Amber Warning: Downham Market’s a great place, but needs more for young people

Festival Too 2014 on the Saturday evening ANL-140713-191825009
Festival Too 2014 on the Saturday evening ANL-140713-191825009
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I was born and raised here in West Norfolk. I’ve always lived in Downham, but Lynn was practically my second home as, for years, I was there every weekend for acting classes.

Plus, most of my memories are of fun times had in places like Heacham, Norwich, Hunstanton and the staple of many of our childhood memories, Wells. I was lucky in that there was always a lot to see and do, no matter where I was in our county: I could go to parks, village fairs, arcades, beaches, bowling alleys, museums and even castles. We were never far away from a pub lunch, eaten outdoors in the sunshine, and there were always events in town for us children.

But now I’m older and I’ve noticed that there isn’t much on offer for teenagers. In town, you always see flyers advertising fancy dress and colouring competitions for children, and coffee mornings and bingo nights for adults, but there is no in-between and, when you’re invited out, you’re either going to the park or to the benches outside Tesco.

Everyone always seems to be saying that young people need to get off the streets … but where?

A girl can dream, so what would I do if I was in charge? Firstly, I’d build more skateparks. I’m not interested in them, personally, but I know a lot of people are, and yet the only one we’ve had in Downham, at least, was knocked down seemingly right after it was built.

And everyone I know wants better concerts – this comes up in conversation a lot. We’re lucky in that we have Festival Too, which is amazing and meant that I got to see one of my favourite bands perform live without having to travel all the way to London, but it only happens once a year. Other than that, we have a few tribute acts and jazz nights, but these aren’t really aimed at young people.

Our community could also support young, local bands and give them venues to play at around the county. It would be a great opportunity.

That’s similar to my next point: festivals. We have a few around here but, again, they’re generally aimed at either children or adults. I’m not just talking about music festivals, either – around the country, there are young adult literary festivals, but I have yet to see one on this side of the country. Isn’t everyone always saying the young need to read more?

Next up is clubs. My old school offered a massive range for students, from drama and music to gymnastics and dance. They were fun, and everyone enjoyed them because everyone there was interested enough to give up their free time for it. But these were only accessible to students. For people at other schools or for those home-schooled like myself, there isn’t as much variety.

I’ve lived here for nearly 17 years, and most of the events or activities I see promoted are for toddlers or adults even though Downham has become a key commuter area, and there are more young families here than ever. The infrastructure doesn’t seem to have caught up. People talk about the need to get young people off the streets. We just need something to do and somewhere to go.