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  • Writer's pictureAmy Foster

Our Voice Our Streets

On Thursday August 26th, I hosted a poetry and photography workshop for Croydon Living Streets Group at Stanley Arts asking teenage girls and non-binary young people to share their experiences of their local streets and public spaces.

Newham based photographer Syvlie Belbouab and playwright Sharon Kanolik joined our walking tour of South Norwood. The girls practised their portraiture skills and used the local environment to inspire poetry on places of safety -and those of menace.

These observations were collected and collated into a ‘manifesto for change’ which called for older generations to stop unfairly demonising teenagers and young people with negative stereotypes about criminal behaviour.

As Anne Marie explained, “I moved back to London from Glasgow a few months ago and I walked so much more there. There was more to do, more places I wanted to go and I had people to go with. Now I feel like I only want to use public transport as I know where it starts and stops and I don’t get so worried about getting lost. But I miss being able to walk to places with my friends.”

Their vision for a fairer, more inviting community included play equipment for older children and teenagers and wifi and charging stations in new chill zones in parks.

Croydon Living Streets now calls on Croydon Council to take this manifesto onboard and to use it to develop a positive vision for change within South Norwood Rec, the Park which inspired the call for change.

With its dilapidated, run-down bowling green and boundary walls covered in graffiti, there is plenty of potential for the wildflower mazes and community arts area that would transform the Rec into an inviting space for all and especially for teenage girls, who all too often get overlooked in local spending decisions.

Our green spaces give us room to breathe, to decompress and to protect our health and wellbeing but poor design should not deprive young people of the opportunity to enjoy the myriad benefits time outside in green space brings.

Croydon’s young people know what they want from our streets. Let’s make sure their voices are heard.

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