Spraypaint and politics
Young people in Culloden and Smithton have come together through the Local People programme to take action on the local issues most important to them.
The Local People programme takes a neighbourhood approach, engaging local people and empowering them to address wider issues in the community. Rachael, the 17-year old Vice-Chair of Culloden Youth Forum, discusses all that the forum has been doing.
In April 2016, a group of young people from Culloden, just outside Inverness, decided that they wanted to clean up a local community centre wall as it was in need of some tender loving care.
Culloden Youth Forum is a group of young people, aged 12 and older, who look at their local area and decide how they would like to make positive changes, whether it involves talking to the council or other community groups.
In this case we were very lucky to have worked with Ullie, a Community Engagement Officer working for TCV, the community volunteering charity, who asked us if we had considered applying for funding from a wee pot of money from People’s Health Trust for the local area. From here our newest and one of our biggest projects was born: ‘Goodbye Unsightly, Hello Amazing!’
We started by writing our funding application, it was the first one we had done one by ourselves! We asked for just under £3,000 to go towards repainting the wall, a coffee morning and a trip to visit the Scottish Parliament (this part fitted in with the Highland Youth Parliament’s campaign to involve more people in politics).
In May, we met with the local steering group for the Culloden and Smithton Local People project, who were the ones who decided if we would get the funding. After a wonderful chat we were able to walk away with the full amount requested, so here came the fun and busiest bit - getting ideas for that wall!
We carried out a number of consultations with the local community, often using the local library as the main hub for ideas, partly because four of us ran a weekly club there so we got all the participants involved.
By the end of the consultation period we had so many ideas we decided to see if there was one which was the most popular – which there was. We decided the theme would be to do with landscape.
The next part was where we learnt who the artists in the group were, as we had to design our mural. Luckily we did call in a professional artist and youth worker, this came in the form of the forum’s new friend Clair. She helped us create a really nice design looking at not only us and our community but the people who would look at and be using the centre.
We spent one day painting the wall white to give a nice background which covered all the nasty looking graffiti before spray painting our designs. Before we knew it we had created a masterpiece on the wall, the young people were impressed with their work, which was made amazing simply by Clair’s guidance.
Not long later, we decided to host a coffee morning in celebration of our work. Throughout the morning we had near to 150 people visit, each person seeing our project board display outline our journey on that part of the project.
With the wall successfully completed we moved onto the next part, time to plan that trip to Edinburgh. For weeks, maybe even months, it became the main topic on our agenda. The forum decided that I would be put in charge of organising the transport down (and back), arranging the actual parliament visit, and picking the date we were going.
With help from Maree Todd MSP, I was able to arrange the parliament visit for Wednesday 19 October. We decided to go down the day before and come home the day of the visit. To be honest with you, the transport was the harder part, after agreeing the train would be the best option I had to figure out the prices. With a week to go until the trip I was able to collect the train tickets at a cheaper group rate than the individual fares we expected – win-win for us.
Before we knew it, six young people and two High Life Highland staff members were in Edinburgh. High Life Highland is a charity that was set up by The Highland Council to promote culture, learning, sport, leisure, health and wellbeing across the whole of the Highlands and they have supported Culloden Youth Forum too.
After dropping our bags in the hostel where we were staying the night, the eight of us went off to Pizza Hut for a lovely meal, before going down Mary King’s Close. It was very interesting to learn about life in the capital over 400 years ago, I don’t think we would manage to survive under the same conditions as people did back then.
Next thing we knew, it was Wednesday morning and we were on a tour around the Scottish Parliament building. We were joined on this tour by Maree Todd MSP who helped give us a unique insight into the workings of Holyrood.
After the tour Maree invited us up to her office where we were able to have a wonderful and delightful Q&A session with her. We learnt so much about how democracy works and how it affects our daily lives. Maree also taught us that we can do anything we believe in if we want it enough, which is something we as a group have started using as the basis for our forum and our futures.
I asked Maree for a wee something from her about how she felt our visit went so she sent me this:
“It was a real pleasure for me to welcome a group from Culloden Youth Forum to the Scottish Parliament in October. It’s not easy for groups to visit from the Highlands – it takes a lot of organisation and money because it often involves an overnight stay. They did a brilliant job getting here and because they visited during recess, I had a bit more time to spend with them than I might have done when we are in session.
“It’s really important that all of Scotland – all ages and all regions, feel connected to the Scottish Parliament. The folk visiting had a chance to ask questions and find out how things work, and I had the chance to hear about what is important to them – and answer some challenging questions.
“I hope that some of them will feel inspired to get involved in politics – whether trying to improve their local community, or getting involved nationally. When you are in the Highlands, Holyrood can feel very distant – I hope their visit has brought them closer to it and will encourage them to aim high when choosing future careers.”
All of us at Culloden Youth Forum had the most amazing experience throughout this project. We found it brought us closer to our community and to each other. To any group who is wanting to carry out a project that looks impossible, we say go for it! It worked for us because we didn’t give up, no matter what challenges we faced!
By Rachael Mitchell, aged 17
Vice-Chair of Culloden Youth Forum
To connect with Culloden Youth Forum on Facebook, click here.
To learn more about The Conservation Volunteers, click here.
To read about more great ideas funded by the Trust, click here.