Long gone are the days when you could stick a table tennis and a couple of bean bags in a church hall and expect bored teenagers to flock there.
The reality is that nowadays, if somewhere isn’t worth instagramming, then it isn’t worth going to at all.
If you didn’t know where to look, you might not have heard of the Cavern. Down an unassuming little cobbled street, in the shadow of the Cathedral, lies a place that is really quite unique.
With its reams upon reams of fairy lights, mismatched furniture and mirrors, chesterfield sofas and the vintage posters and postcards covering every inch of wall space, to call it a youth club would do it a disservice.
The Cavern is an alcohol-free, live music venue and coffee shop. It is open every day of the year and Friday nights are Youth Nights. Despite being only two years old, it has managed to gather a cult following from young people in the county.
In addition to the music and merriment, there is a free listening service called Soul Talk where young people who are struggling with mental health issues at school or problems with housing, for example, can discuss what they’re facing in a non-judgemental, welcoming environment.
Mike is a qualified mental health nurse who volunteers on Fridays at the Cavern and his passion for the place is infectious, “The main purpose of the Youth Nights is to have a safe place where young people can come and hang out in a place that is inclusive, credible, and somewhere that they don’t have to pay to get in to. Whoever comes here will be accepted as they are… it’s a place where young people can have fun and be themselves”.
Modern problems require modern solutions. The Cavern has managed to create a space that teenagers actually want to go to as well as somewhere that they can get support should they seek it. It’s nothing short of inspiring.
Katie, Director, said that the Cavern grew out of the “simple lack of safe spaces for teenagers to go”.
“There have been huge cuts to funding for youth centres and services and so to actually have spaces that are suitable and fun for young people is a challenge!”
Certain newspapers would have you believe that young people today are feckless, lazy, special snowflakes who shirk hard graft and are too busy taking selfies to do anything useful. No more feckless and lazy than we were, I imagine, and yet this infuriating stereotype is relentlessly peddled by the media, blaming young people for their own problems.
A reality check is needed here; young people today have it tough. They have grown up against the backdrop of the financial crash. Many of them are employed in low-paid, insecure work on zero hour contracts, and they will likely be working well into their seventies. For some, the extortionate fees and rent mean that a university degree is out of reach, as is getting on the housing ladder.
These pressures and barriers that young people face today have culminated in a mental health epidemic characterised by depression, anxiety, loneliness and eating disorders. I paint a bleak picture but this really is the current state of affairs.
That’s why the Young People becoming Adults priority in my Police and Crime Plan 2017-2021 is so important. The aim of this priority is to enable Gloucestershire Constabulary to deliver sensitive, relevant and effective policing, to ensure that our young people become law-abiding, productive members of society. We must ensure that the ‘system’ works for young people, not against them. It is a simple fact that if young people have somewhere to go and something to do, they are less likely to commit crime. I am so proud to support a number of local projects around the county that are passionate about providing young people with opportunities. The Cavern is a wonderful example of the Young People becoming Adults priority in action and I implore any young person to give it a visit if they haven’t already.
It is clear from speaking to some of the young people who visit the Cavern that it has had, and continues to have, a hugely positive impact on the lives of teenagers across Gloucestershire. Proved by the fact that when asked if he could describe the Cavern in three words, a young man simply said, “my second home”.