Neil Young is Youth Team Leader at St. Paul’s Youth Forum based in the Blackhill area of Glasgow.
Yesterday, young people across the world took part in World Radio Day, an event organised by UNESCO to help give people a voice. Our youth radio station, Bolt FM, was in full swing with extra broadcasts organised with pupils from Smithycroft Secondary and local community groups. As radio continues to evolve in the digital age, it remains a medium that reaches the widest audience worldwide and continues to be a strong force, giving young people a chance to be heard.
Bolt FM was set up in 2001 to tackle gang fighting, by bringing the two communities of Blackhill and Royston together under one project, but at separate times. Now, almost 13 years on, gang fighting has been eliminated in these communities for over 6 years and now we are helping young people to express themselves, by looking at the subjects that matter to them. From sectarianism and computer gaming, to employment and training, young people have been able to ascertain and discuss the views of other young people.
At the core of Bolt FM’s work, is that it is youth led. No adult has ever told a young person what to broadcast and with our board membership’s average age under 21, we like to think of ourselves as youth led. As the draft youth strategy is discussed around the country, it is no coincidence that putting young people at the heart of the policy is the first item on the list. If we don’t allow young people to have a full role in local and national decision making, designing, co-producing and delivering services, then we run the risk of tokenism and losing some vital concepts and energy.
In Fletchers Ladder of Youth Voice, we see the steps required to move from tokenism to partnership to equity. How many of us as youth providers are able to be at the top of the ladder? For us here at Bolt, we are continually striving to achieve equity, although obviously there are some constraints, with the paternalistic rules of Ofcom, whose rules dictate what can or cannot be said in terms of swearing and balanced political views. With the law stating that trustees of charities cannot be under 16, how can we challenge the law so that young people have full equity, instead of requiring adult ambassadors to deal with the legal aspects of charity law? On the other hand, how far should we push the law? For example, should young people be involved in managing and firing staff? Can we enable them to acquire the tools to be fully equitable?
As young people all over the world are engaging with World Radio Day and making their first forays into broadcasting, we should be there as workers to support but not dictate, to empower and challenge leaders and policy makers to take youth participation further, and who knows – next year we may see large commercial stations highlighting the skills of our young people, turning the mics over to North East Glasgow’s finest broadcasters.