It’s a night at the round table as the young get political
‘Talkaoke’ in full effect
Youngsters gathered at the Camden Centre to hear about the new Youth Council structure and talk about what they’d like to see change, writes Sara Newman
HUNDREDS of young people debated the structure of the new Youth Council to blaring Hip-Hop music at a feisty consultation event hosted by the Town Hall.
Standing beside giant plasma monitors, screening a documentary charting the 10 months since the 15-strong steering committee was appointed, Camden’s representatives at the national Youth Parliament and election hopefuls, Axel Landin, 16, and Louise Suen, 17, compered the event.
Explaining the structure of the new council to groups of teenagers sitting at tables in the main hall of the Camden Centre, the two Youth Council chairs said that if their proposals were accepted, elections for 36 councillors (two councillors for each of Camden’s 18 wards) would be held in January 2008.
Eight cabinet members would be responsible for the departments of Crime Prevention, Health and Safety, Environment and Training, Education and Skills, Youth Provision and Culture and Fundraising.
The full council who, they said, will meet once a year, will elect the cabinet and a young mayor.
Cabinet and Young Area Forums are to meet once a month.
Axel, who goes to William Ellis School in Highgate Road, Gospel Oak, told the gathering: “We will take all your views into account when making decisions for the Youth Council.”
Louise, a pupil at Camden School for Girls in Sandall Road, Kentish Town, added: “It will be our chance to see what you want and what you need. It all begins here.”
The teenagers were divided into area groups.
No sooner was an opinion uttered than a Youth Council steward using a computer had entered their comments on the giant screens.
Feedback on the proposals included calls for all council members to sit on each of the committees, more regular meetings for both the area forums and the full council, and executive seats for all council members.
Due to a shortage of Gospel Oak representatives, the area forums for Highgate and Gospel Oak were combined. Eighteen-year-old Lazeez Raimi, who attends La Swap in Highgate Road and lives on Mansfield Road, objected to calls for crime to top the agenda, saying that this approach does not reflect the need for more youth clubs and after school activities.
He said: “It’s more education than crime that’s the problem.”
Many chose to sit at the circular Talkaoke table, pegged as “the flying saucer of chat” which contained enthusiastic chatshow host Mikey Wienkove.
Those less willing to debate under the glare of the bright lights and shooting bulbs withdrew to the reality TV Big Brother-style Diary Room.
Vincent Duffy, 16, from the Sidlings estate aspires to be a journalist.
He said that he appreciated the media-influenced theme.
He said: “It’s very commercialised, but if it works it works. If they listen it will make a difference.”
“Our estate wants to be put into a football league,” he added.
“And the youth club needs money. We don’t even have ping-pong. We just sit about and talk.
“Our estate is quite bad so it’s better if we are kept off the streets.”
Councillor Abdul Hai, Labour representative for King’s Cross ward, said that the Youth Council was introduced to engage young people in the political process.
He said: “Few young people over 18 are voting.
“We need to ensure our future scientists, doctors and politicians are part of the process.”
He added: “We need to be realistic about what is achievable. This is a process whereby young people are saying to us what it is they want.
“The next stage will be us councillors saying ‘this is what we can deliver’.”