Thursday, March 22, 2007

Save the Square

Since the 1960s, The Square in Harlow has provided a much cherished community space, not only serving Harlow's youth needs, but also as a music venue. Over the years, this modest council centre has hosted bands such as the Buzzcocks, The Price, Mega City 4, Senseless Things, as well as serving as a incubator of local musical talent, holding Battle of the Band events with people of all ages travelling from surrounding towns and villages to musical events at The Square. The Bar makes a profit and encourages older people to come, creating a healthy all-age atmosphere. The Square has long been revered as a local Music Venue open to all, but Essex Council want to turn it into an age-restricted Youth Club.

Essex County Council are proposing to stop serving alcohol and restrict the age range of bands playing there as well as restricting the entrance to 13-19 year olds (parents will be allowed, but no one over 19). Older band members (friends or siblings) will then not be allowed to either play or attend one of The Square's gigs, because they'll be 'too old'. Young musicians will lose the inspiration they get from exposure to and interaction with more experienced musicians.

The Square already enforces drinking laws, refuses to serve underage people, and outlaws antisocial behaviour, involving the police if serious offences take place. The Square already bans antisocial behaviours, but doesn't discriminate entrance by age.

If you're stuck in a Council office, it's probably difficult to grasp how rare and valuable the Square is as meeting place for Harlow's youth - it's an incubator for local music culture, its a valuable meeting place.

Youth Service
In addition to Essex Council's plans to bar over-19's from The Square, and close the bar, it also plans to restrict the Youth Service that it operates separately from the venue, by prohibiting them from working with any young person who is suspected of being under the influence of drugs including alcohol, effectively casting them out on to the streets, and shunning them when they need help the most. There really is nowhere else to turn to out there who couldn't be considered potentially exploitative of a UTI teen's intoxicated state. It would be socially irresponsible to abandon teens who present themselves at the door of the community centre in a drunken state.

The End of Real Community Youth Care?
Supporters of The Square feel that Essex Council are proposing an irresponsible alteration to community youth care. They feel that it would be folly to encourage a policy that prohibits/forbids/bans/ignores a teen when they are seeking company and/or help with their problems. The Council also plans to develop youth work that breaks the link between Music and Drugs. They intend to implement these changes from the 8th of April.

The Square is well placed to encourage responsible, communicative, open, well-socialised young adults - this cannot be done be limiting the age-range of those who attend, or banning alcohol, or shunning youths who are UTI. Responsible drinking is best done by example and not by imposing prohibition - prohibition would encourage covert, antisocial drinking - there are plenty of studies made already showing the effects of prohibition.

Please show your support by opposing Essex Council's proposed changes, and sign this petition

The Square in the Local News:
The Star Newspaper
The Star - Anger at youth club proposal for The Square
Harlow Herald Letters Page

The proposed action might fall into the category of age discrimination.
Tackling age discrimination
The Age Positive campaign promotes the benefits of employing a mixed-age workforce that includes older and younger people. We encourage employers to make decisions about recruitment, training and retention that do not discriminate against someone because of their age. We use publications, research, press, events and awards initiatives to get the message across - and to help employers comply with legislation to outlaw age discrimination in employment.
Age Positive

~ Luther Blissett

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