Why Some Young People Think Tamworth is Dead
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Tamworth Herald - 27/01/67 - Reporter John Bennett finds out...
18 year-old Alan put his crash helmet on the cafe counter and straightened his leather jacket. Then he stirred another cup of coffee and said: "Entertainment for young people in Tamworth is lousy."
Alan is one of many young people in the town who are critical of leisure-time activities available to them.
I met Alan and others who support his views in cafes and public houses in the town centre.
All of them talked of the need for more entertainment. And some of them mentioned the "trouble-making set" who, they said had caused the whittling down of activities already pitifully low.
These young people's appeals for more to do in their leisure hours may not represent the feelings of the majority. There are probably more young people perfectly satisfied with existing activities provided by youth clubs and other organisations.
I was anxious to hear the views of regular visitors to the cafes and public houses first, to find out what alternatives would be acceptable to them.
Two things surprised me - that many of them are members of youth clubs and that they were all keen to co-operate.
Motor-cyclist Alan and his girlfriend and pillion passenger both said they would like to see a bowling alley built in the town - in fact, all the young people interviewed made the same suggestion.
His girlfriend - she's not a member of the Youth Club - said, during the summer months she and Alan went to a motorcycle-club in Birmingham, to Drayton Manor and to the cinema in Sutton Coldfield. She admitted she had been banned from the Palace in Tamworth.
"Attempt was made to form a motorcycle-club in Tamworth but there were difficulties and the scheme was abandoned." she said.
"It seems to me the entertainment in Tamworth is almost dead. The cafes close earlier, there are strict regulations about being admitted to clubs and there are now no reasonably priced dances at the Assembly Rooms. I think entertainment has declined over the last year or so.
"One night a group of us went to a local discotheque but were told we would not be allowed in because the boys were wearing leather jackets." Alan said he thought all motorcyclists wearing leather jackets were "tarred" with the same brush." But a leather jacket was the only sensible wear when riding a motorcycle.
"Real troublemakers are those who go around wearing leather jackets but not riding motorcycles." he said. "They are the people getting the motor-cyclist a bad name.
"There is nothing at all to do on Sundays. I used to visit another cafe in the town then when this closes in the early evening I go to a public house next door."
Roger is aged 20 and a youth club member. He's also a motorcyclist. Roger said: "I go to a local cafe quite often and I go to the youth club almost every night except when it is closed on Saturdays and Sundays. There is entertainment in Tamworth but not nearly enough of it.
"I'm not in the youth club because I didn't really bother to join." said Roger's girlfriend. "I go to discotheques on Saturday nights but there is no real entertainment in the area apart from this."
Trevor aged 19 says he does not believe in youth clubs "There are pubs, cafes and one picture house - and that's entertainment in Tamworth. Even the little there is has finished by 10 o'clock at night.
"I have to travel to Birmingham and Sutton Coldfield to find entertainment. There are quite a number of clubs in Birmingham. Because you have got long hair and a leather jacket, you just don't seem to fit.
"I went to a Youth Club once but found it a waste of time." said 18-year old Brian, he thinks the lack of facilities for entertainment is "disgusting."
John, also aged 18, considers the town centre should be "far more lively." "I go to Youth Club on Monday nights and the local working men's club on Thursday nights, but I get bored on the other evenings."
Next I talk to 18 year-old Gordon Scott of 4, Sheepcote Lane, Glascote.
Gordon works at a local firm and rides a motor-scooter, and has written to the "Herald" complaining about the lack of entertainment.
"Where is it?" he asks. "Is there a jazz club or bowling alley? The answer to these questions is no. You could almost say there is no form of entertainment in Tamworth for the young and for the young-at-heart. Please Tamworth and Tamworthians - wake-up."
At his home, Gordon said his hobbies were dancing and bowling. He went to his youth club on three or four evenings a week and the club held dances and arranged bowling trips about once every two weeks.
"Last week, I wanted to go to a dance and the nearest one was at Coleshill." said Gordon. "The bowling alley nearest to Tamworth is Wylde Green, Sutton Coldfield."
"I used to go to the dances at the Assembly Rooms in Tamworth but they were rough houses. The New Year's Eve dance at the rooms was too expensive for me."
David is 16 and his girlfriend a year younger. His girlfriend is a youth club member, but David is not.
His girlfriend said she went to the youth club two evenings a week whenever she had a netball match to play. She enjoyed the activities provided at the Youth Club.
Both she and David said they did not go to the regular dances which used to be held in the Assembly Rooms. "My parents would not allow me to attend because of the fights there." she said.
Said David: "I would go to a Tamworth bowling alley regularly. I would also like to see an ice-skating rink and indoor swimming pool."
His girlfriend said she would like see a theatre catering for all age ranges. One of the girls said she would like to see a "Tamworth version" of the Cannon Hill Arts Centre in Birmingham, to include the art, drama and music.
Seventeen-year-old James Beaman of Milton Avenue, Leyfields, was one of the young people who two years ago organised a 750-signature petition calling for more entertainment. When last year the organisers asked what had happened to the petition or what had been done to improve the social amenities, Alderman Maurice Hatton said the petition would obviously have some bearing on the policy decisions of all committees concerned with the development of entertainment facilities for the Borough of the future
Alderman Hatton said the development committee had always made it plain that, in redeveloping the borough, it was their policy to give full weight to the provision of social and cultural amenity facilities in their master plan.
"A civic centre scheme envisaged will cost £600,000," he said. "It would be a large feature of the central area of the borough and will include a multi-purpose hall, library, small theatre, activity rooms and restaurants."
James, who accompanied me on my second visit to the cafe to hear the views young people have on entertainment, said: "People are moving to Tamworth all the time, yet entertainment is not growing at a sufficient pace. In fact, it is shrinking.
"It has been interesting to see that a Leisure Activities Committee has been formed in the reorganisation of the Borough Council. I hope the committee will give serious consideration to the teenager's needs.
"The young people do not expect to have things on a plate. They are prepared to pay for entertainment and work for it.
"It would be an excellent idea to have a coffee bar instead of a licensed bar at dances for young people at the Assembly Rooms. This would avoid any drunkenness.
"It can be seen from the replies by the young people that the youth clubs are not completely catering for their needs."