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Community / Research project looking to hear from young people on spaces to meet up

The OPEN youth committee members who are leading the research.

A RESEARCH project is underway to gather young people’s thoughts on whether there is a lack of places to meet up with friends in Shetland.

It coincidentally comes as concerns were raised in a council meeting this week about people gathering at the waiting room in Lerwick for the Bressay ferry.

Shetland News’ Facebook post about the story created plenty of discussion on what many feel is a lack of places for youngsters to go and hang out.

The research – which includes an online survey – is being run by the OPEN project, which is a local peer education programme working with people aged 16 to 25.

The project has employed two young people as peer researchers, and the survey forms a key part of their role – with focus groups also being held alongside one-to-one interviews.

They are keen to gather people’s opinions about places they meet up with friends, and what settings they would like to have.

OPEN project coordinator Una Murray said the hope is to collate data on what young people want in Shetland, and in particular Lerwick.

This could show a need among young people for new places to meet – whether it is something like a shed at the pier in Lerwick, or a sheltered spot at the Clickimin.

The topic has been “top of the list” for the project ever since the Shetland Youth Information Service [SYIS] centre at the Market Cross closed in 2013, Murray said.

One of the peer researchers is Akira Foster, who said a study like this is long overdue.

“It just seems like the spaces that are there aren’t giving young people what they want, and they’re being under-used,” she said.

Foster felt that since SYIS closed there has not really been a dedicated meeting space for young people.

Murray also said the project has gathered evidence over the last few years that young people are “getting chucked out Mareel if they don’t have a cut of tea in front of them”, and “they are not allowed to hang out” in Islesburgh anymore.

She also suggested the Bressay ferry waiting room has been used as it has WiFi.

“We predict there will be a range of options that young people would like to see,” Murray said.

“It’s not all about just trying to prove they need a big fancy building that they can hang out in – it’s about looking at what they truly could do with. It could just be as basic as a heated room.”

The aim would then be to give young people ownership over that space.

The research has also involved people aged over 30 to give historical context to look at what youngsters used to have back in the day.

The OPEN project also hosts Da Cafe, a weekly drop-in youth space at the Olive Tree in Lerwick for people aged between 14 and 25. It offers “food, warmth and WiFi” every Thursday between 4pm and 6pm.

Murray said around eight to 12 people usually attend a week, and that people in the community donate to cover the cost of the refreshments.

People can access the survey here, and anyone interested in taking part in focus groups or looking for more information can contact openproject@shetland.org , phone 01595 745074 or message the OPEN Facebook page.