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Global Youth


An interdisciplinary research centre that examines what it means to grow up in a global world


Youth mobility webinar series week 5: Young Unaccompanied Asylum Seekers in the UK

By UCL Global Youth, on 21 April 2021

On Tuesday 1st June, 2021, 12 noon UK time. Register for this event on Eventbrite.

The fifth and final webinar in this series focuses on the distinct mobility experiences of young unaccompanied asylum seekers and the challenges they face after they arrive in the UK.

Dr Elaine Chase and Dr Rachel Rosen seek to understand youth mobilities (and immobilities) within the context of violent and discriminatory immigration systems and structures which also shape largely restrictive welfare regimes.  They argue that the most urgent issues we need to understand are not the factors driving young people to move/stay, but rather their experiences of and interactions with immigration and welfare systems and structures once they arrive in the UK/Europe. COVID-19 has added another layer of complexity to all this (impacting on access to asylum procedures/ justice/rights etc).  In such contexts, aspirations frequently become collective endeavours to reshape the immigration/welfare landscape through collective voice and forms of advocacy.

Presentation 1: Lives on Hold our Stories Told (LOHST): Unaccompanied migrant young people’s perspectives on the impact of COVID-19 on their lives and wellbeing

Dr Elaine Chase, UCL Institute of Education

Previous work has shown how the wellbeing outcomes of unaccompanied migrant young people arriving in the UK, particularly as they make the transition to institutional ‘adulthood’ at 18, are structured by complex immigration, social care and related policies.  Hence, vulnerabilities in the context of mobility and migration are fundamentally politically-induced (Chase and Allsopp 2020).  COVID- 19 has added another layer of complexity to the lives of young people seeking the right to remain in the UK and build their futures here.  This presentation will capture the approach and early findings from a peer-research study into the impact of COVID-19 on young people’s access to legal and social support and on their lives more generally- LOHST. It illustrates how contexts of ‘crisis’ can be generative of endeavours to reshape the immigration/ welfare landscape through collective voice and advocacy.

About the author: Elaine Chase is an Associate Professor in Education, Health Promotion and International Development at UCL Institute of Education. Elaine’s teaching and research focus on the sociological dimensions of health, wellbeing and rights of individuals and communities, particularly those most likely to experience marginalisation and exclusion. Elaine is particularly interested in the interface between policy, practice and context. Current research focuses on the wellbeing outcomes of children, young people and families subject to immigration control and on educational wellbeing in contexts of mass displacement.

Presentation 2: ‘Between waithood and alternative futures: children and young people on the move’

Dr Rachel Rosen, UCL Social Research Institute

Accounts of children and young people young people who have come to the UK on their own through precarious migration routes have aptly demonstrated that their futures are held hostage by a restrictive migration regime. Prolonged periods of uncertain waithood for regularised status, combined with anti-migrant sentiments in the UK’s hostile environment, can foreclose imaginaries of the future in what anthropologist Nicolas De Genova refers to as an ‘enforced presentism’.

In this paper, I do not dispute the detrimental effects of restrictive migration regimes on the futures of separated child migrants. Instead, in thinking with research data from Children Caring on the Move (CCoM), I seek to complicate such understandings. Heeding recent warnings not to collapse migrants into the temporality of waithood or futureless lives where regularised status in a national order is the route to a stable future, I attend to young migrants’ care for and about others while they wait. Doing so, I argue, provides insights not only into waithood and its afterlife, but reorients conceptualisations of young people’s future to the uneven possibilities and practices for imagining and constructing alternative futures.

About the author: Rachel Rosen is an Associate Professor at the UCL Social Research Institute. Her research focuses on the intersections of unequal childhoods, social reproduction, and migration in neoliberal border regimes. She co-leads the ESRC-funded Children Caring on the Move project.

This series is hosted by the UCL Centre for Global Youth and co-organised by Dr. Avril Keating (Director of the Centre), Dr Sazana Jayadeva (University of Cambridge) and Rachel Benchekroun (UCL-IOE). The series is funded by IOE International.

Youth mobility webinar series week 4: UK

By UCL Global Youth, on 19 April 2021

On Tuesday 25th May, 2021, 12 noon UK time. Register for this event on Eventbrite.

The fourth webinar of this series will focus on student mobility within the UK and youth attitudes towards international mobility (their own and that of Others).

In the first presentation, Dr Michael Donnelly (University of Bath) and Dr Sol Gamsu (University of Durham) discuss how university students’ geographic movements within the UK (re)produce social, economic, racial and ethnic divisions.

Next, Dr Avril Keating examines how young White British youth talk about international mobility and argues that these attitudes are fraught with contradictions that stem from the mixed messages young people receive about mobility, migration, multiculturalism, citizenship and individualism.

Presentation 1: Spatial structures of student mobility: Social, economic and ethnic ‘geometries of power’

Dr Michael Donnelly (University of Bath) and Dr Sol Gamsu (University of Durham)

We present here findings from an ESRC-funded study which addressed the geographic movements of university students internally within the UK context, examining how these are constitutive of broader societal division, stratification and processes of social reproduction. Using Giddens and Massey and drawing on a unique multi‐sited qualitative dataset, we examine how these flows can be understood as embedded within narratives of ‘the self’ that are situated within a particular spatial structuring of social, economic, and ethnic difference. In our presentation, we also discuss the methodological questions raised by our study on researching difference across space, offering the ‘mapping tool’ we developed as part of the research as one means of eliciting deep-seated spatial imaginaries held by groups and individuals.

The use of this mapping tool to collect data across multiple case study localities provided a unique opportunity to observe the simultaneity of social relations across space, mutually shaping, and reshaping each other over time. We illustrate how embedded within imagined mobility narratives are deeply unequal structures of economic power, (re)producing oppressed and dominant positions across social and geographic space. Geometries of race and ethnicity are also shown to structure the ways in which different ethnic groups look upon the geography of their university choices. The patterning of these imagined spatial flows around the United Kingdom at the point of university entry can be interpreted as one further manifestation of deep‐seated geometries of power that pervade social life.

About the authors:

Michael Donnelly is an Associate Professor at the University of Bath and is mainly interested in the sociology of education, especially links between education and social stratification, inequality and wider societal divisions. His current research addresses education and Indigeneity, examining the ‘collectivising’ and ‘individualising’ discourses present within the Mexican higher education system (funded by ESRC). Michael’s previous UK-based research has addressed the role of geography in higher education and labour market transitions and the ‘school effect’ on university destinations (also funded by ESRC).

Sol Gamsu is an Assistant Professor at the University of Durham. He is a sociologist and a geographer of education with a strong commitment to the politics of education and envisaging alternative futures for education and society more broadly. His interests lie at the intersection of sociology, geography and history and the central theme running through his work is how structures and experiences of power and inequality in education are reproduced over time and through different local and regional geographies. Prior to this, he was a postdoc at the University of Bath working with Michael Donnelly on the ESRC-funded project, the Geographies of Higher Education: spatial and social mobilities.

Presentation 2: Mobility for me but not for Others: the contradictory cosmopolitan practices of contemporary White British youth

Dr Avril Keating (UCL)

This presentation seeks to problematise the perception that young people are committed cosmopolitans by highlighting some of the contradictory and contingent practices that young White British youth engage in. To do so, I explore a contradiction that emerged in my recent projects when young people talked about mobility and migration, namely how some White British youth want (and assume) freedom of movement for themselves but are opposed to freedom of movement when it involves immigrants coming to Britain. Here I argue that this can be viewed as an effort to enjoy the benefits of a cosmopolitan lifestyle (particularly through geographical mobility) while nonetheless wishing to limit opportunities for cultural Others to do likewise. This manifestation, I suggest, should be seen as a one-way form of cosmopolitanism that is not just contradictory, but also a reflection of the mixed messages young people in Britain receive about mobility, migration, multiculturalism, citizenship and individualism. This presentation draws from an article that is forthcoming in Sociology.

About the author:

Avril Keating is the Director of the Centre for Global Youth and an Associate Professor of Comparative Social Science at UCL Institute of Education.  Avril is a sociologist of youth and citizenship and her current research focuses on (a) youth attitudes towards cultural Others and what this tells us about who gets to be a citizen in contemporary Britain (b) the relationship between place, resources, and mobility aspirations for young people growing up in coastal towns. She also has a long-standing interest in citizenship education, youth civic engagement and the Europeanisation of citizenship education policy.

This series is hosted by the UCL Centre for Global Youth and co-organised by Dr. Avril Keating (Director of the Centre), Dr Sazana Jayadeva (University of Cambridge) and Rachel Benchekroun (UCL-IOE). The series is funded by IOE International.


Youth mobility webinar series week 3: Australia

By UCL Global Youth, on 12 April 2021

On Tuesday 18 May, 2021, 9am UK time. Register for this event on Eventbrite.

Temporality in Mobile Lives: Contemporary Asia-Australia Migration and Everyday Time

In this week’s seminar, Dr. Shanthi Robertson explores the lives of middleclass Asian young people who arrived in Australia during the first decades of the 21st century on temporary visas. Belonging to a generation for whom ‘global’ life experience (often in the form of transient mobilities for study and work rather than classical settler migration) has become culturally normative, these mobile young people have specific expectations about how their mobility will facilitate their trajectories into adult life. However, as the paper seeks to show, these aspirations and imaginaries of transnational mobility play out in diverse and uneven outcomes, particularly in the unfolding of migrants’ biographies over time, as well as in their everyday lived experiences of time in different places.

Drawing on extensive narrative interviews and visual ethnographic material, this paper focuses on how experiences of cultural, social and embodied time are shaped by the migration process. Using the concept of ‘chronomobilities’, which draws on ideas of ‘time-regimes’ (the macro and mesoscale temporal conditions that shape contemporary social life) and ‘time-logics’ (the way individuals narrate and make meaning of their lived experiences of time) the analysis reveals how migrant experiences and biographies are changing under the socio-temporal conditions of modernity and how multiple lived experiences of time structure relations to work, place and intimate life.

About the author:

Shanthi Robertson is an Associate Professor in the School of Humanities and Communication Arts and an Institute Fellow at the Institute for Culture and Society at Western Sydney University, specializing in migration and diversity, youth studies and urban social change. She has completed an Australian Research Council (ARC) fellowship on Asian temporary migrants to Australia and is currently Chief Investigator on three ARC Discovery and Linkage projects that focus on: the economic, social and civic outcomes of transnational youth mobility for young people moving into and out of Australia for work, leisure and study; the role of autonomous technology in the social inclusion of migrants living with disability in Sydney; and the changing social civic practices in Sydney suburbs with high numbers of Chinese heritage residents. Her most recent publications appear in Geoforum, Current Sociology, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, and Journal of Youth Studies. Her second book, Temporality in Mobile Lives: Contemporary Asia-Australia Migration and Everyday Time, was published by Bristol University Press January 2021.

This series is hosted by the UCL Centre for Global Youth and co-organised by Dr. Avril Keating (Director of the Centre), Dr Sazana Jayadeva (University of Cambridge) and Rachel Benchekroun (UCL-IOE). The series is funded by IOE International.

Youth mobility webinar series week 2: China

By UCL Global Youth, on 12 April 2021

On Tuesday 11 May, 2021, 12 noon UK time. Register for this event on Eventbrite.

The second webinar of this series will focus on education mobilities in East Asia. To start the session, Prof Johanna Waters will share her findings on how families discuss their daily trans-border commutes for schooling, drawing on primary research with families in Hong Kong. Focusing on the prevalence of tiredness and exhaustion, Johanna argues that corporality and emotions in education mobilities are under-explored in the literature.

Jiexiu Chen will then present findings from her research in China on rural students’ experiences of settling down in the city. Building on Bourdieu to examine migration across social boundaries, Jiexiu proposes four orientations of habitus to demonstrate individuals’ tendencies to maintain continuity or embrace changes: urbanised habitus, liminal habitus, permeated habitus, and twisted habitus.

After the presentations, Dr Cora Xu (Durham University) will identify cross-cutting themes and will invite questions from webinar participants.

Presentation 1: Cross-boundary mobilities for education in East Asia: tiredness and exhaustion

Professor Johanna Waters, UCL Geography

My talk foregrounds and unpacks the significance of education for the mobilities of children in contemporary East Asia, drawing principally on primary research with families, undertaken in Hong Kong and across the political border with Mainland China (Shenzhen). Focusing on the example of cross-boundary schooling, the presentation explores households’ experiences of a daily trans-border commute, stressing the prevalence of tiredness and exhaustion in families’ narratives of their quotidian practices. The corporality and differentiated experiences of everyday mobilities for education are rarely explored in the extant literature and yet this has been one of the striking aspects of our findings. In this talk, I will briefly explore how families discussed cross-boundary schooling – the emotions and feelings evoked within our qualitative accounts.

About the author:  Johanna L. Waters is Professor of Human Geography and co-Director of the Migration Research Unit at UCL. She has worked for a number of years on aspects of transnational families, education and migration, with a particular interest in East Asia. She is presently editing a book with Brenda Yeoh (NUS) on Migration and the Family (forthcoming with Edward Elgar) and is looking forward, in the next few months, to the publication of Student Migrants and Contemporary Educational Mobilities (Waters, J. and R. Brooks, 2021, Palgrave). Johanna is proud to be elected as a Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales.

Presentation 2: Urbanised, liminal, permeated, and twisted: four orientations of habitus in rural students’ transitions to urban life

Jiexiu Chen, PhD candidate, UCL Institute of Education

 In the Chinese context of a stratified education system and significant urban–rural inequality, rural students generally face limited possibilities for social mobility through higher education. Despite these structural constraints, some exceptional rural students manage to get themselves enrolled in urban universities. Drawing on 50 rural students’ life history interviews conducted in Beijing, Shanghai, and Ji’nan in 2018, I adopt Bourdieu’s conceptual tools to explore these students’ subjective experiences of migrating across social boundaries.

In this webinar, I will focus on rural students’ experiences of settling down in the city as well as their identity struggle between their rural origins and their current status as urban residents. I propose four orientations of habitus to demonstrate individuals’ tendencies to maintain continuity (rural) or embrace changes (urban) at the time they were interviewed: urbanised habitus, liminal habitus, permeated habitus, and twisted habitus. I find participants’ narratives generally demonstrate a degree of fluidity or conflict in their habitus transformation process, and the elements of these different possibilities are likely to concurrently exist. Their unique habitus reveals the geographical and emotional traces of their individual trajectories, like the experiences they encounter at different stages of their life and the forms and amounts of resources they accumulate along the way. Moreover, most participants tend to maintain close ties with their rural families, as repaying parents is one of the essential requirements of filial piety in the Chinese tradition. I suggest the contradictions and ambivalences aroused from the tension between rural origins and urban life appear in a nuanced form and reveal the distinctiveness of the Chinese rural context.

About the author: Jiexiu Chen is a PhD candidate at the Institute of Education, University College London, UK. She was awarded a full PhD scholarship by the China Scholarship Council’s National Construction High-Level University Postgraduate Project. Her research interests include social mobility, urban-rural migration, cross-cultural adaptation, and higher education policy. She has an emerging journal article and book publication on rural students’ social mobility experiences and international scholars’ cross-cultural adaptations in China.


This series is hosted by the UCL Centre for Global Youth and co-organised by Dr Avril Keating (Director of the Centre), Dr Sazana Jayadeva (University of Cambridge) and Rachel Benchekroun (UCL-IOE). The series is funded by IOE International.

Youth mobility webinar series week 1: India

By UCL Global Youth, on 9 April 2021

On Tuesday 4 May, 2021, 12 noon UK time. Register for this event on Eventbrite.

The first webinar of this series will focus on rural/urban youth mobility and international student mobility in India.

To start the session, Prof Supriya RoyChowdhury and Prof Carol Upadhya (NIAS, Bangalore, India) will present their findings on the migration of rural youth to the city to take up (often low-paid, insecure) jobs in the services sector, persuaded by government-funded, private sector-run skills training centres to ‘raise their aspirations’.

Next, Dr Peidong Yang (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore) shares insights into international student mobility, drawing on his ethnographic research on Indian youths pursuing English-medium medical degrees at a provincial university in China. He argues that ‘rationalistic’ explanations of Indian students’ educational mobility do not give the full picture: instead, he draws on the notions of compromise and complicity to explain behaviour and interactions.

Following the presentations, Dr Sazana Jayadeva (University of Cambridge) will draw out key themes and will invite questions for our speakers from webinar participants.

Presentation 1: Taking the Train Back Home:  Migrant Service Workers in Bengaluru

 Prof Supriya RoyChowdhury and Prof Carol Upadhya (both NIAS, Bangalore, India)

This presentation draws on a two-year study of youth from marginalised rural households who have been recruited by skill training and then placed in low-end service sector jobs in Bengaluru, India. We describe the processes of ‘mobilisation’ employed by NGOs to convince young people with 10th standard education and above to join short-term skill courses. While their expressed goal is to ‘raise the aspirations’ of youth from low-income families, once they enter training the effort is to ‘lower their expectations’ because the courses cannot equip them for the type of employment they desire – secure, well-paid government or public sector jobs. We highlight the tension between the aspirations of these rural youth who are channeled into the new service economy on the promise of social mobility, and the realities of these jobs and urban life – leading to peripatetic ‘career‘ paths in which they cycle frequently between the city, their hometowns or villages and other sites, in search of better employment or additional training or education. The instability of their life courses reflects the conditions of work in the new service economy in India, which is marked by fluidity and precarity and whose employers benefit from the availability of a large pool of potential workers from outside the city. The presentation reflects on how youth from low-income households try to forge strategies of social and spatial mobility in pursuit of their own aspirations against the background of the crisis of unemployment in India.

About the authors:

Supriya RoyChowdhury is currently Visiting Professor at the National Institute of Advanced Studies. Her book, City of Shadows: Slums and Informal Work in Bangalore, is forthcoming from Cambridge University Press.

Carol Upadhya is Professor at the National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bengaluru, where she heads the Urban & Mobility Studies Programme. She co-edited the volume Provincial Globalization in India: Transregional Mobilities and Development Politics (Routledge, 2018).

Presentation 2: Compromise and complicity as “extra-rational” logics of international student mobility: the case of Indian medical students in a provincial university in China

Dr Peidong Yang (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore)

Existing scholarship on international student mobility (ISM) often draws on Bourdieu to interpret such mobility as a strategy of capital accumulation and conversion used by relatively privileged individuals/families to reproduce their social position and advantage. This perspective stems from and also reinforces a rationalistic/calculative understanding of student mobility. In this talk, I focus on an empirical case that scarcely exhibits “typical” characteristics of student mobility: Indian youths of less affluent backgrounds pursuing English-medium medical degrees (MBBS) at a provincial university in China. After initially struggling to offer “rationalistic” explanations of the Indian students’ educational mobility endeavour, I turn to the notions of compromise and complicity to articulate the sociocultural logics characterizing various stakeholders’ behaviour and interactions in this case. In doing so, I make an attempt to take ISM analysis beyond “rationalistic” theorizations such as those inherent in the Bourdieusian perspective and the “push-pull” framework.

This talk will be largely based on the speaker’s publication:  Yang, P. (2018). Compromise and complicity in international student mobility: the ethnographic case of Indian medical students at a Chinese university. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education. 39(5), 694-708. https://doi.org/10.1080/01596306.2018.1435600

About the author:

Peidong Yang is an Assistant Professor at the National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. A sociologist of education, Peidong’s main research interest is the intersection between education and migration/mobility. He has worked on a number projects, including Chinese student mobility to Singapore, Indian medical students in China, and immigrant teachers in Singapore. He is the author of International Mobility and Educational Desire: Chinese Foreign Talent Students in Singapore (Palgrave, 2016) and numerous journal articles. www.peidongyang.com


This series is hosted by the UCL Centre for Global Youth and co-organised by Dr Avril Keating (Director of the Centre), Dr Sazana Jayadeva (University of Cambridge) and Rachel Benchekroun (UCL-IOE). The series is funded by IOE International.

New webinar series on youth mobility coming soon, May 4th – June 1st 2021

By UCL Global Youth, on 29 March 2021

Youth mobility: comparing internal and international mobility experiences around the world

Geographical mobility is closely linked to youth, as young people are most likely to become mobile, whether it is driven by necessity (e.g. to access education or employment), a lifestyle or individual choice (e.g. for personal development), or a combination of these reasons. While young people have always been mobile, in the contemporary context, mobility has often become integral to the process of becoming an adult.

Given its importance for young lives, the UCL CGY is hosting a series of 5 webinars to explore youth mobility practices in different parts of the world. What are the drivers and motivations for mobility in different countries and social groups? Which social groups get to be mobile and what does this mean for those who are “left behind”? What impact does mobility have on youth transitions and youth identities? And what impact, if any, has the COVID-19 pandemic had on youth aspirations for and experiences of mobility?

These are some of the key questions that will be explored in these 5 webinars, drawing on the experiences of young people in 4 different countries: India, Australia, China and the UK. The fifth and final seminar will focus on the experiences of young people seeking asylum in the UK.

Each Tuesday from 4 May to 1 June 2021, we invite two researchers to present some of their latest research and ask a discussant to place the research in context.

Our confirmed speakers include:

  • Johanna Waters (UCL Geography) UK
  • Carol Upadhya and Supriya RoyChowdhury (National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore) India
  • Peidong Yang (National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University) Singapore
  • Shanthi Robertson (Western Sydney University) Australia
  • Michael Donnelly (University of Bath) and Sol Gamsu (University of Durham) UK
  • Elaine Chase (UCL)
  • Jiexiu Chen (UCL)

More details about the seminars, speakers and registration will be available in mid-April. The webinars will also be recorded and subsequently made available for free via our Youtube Channel.

This series is hosted by the UCL Centre for Global Youth and co-organised by Dr. Avril Keating (Director of the Centre), Dr Sazana Jayadeva (University of Cambridge) and Rachel Benchekroun (UCL-IOE). The series is funded by IOE International.

 “CGY Conversations with…” a series of interviews with youth researchers around the world

By UCL Global Youth, on 28 September 2020

COVID-19 has disrupted our usual research dissemination methods, and it has not been possible to host our usual seminars and workshops this year. But we didn’t want to miss out on hearing about all the amazing research that is taking place right now, and so we started a new initiative called “CGY Conversations with…”

As the name suggests, the “CGY Conversations with…” series involve us having conversations with youth researchers about their current research and their future research plans. The hope is that this format will be more informal than a research presentation webinar, but still informative. The interviews take place on Zoom and the recordings are posted on our Youtube channel.

Some recent highlights include:

  • Dr Sarah Pickard (Sciences Po) talking about youth environmental activism.
  • Professor Judith Bessant (RMIT) introducing her new book, Making-Up People: Youth, Truth & Politics
  • Dr Brett Lashua (IOE) talking about music, place, race and innovative research methodologies.
  • Dr Kieran Mitton (KCL) discussing youth gangs in Sierra Leone, Cape Town, Rio and London
  • Dr. Crystal Abidin (Curtain University) on the emergence of internet cultures and influencers
  • Dr. Sazana Jayadeva (Cambridge University) on the impact of COVID-19 on student migration aspirations.

To find out more, check out our Youtube channel.

Last updated: 19/04/2021

Mapping young lives: what are the spaces and places that young people use in coastal towns?

By UCL Global Youth, on 18 July 2019

By Rachel Benchekroun and Avril Keating

The initial discussions with the Year 10 students in Margate suggested that there were key areas of the town that young people did not feel were safe or accessible. To try to identify the spaces and places that young people do feel they can use, Rachel asked the students to draw maps of their town.

For this exercise, the students were given about 5 minutes to create a map to show where they go and where they feel safe. The maps they produced highlighted the different types and levels of mobility within the group.

Home – School – Home

Several students said they do not go anywhere other than walking from home to school and back; this was reflected in their maps, which either depicted just their bedroom or house, or represented their home and school and the trajectory between the two. Jessie (female, 14), for example, drew her house and the corner shop, showing her movements between the rooms of the house and to and from the shop, where she said she goes to buy crisps.

Meanwhile, Sam’s map consists of a plan of his bedroom (taking up just one small corner of the page), with an image of the TV and PlayStation that he uses for entertainment, and a table ‘where my chicken is’.

Jessie’s map

Sam’s map








This tendency to stay so close to home can be explained in part by fact that contemporary teenagers spend more time in their homes than previous generations. Although they remain within the home, Ito et al (2009) argue that we should not automatically assume contemporary youth are more isolated; instead, they are often engaged in online forms of ‘hanging out’ that replicate the youth activities (e.g. chatting, gossiping, collaborating) that used to happen ‘offline’. However, while this may be true for Sam, Jessie told us she spends so much time at home because: I don’t have friends to go out with. […] I stay at my house. I don’t go anywhere.

In this town, another possible reason that young people spend so much time at home is that they felt that going out was unsafe. Parts of Margate are plagued by high rates of crime, and its young residents are particularly vulnerable to some of these criminal activities. As a result, it is perhaps no surprise that one student told us:

I do like Margate but […] I don’t feel safe. I stay at home unless I go out with my family, like once a month for the community activity. My mum says not to go out because there are gangs. […] I don’t go out. I stay at home.

Making local spaces their own

When the students do stray beyond home or school boundaries, they told us that they tend to hang out at cheap shops and supermarkets in the town centre (such as Aldi, Lidl and Poundstretchers) or the large retail park that was on the outskirts of town. This continues the long-standing tradition of teenagers hanging out on the high street, but it also reflects young people’s often limited resources, and their limited access to, and exclusion from, various forms of public spaces (Ito et al, 2009, Shaw et al, 2015).

These retail spaces are not targeted at young people, but the students were creative in their use of these places and found ways of making them their own. Lydia and Evangeline (14), for example, took great delight in co-producing a large picture of the local supermarket where they claimed to spend most of their time. Lydia explained: “it’s my favourite place. It’s my home away from home.”

Rachel: How often do you go there and why?

Lydia: I live there, it’s my house! [laughs]

Teacher: Do you hang out IN [the supermarket] or outside?

Lydia: Both.

Teacher: What about the security guy?

Lydia: We play ‘Double Double This This’ [a clapping game] with him.

Lydia and Evangeline are thus an example of young people claiming urban spaces through ‘playful encounter’ and creating ‘momentary micro-atmospheres of joy’ (Pyyry and Tani 2017, Pyyry 2016). As young people ‘hanging out’, they ‘take part in urban life and in the creation of its fleeting atmospheres. They are involved with places that are important to them and claim these as their own, even if just temporarily’ (Pyyry and Tani, 2017, p.12).

Tourist areas = not spaces for local youth?

Of course, Margate has lots of non-retail local amenities, and some of these were reflected in some of the students’ maps. In these maps, the key landmarks that were featured were the beach, Dreamland amusement park, and the Turner Contemporary Art Gallery in the centre of Margate. Yet, while some of students did utilise these places, the subsequent discussion revealed that most did not.  The students’ more typical relationship with these places is reflected in Lydia and Rory’s discussion of the latter’s map:

Lydia: My dear friend, why do you enjoy visiting those places?

Rory: I don’t enjoy going to those places… I just put [them] there for effect. Turner, I never go. Sometimes I go to Ramsgate Fried Chicken. I visit Tivoli [area of Margate] quite often. I hang out there.

In short, these sites tended to be viewed as spaces for tourists, not for young people that live in the town.

What do the maps tell us about youth mobility?

The students’ maps indicate that most have low levels of geographical mobility, even within their own town. Most of the young people focused on the micro-scale, and the (very) local environment. The one exception to this was James who, in contrast to the others, drew a detailed map of the Thanet district, showing not only Margate but other towns in the region, with arrows towards other towns, including London. James even included a key along the side of the map, to indicate how often he visits them.

This geographically-rich map provided a striking contrast with the other maps, but as this was a pilot project, we did not have an opportunity to explore why James focused on his connections with the wider region, rather than with the local town as the others did. One avenue we would like to explore in the future is if his greater exposure to mobility indicated (a) an increased propensity to be more geographically mobile in the future and/ or (b) a greater likelihood of social mobility in the future. As Skrbis et al (2014) point out, mobility is now widely treated as a passport to a better future for young people. As a result, the dynamics of globalisation mean that, for this generation of young people anyway, geographical and social mobility are closely intertwined.

This project was funded by the UCL Grand Challenge small grant scheme in association with the UCL Grand Challenge of Cultural Understanding. 

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Attachment to place: how do young people feel about their seaside town?

By UCL Global Youth, on 16 July 2019

By Rachel Benchekroun and Avril Keating

A recent House of Lords’ report outlined the wide range of challenges facing coastal communities and highlighted the short- and long-term impacts that these challenges can have on young lives.  What was less clear was how young people themselves feel about their growing up in these communities. This was one of the key questions we wanted to explore throughout our pilot project.

Coastal communities in crisis?

Since the 1960s, global integration and cheaper international travel have created pressures on traditional seaside resorts whose economies rely on tourism (Agarwal et al, 2018). These factors, compounded by the global economic crisis and subsequent austerity measures, have led to many seaside towns experiencing a significant fall in tourism as well as cuts to public services. While some seaside towns have managed to recover and find an alternative economic base, many have become ‘deep pockets of deprivation’ (Rickey and Houghton, 2009, p.47). They are characterized by ‘youth out-migration and inward migration of older people, high proportions of retirees and benefit claimants, transitory populations, physical isolation, poor-quality housing, over-reliance on tourism, seasonal employment, low incomes and pressure on services during the summer months’ (Burdsey, 2018, p.37). How is this experienced by young people?

Margate in Three Words

One of the ways we tried to capture young people’s views of their town was to ask them to describe it in three words. Their responses were, for the most part, negative. Typical phrases included: eccentric, drug-infested, loud, unsafe, dirty and chavvy. ‘Chavvy’ was mentioned multiple times, and when I asked what they meant by it, Aiden (male, 14) quipped, “council house and violent!” Lydia (female, 14), however, was more nuanced in her response: ‘That’s one definition. Everyone has their own definition of what they see a chav is. The easiest way to describe it is […] quite aggressive, speaks and does things in a certain way’.

“Trampy” was another suggestion with similar connotations. Ryan (male, 14), for example, offered “chavvy, trampy and different” as his three words to describe Margate. He explained that ‘trampy’ meant “full of tramps”, which in turn he defined as: “[people who] chuck rubbish and everything. They think they’re hard and everything.” Similarly, Craig’s (male, 15) view of Margate was that it was full of “drugs, poverty, [and] gangs… Crime is everywhere, drug-use is, you always see homeless people on the street, it’s everywhere.”

Craig’s perspective is corroborated by Thanet District Council’s recent report highlighting some of the biggest social challenges in the local area, including exploitation, drug and alcohol misuse, and crime and gang activity . Thanet is affected by drug gangs operating from London (‘county lines’) and the practice of ‘cuckooing’, where a dealer befriends a vulnerable person and takes over their property to deal from there. In addition, the Council has outlined concerns about increasing numbers of vulnerable young people placed in care in Thanet from other parts of the country, putting them at risk from the criminal activity in the local area.

These local characteristics have not gone unnoticed by the young people we talked to; many felt that parts of the town were dangerous and unsafe for young people like themselves. Paris (female, 14) emphasised her frustration with the noise and feeling unsafe:

“…it’s so loud I struggle to sleep at night. The area where I live is more near the seaside – there are quite a few people who hang around at night and think it’s okay to shout and sing loudly! And it’s even worse on Fridays! It’s unsafe, [although] I’m sure there are lots of parts of London that are more unsafe than here.”

When I asked the students if there was anywhere in particular that they felt unsafe, “Cliftonville!” was the consensus. As one of the most deprived areas in southern England, and the highest crime area in Thanet, Cliftonville is known for the high levels of transience, poor housing conditions and problems with overcrowded accommodation; 75% of private sector tenants are dependent on housing benefit. The students described feeling intimidated by “lots of people in massive groups”, referring to the area as “quite rowdy”.

More positive views…

Although the young people expressed mostly negative views of Margate, the students also expressed some positive views of their town. For example, while Evangeline agreed that Margate felt ‘unsafe’, she also emphasised ‘unique’ places like Dreamland amusement park, which is “quite funky and could – [it] used to be considered a tourist attraction, so it’s quite popular”. The theme park was not seen as being just for tourists: Linda (female, 14) said Dreamland is a ‘safe’ space for her:

“It’s a place where I feel like I can hang with people and I have things to do; not just sitting around doing nothing.”

And in a discussion about images of Margate, some also mentioned positive things about the ‘nicer’ parts of town (“the old town is actually nice”)  and the beach that lies at the heart of the town (“I go to the beach – in the summer I’m there practically every other day”).  Many of the students (and one of the teachers) also drew my attention to Margate’s ethnic diversity, which was agreed to be an asset.

Ismet (male, 15) described Margate as ‘welcoming’ and ‘busy’, relating his observations to the tourist industry. But the tourism can also have its downsides during the summer. Rory (male, 15) described Margate as ‘crowdy’ when it’s warm:

“If you go to Dreamland, especially this season, or if it’s just warm in Margate, the beaches will literally be full, and you will have to oom! [mimes using elbows] [others laugh] They are full! Crowdy.”

In short, the students’ first instinct was to highlight the negative attributes of Margate, and their descriptions and discussions suggested that there are key areas in this town that young people do not feel are safe or accessible. In the next blog post, we explore the spaces and places that young people in Margate do use and consider the implications this has for their future mobility plans.

This project was funded by the UCL Grand Challenge small grant scheme in association with the UCL Grand Challenge of Cultural Understanding. 

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Piloting place-based and participatory youth research: lessons learned in Margate

By UCL Global Youth, on 16 July 2019

A guest post by Rachel Benchekroun, Research Assistant on the Youth attitudes towards mobility and migration project, and PhD student at UCL-IOE.

I am working on a small-scale project looking at mobility aspirations among young people in coastal towns (funded by UCL Grand Challenges, and co-led by Avril Keating, Claire Cameron, Abigail Knight and Jo Waters). As part of this project, we wanted to pilot a series of research instruments to explore questions such as (a) how can we incorporate arts- and place-based methods into our research practice? (b) how can we include more youth voice into our research process? and (c) what are the best ways to enable young people to become researchers in their own communities?

Fortunately, the Head of Citizenship at a secondary school in Margate was very keen for her students to get involved in the project, and in April and May of this year, I ran 3 workshops with a selection of Year 10 students. Here, I reflect on some of the practical things that I learned from these workshops.

The Pilot Project

When I first approached the school, I proposed working with a group of up to eight 16- to 18-year-old students for a couple of hours per week, over 3 consecutive weeks. In practice, it didn’t happen quite like this – the time of year, school timetable restrictions, and the teachers’ and students’ enthusiasm for the project meant that I instead found myself running the workshops with a lively group of twelve Year 10 students (aged 14 and 15) for just one hour per week. This created more pressure on time, and also limited the number of activities I could try out with the students.

For our first workshop, we decided to focus on introducing the students to the project and asking them for their views about the various arts-based research instruments we had developed. With this in mind (after I had outlined the aims of the project and obtained their informed consent) I asked the students to try out some of some of these tools, including

  • A word association game (Describe Margate in 3 words!)
  • Photo-response activity (using photos of Margate to gauge perceptions of places and feelings of belonging);
  • Mapping exercise (drawing a map to show the journeys they make and feelings about places and spaces).

The students approached these tasks in a variety of ways – they were keen to share their views and debate meanings with each other.

Having consulted the students in Workshop 1, the aim of the second workshop was to encourage the students to become researchers in their own communities. We wanted students to try out our research tools with their friends, to give them an opportunity to become real world researchers, and to give us an opportunity to see how our tools would be used by Young Peer Researchers. With this in mind, much of Workshop 2 focused on explaining the ethical and practical considerations of doing research. And at the end of the workshop, I asked the students to try out our research tools with two peers at school by the following week. I provided them with two research packs each, which included a checklist, consent forms, and participant information sheets. They were asked to record their interviews if possible (using their mobile phones) and to bring all the data produced, as well as consent and information forms, to the final session.

The primary purpose of Workshop 3, then, was to collect and analyse the data that our Young Researchers had collected, and to ask them to reflect on the experience of being a researcher. The students told us that they had really enjoyed the workshops, and in in Workshop 2, they had been enthusiastic about the idea of trying out the research tools with their friends at home.

However, in the end only 5 of the 12 Young Researchers said they had undertaken some research, and of these, only one shared audio recordings and two shared transcripts of interviews. Two more said they would email notes of their interviews, but these have not been received. Two other patterns were striking: (a) The students only attempted to do the word association game with their friends, and ignored the other suggested activities (b) The peer interviews all appeared to be quite short in length (e.g. a couple of minutes in the audio recordings). While this was slightly disappointing, it has provided an opportunity for reflection, which can help us plan for the larger-scale research project.

Lessons Learned

Why did many of the students not carry out the peer research activities? This may be due to a lack of confidence, and/or difficulties organising themselves. At least one student had previously expressed reluctance about interviewing others. In the third session, another commented: ‘I tried to interview my friend, but he walked away!’ I feel that working with slightly older students, having more time to prepare the Young Researchers and providing opportunities for practice in pairs within the classroom (allowing them to take on the role of researcher) would have helped the students to undertake peer research.

Some students did not have a mobile phone or recording facilities, which may have deterred them from doing the research. Addressing this in advance with the help of the teacher might have overcome this.

Why did no-one try the mapping or photograph activities?  The students may have found it difficult to plan ahead and to find the time and appropriate space within the school setting to do the interviews. It may be that including blank paper and felt tip pens in the Young Researchers’ packs would have made it easier for them to do the mapping activity with their peers. Whilst I had used printed photos for the photo activity, I had encouraged the Young Researchers to ask their friends to share photos of places from their phones – but expecting them to carry out the activity differently to how we did it in the classroom may have caused confusion. Making a list of who wanted to try out which tools and/or asking the teacher to provide time and appropriate space for the students to do their research as part of the next lesson might also have helped ensure all the tools were piloted.

Why were young researchers’ interviews so short (and data limited)? With only one hour per week, there was just enough time to try out the different research tools in session one, but with very little time left for discussion and analysis. Although I reiterated the importance of using the tools as a means of provoking discussion and reflection, and to a limited extent modeled this, the students themselves did not get the chance to practice the activities or the necessary skills in the classroom, which did not therefore facilitate in-depth learning for them to later put into practice independently.

Planning for the longer-term research project

We hope to build on the promising relationships with the school staff and students, and to work with key staff to embed the training and research process into the Citizenship curriculum. This will allow more time to explore and experiment with the research tools, to build up the students’ confidence and interviewing skills, and to provide more structured time and space for the young researchers to undertake research with their peers.

This project was funded by the UCL Grand Challenge small grant scheme in association with the UCL Grand Challenge of Cultural Understanding. 

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