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


Archive for the 'Coastal youth' Category

Growing up in coastal towns: Emerging Findings Report

By UCL Global Youth, on 14 November 2022

Post by Dr. Avril Keating, Director, Centre for Global Youth

A team of researchers from UCL, Young Advisors, and Youth Action are today launching a report of their findings about growing up in coastal towns.

Over the last two years we have been conducting exploratory research in North East Lincolnshire. Building on our earlier research in Margate, we examined how growing up in coastal towns shapes young people’s experiences, aspirations, and life chances. We focused in particular on two towns in the area: Grimsby (a post-industrial town) and Cleethorpes (a seaside town).

Our collaboration with Young Advisors (a national charity) and Youth Action (based in North East Lincolnshire) led to 6 members of Young Action joining our team as Young Researchers. Together, we developed a range of place-based methods of data production and piloted these through a series of research activities, including focus groups, walking interviews, and in-depth interviews. We included the views of both young people and older people who grew up in the 1950s and 60s, to take a look at how coastal youth life chances have changed over the generations.

We generated a rich body of data from these research encounters, and we are preparing a number of publications to share these findings. Today, we are pleased to announce the publication of our Emerging Findings report, which sets out our preliminary thoughts and findings.

One clear message from the report is that young people in North East Lincolnshire feel that there are not enough things for them to do, or places for them to go. These feelings of boredom and exclusion are compounded by (1) their sense that their towns are in economic decline and (2) the fact that there are too many places in the towns that do not feel safe.

A second key finding is that many of the young participants felt that they have to move away from the area in order to access higher education and/ or high-skilled work. Data from the older residents helped us to understand that this mobility imperative is relatively new. They told us that when they were growing up, there were far more (and better) employment and leisure opportunities for young people in the area.

You can find out more about our projects and our findings in our new report Growing up in coastal towns – emerging findings (2022).  This report benefited from the input of a wide range of collaborators. We want to thank:

  • the Young Researchers that collaborated with us on this project
  • the residents of North East Lincolnshire who took part in this research, for generously sharing their experiences and views with us.
  • the organisations and agencies in North East Lincolnshire who helped make this co-produced project happen (particularly: Emma Lingard, Associated British Ports; Grimsby Town Hall; ABP Archives and North East Lincolnshire Archives Team; and the school, community and youth groups who very kindly hosted our focus groups (we will not name them to maintain confidentiality of participants).
  • the members of our Advisory Group who shared their time and expertise to help guide us with Phase 2 of the project (Joanne Lee from Young Advisors; and Professors Anna Tarrant, Carenza Lewis, and Mark Gussy from University of Lincoln); and
  • our funders: the UCL IOE Strategic Investment Board, UCL Grand Challenges and the UCL Pro-Vice-Provost (UK).

To cite this report: Benchekroun, R., Keating, A., Cameron, C. and Curtin, P. (2022) Growing up in coastal towns – emerging findings (2022). Published online: https://blogs.ucl.ac.uk/global-youth/

Opportunities, aspirations and mobilities for coastal youth: emerging findings

By UCL Global Youth, on 11 November 2022

By Rachel Benchekroun, Thomas Coram Research Unit (TCRU) UCL Social Research Institute

Whilst living on the coast may offer certain advantages, research shows that young people in coastal communities face poorer outcomes in education, employment and health than their peers in non-coastal towns (CMO 2021, HOL 2019, Agarwal et al. 2018, Wenham 2020). But how do young people feel about their coastal towns and their futures?

Photo of beach in NE Lincolnshire

Image 1: Beach in NE Lincolnshire

We worked with young people from Grimsby and Cleethorpes to research this further. Six Young Researchers co-designed the research, interviewed residents, and helped analyse the data. Throughout the process, the Young Researchers were also supported by Pippa Curtin (the Voice and Influence Co-ordinator, North East Lincolnshire Council) and local lead for Young Advisors. Together we’ve been discovering how young people feel about their towns, their views on the opportunities available to them, and their aspirations for themselves and their towns.

Across two linked projects in 2021 and 2022, we carried out interviews and focus groups with a total of 39 young people aged 16 to 25. We also interviewed 30 older people aged over 60 to compare their experiences of growing up in the local area in earlier decades. We used participatory methods such as mapping, photo elicitation, life maps and a community walk.

Here is what we found out about young people’s perceptions and aspirations.

Move, return or stay?

Most of the 16- to 18-year-olds we interviewed felt they needed to move away to a larger town or city to access higher education, develop specialized knowledge and skills, and find a well-paid job: ‘The jobs that we want to do, we can’t really do here.’

This was especially important to young people considering professions – such as law, medicine or academic research – as well as roles in the creative sector. We refer to this group as ‘movers’.

For young people like 17-year-old Alex, the lack of local opportunities for certain kinds of career, and the relative geographical isolation of Grimsby and Cleethorpes, meant they would need to move to a bigger town or city:

‘You’ve got to go into the city, specifically London, to be able to participate in [specialised] jobs. And that is something we are lacking as a coastal town, kind of on the edge of everything. We are too far away from London – which I think is such a disadvantage.’

Image of ‘Future life map’ created by Katy, aged 17

Image 2: ‘Future life map’ created by Katy, aged 17

Many young people saw moving to a city as the only way to achieve their personal and professional goals. Some even planned to move abroad to develop their careers. This can be seen in the ‘future life map’ created by Katy, aged 17 (see Image 2).

Several young people were clear that once they moved away, they would not return to their coastal town: (‘I can confidently say that I don’t wanna come back.’). For a small number, however, moving away was necessary only to develop skills that they intended to bring back for the benefit of the community, for example in the role of youth worker or teacher. This group, whom we refer to as ‘returners’, seemed to be motivated by values of social justice. For example, Kayla (18), told us:

‘I just want to help the youth of Grimsby and to show that no matter where you’re from or no matter what background, you can always make something of your life and do amazing things. […] We shouldn’t have less opportunities just because we’re at this end of the country or just because we’re in this postcode, do you know what I mean? We all deserve the same opportunities, not just the bigger cities.’

A third group of young participants (‘stayers’) were those who did not plan to move away, whether temporarily or permanently. Several, like Lisa (18), had actively decided to stay:

‘I think I like living here, and I just don’t think I really want to move away and be that far away from my family. I feel like there’s what I need here to like progress with my life rather than moving away.’

For these young people, maintaining regular contact with their family and other support networks was important, and they felt they could achieve their education and career plans locally.

Other young people were vague about their future plans – perhaps because of uncertainty about whether to continue with post-compulsory education, what kind of job or career they hoped to do, or what the pathway to achieving this looked like.

Our research has shown that experiences of growing up in Grimsby and Cleethorpes have changed significantly since the 1950s and 1960s. When older residents were teenagers, there had been plenty of local well-paid work for school-leavers, so the majority of young people stayed in the local area – and felt a strong sense of belonging. But changes to the local economy in recent decades mean that local jobs for young people nowadays are more likely to be precarious and low paid. The marginal location of coastal towns, limited transport networks and the availability of resources, including support networks, intersect with the realities of the local economy to shape young people’s decisions about whether to move away, return, or stay put. This has implications both for the futures of young people and the future of their coastal communities.

This research was funded by UCL IOE Seed Funding, UCL Grand Challenges and the Pro-Vice Provost (UK). These findings are taken from our forthcoming Emerging Findings report, which will be published next week.



New ESRC funded project: The impact of coastal towns on young people’s life chances across the lifecourse

By UCL Global Youth, on 29 September 2022

We are pleased to announce that we have received funding from the ESRC to expand our research on young people living in coastal towns. Starting in January 2023, our Director (Avril Keating) will work together with Professor Claire Cameron, Dr Stephen Jivraj and Dr Emily Murray to conduct a 3 year, mixed method study of young lives in coastal towns.

What is the new study about?    This larger project examines the ways in which growing up in a coastal town can impact on young people’s life chances; that is, their likelihood of having good outcomes in adulthood in terms of education, work, housing, and health and wellbeing. We focus on coastal towns as some of the most deprived neighbourhoods in the UK are now in coastal areas. Coastal towns have attracted a lot of attention in recent UK policy debates, and these discussions often raise concerns about the future of young people in these towns, largely because of the limited educational and employment opportunities. Despite this, there is very little research on the impact of growing up in a coastal town on young people’s experiences, attitudes, or life chances. This project will address this gap by looking at the spatial inequalities in life chances experienced by contemporary coastal youth, as well as change over the life course (as these young people get older) and change over time (ie: intergenerational differences in experiences and outcomes).

Our research questions:   More specifically, this project will address four key questions:

  1. (a) Does growing up in coastal towns, compared to similarly deprived areas in England and Wales, impact on the life chances of young people? (b) Do these inequalities in life chances persist over the life course or narrow in later age?
  2. What are the environmental mechanisms linking growing up in a coastal town to adverse life chances in adulthood?
  3. What personal attributes or experiences can help mitigate the initial drawback of growing up in a coastal town (e.g. parental support, residential mobility, or aspiration)?
  4. What interventions could improve the life chances of young people in coastal communities, based (a) on the results of quasi-experimental quantitative methods and (b) on coastal residents’ own views?

Our research methods:   We will address these questions using a combination of quantitative and qualitative data. The quantitative analysis draws on longitudinal survey data from three different generations that allow us to compare the outcomes of adolescents from the 1970s, the 1980s and the 2000s. These cohort studies enable us to consider: change over the life course (as respondents grow up and move into later adulthood); change over time (inter-generational differences); and changes in geography (intra-generational differences between coastal and non-coastal youth). We can also use these data to test potential policy solutions by applying quasi-experimental quantitative methods.

The project also includes a qualitative strand that will produce original data with current residents of coastal towns. In 6 coastal towns in England and Wales we will talk to younger and older residents about their experiences of growing up in coastal towns and their views about the opportunities and aspirations for young people in the town. Residents will also be asked for their views of what their town needs to do to improve the life chances of young people. Change over time will be further examined by comparing youth aspirations from today with those compiled in the NCDS 1969 archive of student essays.

Part of this strand will be completed using co-production methods that involve recruiting, training, and supporting young people to become Young Researchers in their community. We will also use arts-and place-based methods such as postcard-making, walking interviews, life maps and ethnocartographic methods. For these activities, we will partner with Young Advisors and LivingMaps Network.

Planned impact and outputs:   The findings from these analyses will bring new insights to academic debates as well as new policy proposals for public discussions about place-based disparities in health, wellbeing, employment, and education. Our findings will thus contribute to recent discussions about Levelling Up and addressing regional inequalities (HM Govt, 2022) as well as longer-standing discussions about equal opportunities to life chances (Field, 2010) and health inequalities (CMO, 2021). While various reports have identified the areas of concern, few advanced analyses or youth-focused solutions have been offered, and we expect that this project can contribute to filling these gaps. Local policymakers and practitioners will also benefit from a deeper understanding of how their younger and older residents view their town currently, and how they wish their town to develop in the future.

Find out more about our pilot projects: This new project builds on two pilot projects that we conducted in 2021 (funded by IOE SIB Seed Funding) and 2022 (funded by UCL Grand Challenges). To find out more about these pilots, check out our previous blog posts:


Intergenerational perspectives on growing up in coastal towns: a new project on coastal youth experiences

By UCL Global Youth, on 8 April 2022

By Rachel Benchekroun (Research Assistant, TCRU/CGY) and Pippa Curtin (Voice and influence co-ordinator, North East Lincolnshire Council)

Living in a coastal town in the UK offers unique opportunities, but research shows there are increased risks of poor outcomes in health, education and employment (CMO 2021, HOL 2019, Agarwal et al. 2018). Geographical isolation, limited transport networks and the decline of fishing and heavy industries since the 1970s have been key factors.

Our new project builds on earlier work led by Dr Avril Keating (Centre for Global Youth) with young people in Grimsby and Cleethorpes, and asks about growing up in coastal towns today compared with earlier, more prosperous, eras. We are co-producing the new study with young people and community groups, bringing together residents of different generations to explore their experiences of growing up in North East Lincolnshire. How has life changed in their coastal towns since the postwar ‘boom’ years, and how has this shaped young people’s experiences of growing up? What do residents of different generations see as the challenges for young people in coastal towns, and how might these be overcome?

Co-producing knowledge

We will also explore how co-production methodologies can facilitate intergenerational dialogue on these issues, and we’ll seek to develop shared understandings. UCL researchers, national organisation Young Advisors and NE Lincolnshire Council are excited to develop our collaborative work. This month, we’re training a group of young people as young researchers. Through a series of workshops, we’re working together to design and carry out research with young and older residents.

As a team, we’re developing innovative participatory methods, including community events to host group discussions, in-depth one-to-one interviews using potographic and mapping methods, and walking tours of Grimsby and Cleethorpes. Walking tours will offer opportunities not only for learning about local heritage, but also for finding out about future developments and sharing visions and aspirations. We aim to capture participants’ stories, reflections and ideas by recording conversations and taking photographs during our walks.

We’ll bring participants together to discuss and debate the challenges young people face growing up in coastal towns, and to share ideas for how these should be tackled. Together, we’ll make a plan to share our findings with local and regional stakeholders, such as the Greater Grimsby Board (responsible for overseeing the Grimsby Masterplan), decision-makers from NE Lincs Children’s Services and Adults’ Services, and the Coastal Communities Alliance. Our young researchers will play a key role in sharing findings from this research project. We want to ensure that policymakers are taking account of young people’s views in shaping the future of their towns.

Project partners and funders

Thomas Coram Research Unit, part of UCL Social Research Institute, is delighted to have been awarded funding for this project by UCL Grand Challenges Special Initiatives (under the ‘Intergenerational Dynamics’ theme), as well as additional funding from the Office of the Pro-Vice-Provost (UK). The funding will enable us to build relationships with a range of partners, including researchers at the University of Lincoln. Led by Prof Claire Cameron, and supported by Niccola Hutchinson-Pascal of the Co-Production Collective, we’ve started sharing ideas about co-production with Dr Anna Tarrant and Debbie Taylor of the Grimsby Dads Collective, participatory heritage projects with Prof Carenza Lewis, and heath inequalities in rural areas with Prof Mark Gussy. We’re keen to build on existing partnerships and look forward to developing new partnerships with local and national arts, heritage and community organisations and employers interested in our research topic, including Onside (currently developing Grimsby’s new Horizon Youth Zone centre) and Associated British Ports. This project will run from March – 31 October 2022.

Researching with young people in coastal towns: What have we learned about co-production with young people?

By UCL Global Youth, on 10 March 2022

Guest post by Dr Rachel Benchekroun (UCL IOE) and Pippa Curtin (Voice and Influence Co-Ordinator, Young Advisors, North East Lincolnshire Council)

What did we set out to achieve?

Coastal towns present unique challenges and opportunities for their young residents. The aim of the co-production strand of our recent research project was to work with young researchers to explore how growing up in a coastal town shapes young people’s aspirations, how they feel about their coastal town, and how they think it can be improved. Following a pilot project in Margate, project lead Avril Keating and research assistant Rachel Benchekroun at UCL wanted to work with a group of young people in North East Lincolnshire to enable them, as young researchers, to interview their peers and older people to find out more. We wanted to work together to develop innovative arts-based and place-based methods to use in the interviews. Image of pier in a seaside town

Our existing relationship with national organisation Young Advisors was a strong base for developing a partnership with Young Advisors in North East Lincolnshire, led by Pippa Curtin, the NE Lincs Voice and Influence Coordinator. This project was an exciting opportunity for the Young Advisors in NE Lincolnshire to get involved in a national project on behalf of their organisation. Using their skills, knowledge and contacts, the young people were keen to gain insights into past and present experiences of what it’s like to grow up in a coastal community. They would also have the opportunity to advise on the use of peer research methods and develop new research skills. Not least, it was a chance to work with a university to showcase their local area and the voices of young people.

What did we achieve?

Through regular communication and positive collaboration, a strong partnership was developed between Young Advisors as a national organisation, the NE Lincolnshire team and the UCL researchers. The Young Advisors tested out the interactive methods as participants, and made significant contributions to their design before conducting their own interviews. They developed new strategies along the way, drawing on their experiences to shape the research project, and worked with Rachel to review the methods as the fieldwork progressed. Young Advisors’ innovations included trying out the interactive methods with older interviewees as well as peers; interviewing a couple in a paired interview, rather than one-to-one; and helping a young interviewee feel more comfortable with the interactive methods by engaging in the activities in parallel.

Through interviews and reflective workshops, the Young Advisors shared with Rachel their knowledge of their coastal community, and their views of the opportunities and challenges, and what they would change. They also drew on their personal networks to recruit and interview peers and older people, enabling young and older residents from a range of backgrounds to share their reflections and ideas about their local area with a view to informing future developments in the area. The data the Young Advisors generated through their dual roles as participants and researchers were invaluable in helping to address the project’s research questions.

What have we learned about co-production?

There was significant learning for all of us. The Young Advisors enjoyed finding out about their interviewees’ views of their town, identifying patterns and differences in responses:

I liked how you can see how people’s views are very similar even if they grew up on different sides of the town […] but then also very different as well.

The best thing was just hearing different views [from] old people experiencing different things to us.

Although experienced in carrying out consultations in their town, this was the Young Advisors’ first experience of undertaking social research for a project with a university. Through a combination of training workshops, first-hand experience and reflective group sessions, the Young Advisors learned about research ethics and the practical challenges of planning and undertaking fieldwork. Over the duration of the fieldwork, the Young Advisors developed their confidence and skills in building rapport with their interviewees, following the interview schedule, and simultaneously being sensitive to the natural flow of the conversation and responding with effective ‘prompt’ questions. These research skills and wider interpersonal skills are likely to be an asset in the Young Advisors’ future work and education opportunities.

What were the challenges and how did we address them?

Finding a balance between the requirements of a university-initiated research project and the needs of the Young Advisors was an ongoing challenge. For example, university requirements for us to use comprehensive information sheets and consent forms to obtain informed consent – necessary for ethical approval – meant that, despite our best efforts, these documents were wordy and long. This created problems for the Young Advisors, both as participants and as researchers having to explain terminology to their interviewees. Sometimes the consequences were counter-productive: “with the consent form […] my young person just did yes for everything. They didn’t even read the question. It was yes, yes, yes.”

Another university requirement was to provide details of our planned research methods in order to obtain ethical approval before starting the fieldwork. As with the informed consent process, this is normal in the academic world, but for us this approach had to be balanced with the need to be open to the Young Advisors’ ideas and suggestions – an important aspect of co-production.

Further challenges encountered by the Young Advisors included an initial lack of familiarity with the interview schedules and difficulty finding suitable times and locations for interviews (resulting in some interviews being cut short). Ill health posed a challenge in recruiting Young Advisors, especially given the context of the pandemic, although Pippa was able to bring other team members on board. Tight timescales made it difficult for Young Advisors to arrange interviews with all of their potential participants. Working in partnership with clear and regular communication between UCL, the Young Advisors team lead and the young people themselves helped to manage the timescales. Covid-19 restrictions and the young people’s other commitments made it difficult at times for everyone to meet up in the same room, but when this was not possible, hybrid meetings were held using online platforms.

 How will our learning about co-production shape our co-produced research in the future? 

The project highlighted how essential the ‘behind-the-scenes’ support from Young Advisors NE Lincolnshire was at all stages of the project. As well as providing invaluable information about the local area, Pippa and her colleague played a vital role in organising the meetings, liaising with the Young Advisors, providing all kinds of support and advice, suggesting solutions and general troubleshooting! Without this support and regular communication, the project would not have been possible.

Moving forward into the next iteration of the project, we want to centre the values of co-production. We’ll engage with the Young Advisors by finding out about their hopes and expectations, prioritising an approach of ‘working with’ rather than what will generate the best data. We also want to make our research more accessible at all stages and for everyone – and we believe we can do this by thinking in a young person-centred way.

As part of this, we plan to review the information sheet and consent form with the university ethics panel to find ways to make these shorter, simpler and more accessible, without losing essential content. We also intend to make the workshops more interactive, building on Young Advisors’ existing skills and experience, and will be open to doing things differently. We want to build in more time for the Young Advisors to develop and pilot innovative interactive methods, role play the interviews, and reflect deeply on what works and what they would change. We’ll make every effort to run all of the workshops in person, to help build strong relationships. In the next iteration of the project, we will benefit from peer learning by bringing together new participants with Young Advisors who were involved as researchers in the earlier project.

We’ll allow more time for fieldwork, ideally including both term-time and school/college holidays to maximise opportunities to organise interviews. Rather than putting the onus on the Young Advisors to find suitable locations for interviews, we’ll provide quiet, safe spaces in a public or community building for them to use. We’ll make sure that one or both of us will be on site to provide support and advice as needed, and to check in with each Young Advisor after each interview, to reflect together on what went well and what might work better next time.

We’ll also plan more reflective group sessions both during the fieldwork stage and afterwards, to ensure the Young Advisors are fully involved in analysis of the data, planning and developing accessible and interactive research outputs, and sharing key findings locally, regionally and nationally. We want to make sure that any promotional materials and reports produced are young person-friendly in their presentation and language by asking Young Advisors from the marketing team to design them. We want to ensure the Young Advisors are front and centre in taking the findings to policymakers and other stakeholders. It will be important for the Young Advisors – and their interviewees – to see the impact of the research.

Implementing this learning will help us ensure that young people are at the heart of decision making and helping to change their community – in accordance with the principles of the Young Advisors movement. It will also help us to build an even stronger partnership between Young Advisors and UCL, and produce high quality research which will shape policy and practice at local and national levels.