Updated: Mar 3, 2022
I want you to think back to lockdown. You wanted to meet a friend, did a checklist run through your mind? Where will we be able to sit, shelter, keep warm, go to the toilet? Will it be safe?
Welcome to the daily life of a teenage girl, financially or legally barred from cafés, pubs and other indoor spaces, say Make Space for Girls.
Youths gathering after dark – remember that could be anytime after school closes in the winter – is immediately viewed through a lens of anti-social behaviour, rather than as young people's attempts to meet, engage and play - not online, but in person.
The sporting spaces we build for them to gather, could be often characterised as a 'teenage cage' in the corner of a field, that pen in the most confident of male youths who feel comfortable to dominate such a space, but remain inaccessible to many – particularly younger children and girls.
We need to think about our informal sports provision, not just as a place to exercise, but as a place to socialise, to invite inter-generational participation – like in this example from Dagenham.
Let's not plonk a table tennis in the middle of a muddy field. Let's place it under some lights, next to benches, near somewhere you can get a drink. So, people can watch, rest, wait their turn, spend time together.
How do we do this? Well first of all let's ensure that we are providing those young people, whose only option for social space is the outdoors, with what they need. Beatfreeks, an insights agency that focuses on young people found that just 8 per cent of those aged 16 -18 have been asked for an opinion by a councillor or property developer about the future of their neighbourhood, even though 82 per cent of them say they would like to be asked.