This fun, colourful graffiti seen in the King George V Park all last summer was created by a youth leader working with Barrow’s ‘Street2Life’ – the official name of the organisation usually known as The Barrow Youth Group. The youth leader who designed and painted the board is no longer working in the area and his graffiti has gone too – as is the nature of graffiti. Now the large board stand s white and available: just waiting for a new burst of creativity. It may look as though it was done with a few spray cans in half an hour but I was assured the amount of planning involved was massive. The Parish Council provided the paint! But what is the organisation ‘Street 2Life ‘ that gave birth to this wonderful example of public art?
Well, it’s a development from the Youth Outreach Group which has folded now. Yet the work it did was felt to be so important that this new group was begun to keep in contact with any young person who might welcome a bit of support. in the park in summer on a Tuesday evening between twenty and thirty under 18s gather to just hang out, play football or basketball, rounders or a game called Ten and sometimes even cook. But now it is winter so on Tuesdays between 5 and 7 pm they meet at the Methodist Hall. They come in small groups or ones and twos but once a critical mass has formed tend to do things together. They flow in and out. Like migratory birds they’re all inside for a bit, then all out sitting or standing by the wall, then back again. It’s fascinating!
Control is present but with a light touch. The youth leaders Bryan, Billy, Mark and Rachael keep a watchful eye on everything but know that if the Youth Group were to be as tightly structured as school then few would turn up. Numbers vary: far more in the summer, when there are holidays, than in the winter. However, in the cold months the teens usually have a choice of indoor activities: pool, bagatelle, table-football or ping-pong and there are free snacks and non-alcoholic cold drinks around. But most important of all they know it’s somewhere they can relax outside the home, meet their friends, and, if they feel the need, talk to adults who are not their parents. The youth team befriends them and tries to help them make the right choices. And they can talk about anything - not necessarily the serious issues such as drugs and alcohol but just the normal day to day worries associated with growing up such as lacking self-confidence or dating. The transition from childhood to adulthood can be tricky. The professional youth workers are well trained so parents know their children are in safe hands. Sometimes there are serious sessions on subjects such as the effect of drink on your ability to drive as a youth leader will bring in his ‘Beer Goggles’. When worn these give you the impression of drunkenness by distorting your vision and balance and make you realise how terribly dangerous it is to drink and drive. But more often help is given to members individually: youth leaders reacting to situations as they arise.
Street2Life is obviously a thriving village group but it doesn’t advertise itself much. “Why” I asked? “We don’t need to,” was the answer. “Word of mouth keeps new members coming. If you’re under 18 you’re welcome.”