Public Spaces that work for Young People: ‘finding somewhere you can stay without having to pay’

On 27th October, the My Castle Gateway team took a walk with six members of York’s Youth Council to explore how young people use the city’s public space. How do young people use the public spaces York already has? And what new possibilities might the Castle Gateway area offer?

Museum Gardens

We started in Museum Gardens which was seen as a good place to hang out. Both socialable if you want and quiet and secluded if you don’t.

 ‘It is somewhere to sit’

‘Quiet and pleasant;

‘A good place to meet friends’

‘There are not a lot of tourists’

‘I like the squirrels’

‘It’s big and open yet also lots of little place’

‘There are nice enclaves, nice not to have to be with people’


Parliament Street, what-was-once-a-fountain and Buskers

We then moved through town to Parliament Street, where we gathered around what was once the fountain but is now, as one member of the group put it, ‘a hexagonal advertising board’ and spoke mostly about the pleasures of York’s busking scene.

‘Love the buskers’

‘Buskers create a good atmosphere’

‘lovely to walk along and hear different things’

‘The buskers are great – it’s like there is a York playlist’


After dark? / In the Winter: ‘There is nothing to do for free’

When parks are not usable – in the dark or in winter – there seems to be a serious lack of things for young people to do in the evening. The challenge being ’finding somewhere you can stay without having to pay’: 

‘I just loiter around in town’

‘Reel cinema has gone now, so there now no cheap cinema in York’

‘Waterstones, last shop to shut’

‘95% time I spend in shops, it is not to buy anything’

‘The routine is Watersons, HMV, Travelling Man’

‘I’d rather die and sit in a café and pay £3 for a cup of tea’


Town after dark was not seen as a welcoming place for young people:


‘Ban hen dos and stag dos’

‘I never hang out after 7pm because of hen parties’


Instead here was a call for alternative young people-run spaces:


‘We need an indoor place of young people to hang out in the city centre’

‘We need a space for us, movies, cheap food’.

‘A place that is just our space’


Benches can help in this loitering activity, when it’s not raining(…if not for all):


‘Shambles kitchen, there’s a nice bench there’

‘Me and my friends don’t sit on benches’

‘Me and my friends do, because we’re all poor’


Are our public spaces working for local young people?

In general when it is day time and the sun is shining young people have places to spend time in York. If it is evening or cold or wet then – like everyone trying to spend time in York without spending money – then young people don’t have places to spend time, not really. The group had an analysis of the issues:

‘We need an area for the residents of York’

‘We need to make York so boring no one will want to go’

‘Residents weekend – it is ONE weekend in the whole year!’

‘What we see is gentrification and sanitising the city for tourists’

‘We need our space where local businesses can grow’


Raising the question of what kind of places and spaces can Castle Gateway off to young people, and all of us, who want to enjoy the city centre without paying £3 for a cup of tea.





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