Wednesday, 4 August 1999
Summer of 1999 had brought weekly reports in the local newspaper about teenagers taking drugs, vandalising the town, being intimidating and a nuisance etc, the final straw came when I read the latest headline quoting ‘zero tolerance’ from a local councillor. I couldn’t believe that teenagers could all be that bad, so armed with my Belper News I walked round to the Memorial Gardens – the main area for the bad reports. A Group of about 12 hooded teenagers lingered round the benches, without a thought about personal safety I marched over to the oh so fearsome teenagers. They looked up as I approached, un deterred I walked in to their midst and said “you may tell me to F off cos I’m a mad cow but you will listen to me first”, They were so surprised that they invited me to join them, within minutes a crowd of around 20 had congregated, a nicer crowd you could not wish to meet. They were polite, respectful and had a great sense of humour. We talked for an hour, all they wanted was somewhere to hang out, somewhere they could call their own, minimum adult supervision so they could take responsibility. They weren’t asking for alcohol to be available, nothing fancy, just somewhere to meet up and chat, maybe have a pool table, some computers, coffee/snack bar, listen to their music, but also to feel safe. I told them it could take 5 years to set something up, their response was “we all have younger brothers and sisters, they will need somewhere to go just as we do” that convinced me they were worth fighting for, so I made them a promise, that was to do everything possible to get something set up but also to keep letting them know how things were going – good or bad – I wouldn’t be just another adult asking what they want then forgetting about them. To this day the original ‘crew’ call me the Mad Cow.