Friday, July 20, 2007

Be yourself - no matter what they say!

There''s been quite a bit of discussion in our household about the dispersal order placed on the College Green area that seems to be singling out 'skateboarders, goths, grungers and emos' (the Evening Post's description).

My daughter regularly goes there to meet up with a lot of other young people with similar interests in looks and music. She is adamant about the injustice of the order and I must say I agree with her view and have offered a bit of advice about who to contact about the matter and how.

The issue has stimulated both her and her friends to get politically active and contact councillors/MPs/the media. Good for them! Why does our society demonise young people so much?

I was most impressed with the letter my daughter sent off (copied below):

Dear Councillor Hopkins and Councillor Davies
(copied to Bristol's council leader Helen Holland and my MP, Kerry McCarthy)

I've just read the report in the Bristol Evening Post about the dispersal order imposed on the College Green area ('Skateboarders Green Protest', Evening Post, July 18).

As a 14 yr old girl who regularly meets up with friends and has a good, sociable time on 'the green' on Saturdays I would like to know what my local councillors and others will do to help protect my right to be present in an area with my friends, causing no harm. I'd like to know what your views on this dispersal order are, especially whether the order is fair if used in a way that is aimed at a wide range of young people instead of being properly targeted at trouble-makers. Nobody wants those who cause trouble to get away with it.

My friends and I do nothing wrong. We cause no trouble. We are generally peaceful, don't drink and don't do drugs or bother people, just like most of the others who go to the area. We are really quite a close community in many ways. Its only a small minority that cause problems and some people go to the green just to pick on those who look different. I do hope that the order itself wont be used to pick on young people who look different too. Lets remember that drinking, drug taking and violence are a regular problem inside and outside of the pubs and clubs in Bristol every weekend and that these are certainly not problems caused by 'skateboarders, goths, grungers and emos'.

I'm worried that the order might be used in such a way that just a 'presence' in the area could be enough to move me and my friends on. After all the police have said, according to the Evening Post, "members of the public have been intimidated, harassed, alarmed or distressed by the presence or behaviour of groups in this locality'. Presence or behaviour ! Ok, if a particular person or small group's behaviour is shown to cause a problem then that person or group causing trouble should have action taken against them. This does not apply to the hundreds that go to the green however, and surely just having a presence is not enough in itself?

There has been and always will be people who are different and look different who want to gather to meet in groups. Because they are identifiably different - say they are black, or gay, or disabled or scarred by accident or have long hair, flares and flowers in their hair, or like to wear black and dye their hair red, or whatever - should not mean that they can be moved on just because they gather in a place. Generally, people should be allowed to be themselves, no matter what people say, though they may be feared, often due to ignorance and misunderstanding.

There aren't many safe places, like College Green with its CCTV, in central Bristol for young people to gather and meet. Facilities and open spaces are limited. Perhaps it would help if there was better investment by the council and government in facilities for young people, after asking them what is needed and wanted.

I look forward to receiving your reply, giving your views and saying what you will do.

Ellie Vowles, Age 14


  1. Well done Ellie
    Perhaps we should ask will this apply to the congregation of the cathedral, or wedding parties from the Marriott or the red maids when they process to the cathedral. Lots of things to consider with this and the erosion of our civil liberties. With CCTV watching our every move we are the most watched nation on earth, so its not just big brother watching you its also his little brother in the council house.
    Best of luck and keep up your good work
    Michael Maddock

  2. Hi Glenn,

    Back on 20th July I wrote to the Evening Post stating my position on the order. However, even though your daughter's letter (which I saw) asked for responses from councillors, the Evening Post wouldnt print my response. Sadly the Post always have their own agenda. However, you can view my letter here.


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