Tuesday, 16 March 2010

What do teenagers do in their spare time?

Yesterday I ran a creative writing workshop for Young Adults at Hove Library called "It's raining words". Only one teenager turned up, so in the end we opened it up to all ages and got two more participants: one 56-year old and and one 29-year old. The girls from the study support team joined in as well so in the end I had five people in the my workshop.

Despite the low number we all had great fun. Matt - the teenager wrote about a woman who lost her watering can in the library due to library staff knocking on her door telling her that her books were late ... He's 13 and it was the longest story he'd ever written and he seemed very pleased with it. He also wrote a brilliant two-line poem inspired by the old saying "It's raining cat's and dogs." The adults were equally productive and I was pleased that my exercises sparked their imagination.

Now my question is: Why did the teenagers not turn up to a free creative writing workshop?

*Not the right marketing?
A couple of months ago a leaflet went out to school children about different activities during the Aqua Festival (which my workshop was part of.) Bookings had to be made by phoning or emailing a third party (not me, not the library, but the person organising the festival) Posters and flyers went up in the library, but again pre-bookings had to be made by contacting a third party. It was also advertised on the council website and the library website.

A flyer can be seen by clicking here.

The theory me and my colleagues have is that teenagers don't want to book things in advance, they prefer to drop in on the day, so at the last minute we put a "drop in"-banner on the posters in the library.

*Not the right age group?
Teenagers is a tricky age group. Before I was sixteen I was too shy to do anything. And if you don't have any friends who want to come along it can be very difficult to go to something on your own. At that age writing could also be something that feels very private and they might be afraid they have to read out what they've written. (I wanted to do a creative writing project as my final exam work when I was 19, but decided not to do it when my teacher said I might have to show it to other people ...)

*Not the right time and place?

I can understand that if you have spent all Monday at school you might not want to come to the library, sit down and do something that almost feels like school. Not that many teenagers go to Hove Library anyway, but when the library ran a drawing manga workshop a while ago about ten teenagers turned up, so that was obviously more cool ... (on that occasion you could sign up directly in the library)

To make me feel better, any other ideas about why teenagers didn't turn up are most welcome! :) :) :)

As I've put in quite a bit of time in preparing this workshop the library managers suggested that I do it again, but that we ask a specific class to come in during school time. A break from ordinary lessons is often welcome. The talks I've done in classes during school time in Sweden have been very popular and successful.

I'm also open for doing the workshop at other venues, so please contact me if you know anyone who's interested.


  1. Glad you got a few people to join in.
    Well done for that.
    Think you have covered the bases for reasons re minimalist take up -
    Yea - Linking it to the Aqua festival was a novel twist but don't think many people would pick up the 'aqua' flyer thinking - wonder if there is a writing workshop going on! Also 13 - 19 is the hardest age to get into the library. Life has just opened up.
    Yes agree - doesn't sound like the pre-booking criteria was very sensible.
    Manager's suggestion is sound but imagine school may want you to go there. What about youth group contacts?
    Well the preparations been done and nothing is ever wasted just becoming part of a broader us xx Jenni

  2. The points that Jenni has made seem right to me. The most offputting aspect was that bookings had to be done through a third party - a very bad idea. Taking the workshop to schools would probably work best of all, you'd gain a 'captive' audience, but that would avail the library not one jot. Oh well.



  3. I have children aged 8, 10, 11, 13, 15, 16, 18, 19 and 22. the 3 youngest ones love going to clubs and the library but the other ones just the ones between 13 and 16 just sit at home and watch tv and play on computers and the oldest 3 do what they want... i agree that children should be more involded with things.

    Bobby :)