A former youth worker has shared his views as the debate continues on the provision in north Northumberland for our young people.
A fortnight ago, on the back of stories about the under-threat drop-in centre in Wooler, concerns about youth disorder in Alnwick and provision being stepped up in Amble, we asked our readers whether they though there was enough for young people to do.
In this article, Peter Hegney, from Alnwick, shares his views: ‘Many years ago, I used to be a youth worker in Alnwick. We had one of the best youth centres in the county. It wasn’t perfect, but it was fit for purpose.
‘Around 200 of our community’s young people used it regularly. Activities included pool, table tennis, board games, indoor football, table football or foosball as it’s called now (thanks to our cousins Stateside).
‘There was a TV room with videos, a room for the girls to do each other’s hair and make-up, etc, or crafts. And a couple of times a month there was a disco on a Thursday night. There was also a little café/tuck shop.
‘The indoor sports centre was at the rear of the centre for organising sports sessions, which was popular. Towards the end, as I remember, the roof of the building needed some repairs.
‘Sadly, however, it was decided by the powers of the day that funds just weren’t available. The young members and leaders worked hard to try and raise the money.
‘Work was even spent on refurbishment of the café area to make it a more attractive area for the many groups that used it.
‘So what did the council do? Repair the roof? No! They pulled down the whole building. That was back in the ‘90s, since that time nothing has come close to replacing it.
‘There will always be a minority of youngsters who will cause damage or trouble, however, the majority are less likely to follow if they have a place to meet and let off steam.
‘In this era of insular entertainment, we need community centres for the young more than ever. But we also need volunteers to run them.
‘Our young people aren’t bad, they probably just feel undervalued and forgotten. If you go to McDonald’s, you’ll find groups of youths sitting peacefully enjoying a meal and having a laugh together in clean, warm surroundings.
‘The bus station, however, is a dirty, cold uncomfortable area, but sadly the only place it seems where our young people can meet. So what happens? They are moved on time and time again.
‘Groups of youths are frowned upon. Young people aren’t owed a living as some have said, but they do want to feel involved in the community, to meet with friends.’
“We do owe them that and if finding the funds to build a place just for them is the answer, it’s long overdue.’
l Next week: The Gazette talks to the Gallery Youth Project in Alnwick to find out what they are doing for young people and the difficulties faced, particularly in relation to funding.