No Surprises Living In Devizes: Teenage rampage or Wiltshire Youth Assembly?

Darren Worrow finds out about Wiltshire Assembly of Youth

“AW my gawd,” Nan howled, “Reg; come an ‘ave a butcher’s at this!”

I recall my Grandad sauntering into the front room as ordered, tea towel in hand. He examined the content on television and stood aghast in the doorway. This man had voyaged from Cairo through Tripoli across the Sahara Desert, returned to cross Italy into Austria to tidy the end of a brutal war; still he stared at the TV as if this was the most shocking thing he’d ever seen.

My brother and I protested. Boy George continued to sing “Karma Chameleon,” on Top of the Pops while my Grandad huffed, “Is it a boy or a girl?” They had adapted to moving images as well as sound in the living room, “like going to the pictures;” they couldn’t hope to understand the stuff they put on it.

For our parents who just remembered an era when they didn’t have one, the television was a viewed as a threat, stopping youth undergoing outside activities and filth causing a teenage rampage, men wearing women’s clothes just one; still they sat and watched it every evening like some obligatory new-fangled amusement.

For us TV was there and always had been. We could take it or leave it; we still went outside to play. For them it was a lame excuse to criticise “the youth of today.” They actually sat and watched Mary Whitehouse whinging about the content of TV, on their TV, as well as Dick Emery. If that’s hypocritical we follow their example and tut whenever we consider how much time “kids these days” spend online, and spread it across social media.

Kids will be kids; they’re no different now, only they have the Facebook police scoring points on every move they make. They view the internet as we did television, it’s always been in their lives, they take it, use it when needed and leave it when there are other activities to do. While forty-somethings treat it like a magical realm, because it’s new we worship it.

A couple of months ago the viral image of children under Rembrandt’s The Night Watch spread like wildfire across social media, shared by whinging oldies. Disgraced that the teenagers were all ignoring the masterpiece to play on their smart phones, it was backed up with all kinds of critical captions condemning youth, labelling it “a metaphor for our age.”

And I agree it’s a perfect metaphor for our age, illustrating how hypocritical adults are. Because the truth behind the image is the children were studying information on the painting via an app on their phones, supplied by the gallery, and moments earlier another photo was taken, but rarely shared, of all the children captivated by Rembrandt’s masterpiece.

Takes me to the last, hopefully, of my ongoing rant, covering where one teenager’s step out of line sees a plethora of heated disparagements about an entire generation when really we need to dismount our hypocritical high horse and admit this era is no different from previous ones. There’s a few trouble-makers but mostly the youth are switched on and actively doing good; even politically to my surprise.

I think politicians and Lords should be forced to withdraw at footballer’s retirement age. Maybe have the House of Lords made up with a conglomerate of Little Mix and Tinie Tempah, or Devizes own teen boyband 98 Reasons. Honestly, they couldn’t physically make it any worse if they wanted to.

But musicians don’t do politically revolutionary stuff anymore; imagine Katy Perry covering Blowin’ in the Wind, it’d be about short skirts. So I was interested to hear from Freya Pigott about the Wiltshire Assembly of Youth and the UK Youth Parliament; some youngsters are into politics and they’re a zillion quintillion times smarter than us.

The Wiltshire Assembly of Youth is made up of elected members from across the county, aged 11-18.

Meeting monthly in three areas of Wiltshire, they invite young people to have their say. I wanted to ask if there’s a balance of political opinion in the group.

“We’re apolitical, and keep party politics out of it,” Freya enlightened, “but we find ourselves conflicting with Wiltshire Council, as we often stand up against cuts to public transport and youth services, while calling for more funding for mental health services.”

Freya Pigott

So, do they discuss local topics, national, or take on the world?

“WAY only deals with local issues on a county-level,” she continued, “however UK Youth Parliament deals with youth issues on a national level, and the issues on the two levels are often very similar. The opportunities WAY give young people mean that our members are more than ready to take on the world!”

I asked Freya if they only debated or if they lobby parliament too? “We debate on priority issues and take that further, be it campaigning local councils or encouraging schools to act. UKYP have a select committee in parliament every year on their priority topic, which creates a report given to government, for them to act upon.”

I fired my burning question; if the referendum vote was given to under 18s, do you think it would have a different outcome?

“Both WAY and UKYP champion votes at 16; the turnout from the Scottish Referendum was incredible, and it’s heart-breaking to think so many important voices go unheard due to age, especially when it’s them who will live through the consequences. Who’s to say with the EU referendum? I was 17 at the time of the vote, but will be 19 in August. It’s so difficult to not feel riled about the fact I didn’t have my say. My generation will feel the full impact of Brexit, whether they feel positively or negatively about it, and for that reason alone, their voices more than deserved to be heard.”

I cannot argue with that, concluding the majority of teenagers are a darn sight smarter than we label them on social media. My generation, who grew up criticised by the “wireless generation” about the TV we watched should not complain about the youth of today, especially blaming it on their internet usage.

Or else we all go back to listening to the radio; which here in Devizes may not be such a bad thing. I was thrilled to hear it’s Devizes-own radio station Fantasy FM’s fifth birthday this week; been meaning to catch up with them for an episode of my crazy column, think they’ll be for it? Happy birthday Fantasy!



  1. A good post, Darren. I agree with much of what you say. Unfortunately, the media (or the public who consume it, for that matter,) aren’t interested in writing about the good work and behavior of the majority, just the bad ones.
    Many older people are afraid of teenagers as a result. I’m not one of them, though, having been a secondary school teacher and dealt with them, good and bad, in groups of 30. I can assure anyone that the majority are nice, decent human beings.
    One thing, though, you say you think voting should be at 16. I’m not so sure. Yes, the 16 year olds will have to live through the results of our votes, but so will 15 year olds, 12 year olds, 10 year olds etc. where do you draw the line? Some 16 year olds are mature, but many aren’t, and couldn’t care less.
    Having said that, many older voters seemed only to respond to slogans, like the ‘leave’ campaign’s ‘take our country back.’ The remain didn’t have a slogan and failed. Trump had a slogan, ‘Make America Great again’. He won. The Democrats didn’t. Obama had ‘yes we can’ and won.


WordPress spam blocked by CleanTalk.