Do rural town youths have enough to do?

With gradual strains facing the high street, many businesses have been forced to close with the rise of easy online shopping. I therefore found myself in the small market town of Sudbury, which faces this struggle as well as many others. Thriving businesses had once lined the streets of this peaceful town, but many have closed over recent years.

One such establishment was the bowling alley, where all ages would convene with their friends for a competitive game of laser tag, air hockey or bowling. This has particularly affected young people, where there are little activities left for them to proactively engage in. The large park has also become increasingly run down, where there were once swings, animals and roundabouts, there is graffiti and emptiness.

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Belle Vue Park (taken from Google maps)

This made me wonder whether this is as much of an issue to youths and parents as it appears to be. I spoke to the people of Sudbury to find out there is now enough for young people to do.

Brenda Mordey said: “There is nothing much around for them (youths) I feel the meadows are so underused they should have more down there such as camping, an adventure park, a lovely fountain so they can run through it more action for them down there. So wasted.”

A mother, Sophie Ward said: “I think there is next to nothing for young people in Sudbury. You have the park for toddlers during the day. But apart from the park there is nothing. Nothing for teenagers even more now the bowling alley has gone. If you’re a teen in Sudbury apart from the park during the day there is honestly nothing for them to do.”

However, with plans to build a hotel over some of the park, this may question the survival of the remainder.

Another mother, Natasha Pridey argued that: “There are loads of organised activities for young people in Sudbury. Obviously, it is up to the parents to encourage their children to take part in these, but I understand it may be difficult due to costs or transport.”

Teenager, Jasmine Leeder commented that: “Growing up as a teen in Sudbury myself I can personally say there is next to nothing in this town for teens. Many may say the activities are arranged for teens but I’ve never seen anything for teens to do. Yes, there is Belle Vue park but that is aimed more towards the younger kids. Maybe a better skate/bike park, cinema, shops that teens would go to, branded places such as Primark, H&M, Game, to name a few. There is nothing local for the teenagers to do and they are left to figure out what to do for themselves, but when they finally figure out what they can do, they get complaints and labelled antisocial.” She added that: “Teens have to leave Sudbury to be able to do things such as shopping and leisure activities and personally I don’t see the fairness at all. Yes, life isn’t fair, but for a teenager that hasn’t got a full-time job and is still in school, surely we should have a few more things aimed at the teens.”

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Sudbury North Street (Taken from Google Maps)

Long-time resident Gill Cawthorn added that: “This has been the same for all the time my family have been in Sudbury. We came here in 1963. There is plenty for those who like to join organised clubs and activities, nothing other the town centre or meadows for those who just want to `hang about`.”

Perhaps there is some truth here as leisure activities have been closing for years in the town, notably the cinema and outdoor swimming pool over 30 years ago.

Local mother, Joanne Greenhalgh argued that: “Teens sometimes don’t want to be around adults and won’t go to organised things. At the moment you’ll find them mostly in the bottom car park near Kingfisher and on Friars meadow at night. Younger ones often hang around Belle Vue until it gets locked up. For a while a few hung out by the Children’s Centre at Ormiston. What Sudbury lacks is places for kids to just meet up that are safe spaces but of course there’s no money in it. There are things to do in other towns, but public transport is virtually non-existent at night so they can’t get back without adult help.”

Resident, Sarah Waterfall explained that: “I think there is a wealth of stuff for teenagers if they want to get involved. There are numerous sports activities and clubs. Drama activities, choirs, music lessons are available, Scouts, Guides and you haven’t got to go too far to find Air Cadets. The library is reasonably stocked, and they will get hold of nearly anything you want to read. Yes, there isn’t a cinema, but I do sometimes think that the teenagers who complain the most about being bored lack the initiative or the will to want to get involved in something more organised and enjoyable. I also think that some teenagers expect to be constantly “entertained” rather than developing genuine interests which they can pursue themselves in their leisure time.”

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Sudbury (Taken from Google Maps)

Ralph Appleby added that: “I run The local Air Cadet squadron in Sudbury and we take young people from year 8 and upwards and I can tell you that during half term we have arranged for our cadets to have weapon training, go flying in both powered aircraft and gliders as well as meeting at the cadet centre two nights a week. We share the building with our Army Cadet friends, and they are putting on activities as well.”

Overall, the opinion of the people of Sudbury varies from one angle to the other in terms of leisure activities available for young people. It is clear to see that there are plenty of organised events and clubs available, but perhaps not enough for those who just want to meet friends. Who knows what the future will hold for this rural town especially with the closures of businesses and gradually decrepit nature of the park.

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