A question of youth in Leith

Sony’s workshop on drugs. Pictures by Nick Gardner

So, what’s like to be young in Leith? Drugs, drink, gang culture and nowhere to go were main topics of discussion in The Citadel that Friday afternoon.  At first sight all the media stereotypes of youth are there on flipcharts at our Open Space event for young people. Listen to workshop discussions and you find plenty of surprises.  Here’s some for starters:

  1. Cannabis is the most common drug but most drug overdoses come from prescribed medicines in the family cupboard
  2. parents are often part of gang culture
  3. sport breaks down territorial barriers
  4. young people like boundaries and agree that 10.30pm is a fair bedtime on school nights.

But a common theme runs through all the discussions: young people need more places to go. At the end of the afternoon, of top five concerns, most votes went to Steph’s group plea for ‘cheaper leisure activities for young people’.  Next came alcohol and peer pressure to drink. Gang culture and territorialism won 4th and 5th places.   But perhaps a surprising third place went to the ‘need to be brave’ about individual identity – how to develop a real sense of who you are in a world where media often reflects a distorted image of young people and their place in the community.

Local amenities for young people closing down making it easier for drug dealers to target young people

Leith Open Space organised the event on Friday 20th May in partnership with The Citadel Youth Centre  (coincidentally celebrating its 30th anniversary). The invitation asked: What is it like to be young in Leith? In planning meetings we hoped at least a few young people would be there to tell us. And they were!

“We need more things to do”: MSP Malcolm Chisholm hears the message

On the day, the opening circle included around 30 people aged 13 to 88.  To be fair, some of them were a captive audience – on Friday afternoons The Citadel runs a popular intergenerational group (a surprise in itself) – but on a sunny day many of them opted to stay for the discussion instead of joining the organised outing.

Gang members have a sense of belonging.

The result was an intensive few hours revealing pressures and problems  – peer pressure encourages drinking in a society where our legal drug of choice is often far cheaper  than events and activities organised for young people.

Alcohol is part of national culture – it’s legal therefore less of a stigma (than legal drugs)

What next?  Leith Open Space and The Citadel will make sure key decision makers get the message spelled out loud and clear by young people. We will produce a printed report to send to all relevant organisations.  But first, as some of you  were not able to join us on the day (some youth groups had clashing events and commitments) we are inviting you to add your own comments on the top discussion points.  Meanwhile, we are looking forward to exploring some of these ideas when we meet Leith Neighbourhood Partnership at The Citadel on Wednesday 15th June.

The Top 5 Issues

  1. Cheaper leisure choices
  2. Peer pressure to drink
  3. Need to be brave about your identity
  4. Can youth clubs / agencies work together to break down territorialism
  5. Policing and policy on gangs

Our thanks to Maggie Havergal for facilitating our fourth Open Space event with great skill and good humour as always. And thanks to Nick Gardner for the pictures – you can see more on Nick’s website Leith and North

Maggie Havergal reads out the winning Action Points

2 thoughts on “A question of youth in Leith”

  1. I am so sorry to have missed this event. I wanted to report on some progress we have made with your top issue. The young people in your picture have been signed up to Edinburgh Leisure’s First Step project which means they now get free access to Leith Victoria Swim Centre for 6 months, then the following 6 months it costs £1 a session. It’s a fantastic opportunity, and I believe there is something similar running at Ainslie Park. Spread the word 😀

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