Members of the Local People project litter-picking in a woodland

Youth engagement is a key focus for the Local People project in Culloden and Smithton, near Inverness in Scotland.

Local priorities, identified through community conversations are to recruit more community volunteers to help at local events/groups; more social activities and events; more activities for young people, and improving community greenspaces.

In this piece, we hear from Ullie Wenzel, the local project worker, on the successes, challenges and future plans to further engage young people.

“From the very beginning of the Local People project in Culloden and Smithton, near Inverness in Scotland, residents shared their views on how they wanted to increase community connections and create more opportunities for young people to be involved in their community.

A lack of affordable activities for young people continues to be mentioned often in conversations within our communities.

4191 TCV - Local People in Culloden and Smithton
Young residents plant bluebells on Culloden Avenue
Over the years, we have supported the Culloden Youth Forum and Youth Hub; facilitated the formation of Super Crafters - a craft group for primary aged children; supported and worked with our local Brownie Unit and co-hosted events.

We also have big bi-annual community events Summer and Christmas in the Avenue (which connects the two communities), hosted a Play in our Park and worked with the children of Smithton Primary School.

Over time, the Steering Group have also granted community fund money to enable young people to visit the Scottish Parliament, go on a residential trip and buy equipment for their meeting space.

Together we undertook a photo research project to showcase young people’s views of their communities, which at the same time gave them some accredited skills in photography.

Young leaders from the Youth Forum joined the Preserve and Revamp Culloden and Smithton (PARCS) group to lead activities at their avenue events and helped to deliver our local newsletters.

We worked with them to get their views on local priorities. Two of their group joined our project’s Steering Group and were able to have their say on community priorities and on how community fund money should be spent.

4191 TCV - Local People in Culloden and Smithton
Members of the Local People project litter-pick in a woodland

Whilst all of the activities were really positive projects with excellent community feedback, we realise there is a need for further and deeper ongoing youth engagement in our communities, to help reduce a number of less favourable activities occurring in our area.

New playparks are being targeted by vandalism, murals graffitied over and night-time drinking and bottle smashing happens on a popular walkway. Whilst these actions are only performed by a minority of (and not always only) local youth, the resulting damage ruins the enjoyment of our community spaces for all.

In the very near future, two big community greenspaces will be opened up after extensive flood prevention works are completed and the PARCS group are looking to undertake a major tree planting project in Smithton.

As a community, we want to work with our young people to enable them to engage positively with their community spaces, so that they can be enjoyed by all. We hope to find a way forward which is both appealing to the wider (youth) community and can be run sustainably in the long-term.

We have made really positive links with young people locally but through the nature of their groups it only connects with the already more engaged young people. We’re hoping that in time they will be able to influence their peers and get them involved in future projects.”

The Local People project in Culloden and Smithton is supported by The Conservation Volunteers and funded by People’s Health Trust. The Local People programme is a People’s Health Trust initiative which involves supporting residents to develop a shared vision for their community and take action on the issues that matter most to local people.

To read more blogs from the Trust, click here.

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