because people have been in the same
situation as me. I can talk to people. When I’m at home I have no
one to talk to.

“I think the government needs to hold more events to get people
socialising, more youth clubs and stuff. I used to go somewhere
that was 80p to get in. That’s gone now. Shops should be open later
and then you would have less crime because there wouldn’t be so
many people wandering the streets.

“Non-alcoholic drinks should also be cheaper. I was out the other
night and I had to pay £2.50 for a bottle of water!

“I want to go to the gym but I can’t afford it. It’s the same with
food. I can’t afford to go to Waitrose every week.

“With Asbos I think if people have done something wrong they should
be punished but it’s not right their name should be in the
newspaper. Everything is ridiculous nowadays. Where I live they put
on a nightbus but it just drops you at the end of the road and it
is twice as expensive as a normal bus. There aren’t enough
policemen either.”

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