In 2015 local Maryhill resident and friend Eva Baille and I (Emily Cutts), in collaboration with The Goethe Institute (where Eva worked at the time) hosted an inequality event on the land and in Glasgow Kelvin College. Inequality was a subject both Eva and I were passionate about given the relevance of income inequality to our area. The Children’s Wood and North Kelvin Meadow is situated in one of the most unequal areas in the UK. Eva secure funding for us to join the European INtransit project which took place between 2015 and 2016 with our Market of Ideas event being the first in the programme. At our Market of Ideas inequality event we heard from projects from Denmark, Ireland and Finland. We also heard from a youth project in Sweden Mitt 127. This youth led, postcode based, festival had amazing results in engaging young people, tackling crime, getting young people into work and integrating minority groups in an economically deprived area of Sweden. This project has inspired our very own youth based programme: the G20 Youth Festival. We owe a huge thanks to Eva for her role in this.
After hearing from the Mitt 127 project, I wanted to do something similar in our area. I had a strong belief that there is nothing of this kind for young people – something open to all, community based and organised and led by the young people. The MITT 127 model could work for our community. However, though it was clear this type of idea could work in Maryhill, for various reasons, it wasn’t until Spring/Summer 2018 that anything happened with this idea.
The reason it wasn’t until 2018 that a youth programme was initiated is because suddenly there was an urgent need to work with young people. This was due to the young people engaging in antisocial behaviour on the land and in the wider area. We were able to work with the young people intensively because our charity had more capacity, now that we had employed staff, many volunteers and no intensive campaigns to fight. I approached our committee about the antisocial behaviour and asked if the charity could fund a few weeks of youth work to help us engage with the young people; to find out who they were and what they needed. Luckily, the committee were supportive. It soon became clear that there was a dire need for youth engagement and for a way for our young people to take positive risks (something the outdoors provides). Young people in our area have very little opportunities for free activities and especially activities outdoors and easily available in their community. We continued to spend every evening outdoors for the next 2 months engaging and getting to know the young people.
We were able to carry out this level of engagement because The National Theatre of Scotland agreed to employ youth workers instead of security for the land, for two weeks when they staged the outdoor production of The Reason I Jump on the Children’s Wood and North Kelvin Meadow. This was a theatrical performance about autism based on the book by 13 year old autistic boy Naoki Higashida and directed by Graham Etough.
During this time, an intense level of youth engagement happened, many different youth workers, volunteers and community members helped us to work with the young people. We got to know who the young people were, what schools they were from, what they wanted and how we could support them. To cut a long story short, we now have a fantastic youth based festival: G20 Youth Festival. It is composed of many different young people who are responding well to our outdoor Forest School based activities. We also work during the day through the schools with some of our young people. We meet three times a week cooking and eating food over an open fire together. One of the nights we take the young people to a club locally (although from now until February we will be based primarily indoors for all of our sessions – in the Maryhill Community Centre – so that we can plan ahead and create art work)
The reason we have something sustainable is also down to us receiving Glasgow City Council’s Summer Hunger Fund and the North West Integrated Grant fund from Glasgow City Council as well as small pots of holiday funding. This allows us to work with young people during the holidays, working outdoors and taking them away to do activities like fishing, parkour and dance. My dream is that by next summer we have a summer long festival organised and led by our young people, not just on our land but in other areas locally so that activities are spread out and diverse.
The heartwarming feedback is that since we started working with the young people the police have reported a reduction in crime and antisocial behaviour, and this has continued. They came by a few weeks ago, when we were planting trees with volunteers from Scottish Water, and gave us this positive feedback. Local policeman Stevie, even planted a tree.
The success of the G20 Youth Festival is down to the amazing work from our youth workers. Our youth workers are bringing out the best in our young people and integrating them into the community. You can follow their progress here
Meet Lesley, our lead youth worker
Hi I’m Lesley, I enjoy working outdoors and experiential learning. The Woods gives me that opportunity. I also enjoy watching young people grow into themselves and progress through their own learning. P.s. I am also a big kid myself so that helps.
Hi I’m Daniel, The Woods and Meadow is a truly magical place! It’s a space were you can totally switch off from the digital world and find nature and play again. It’s great to see the amazing effect this has on the young people that come to the club. It’s a place where they are totally free to play, create, laugh, cook and most importantly learn.
Meet Jacque –
Hi I’m Jacque Working in the Children’s Wood and Meadow is a fantastic source of inspiration for the arts. Using the imagination invoked by the wildlife, wealth of colour and natural materials that surround our young people, it enables them to stretch their imagination in the best environment for their health and well being. It encourages them to become knowledgeable in using natural materials as opposed to plastics and man made resources.
We’d like to say a special thanks to others who helped with the development of the G20 Youth Festival. These include (though not exclusive) Samantha MacGregor, Laura Harrison, Simone Murray, Susie Marshall, Rachel Carmen Simpson, Liv Glatt, Peri McMillan and Forest School worker Joni Mackay.