Working Life of Christina McKelvie MSP
25th April 2013
Christina McKelvie is on
A few weeks back, I had the privilege of welcoming members of The Street
into the Scottish Parliament. Ive been involved with this gritty, hard
hitting youth drama group since it began and Ive been hugely impressed
by what they do. I wanted some of my parliamentary colleagues to share
It isnt pretty or relaxing. Its real, its rough and its brutal. But
life is like that for quite a few young people in Scotland.
There is a whole generation of kids who have lived with the iniquities
of Westminster policies that they didnt want and for which their
parents didnt vote.
The gap between rich and
poor has grown wider and wider during successive Westminster governments
with more young people enduring more disadvantages. They have become
caught up in gang violence, drugs, heavy drinking, domestic abuse,
vandalism and crime especially knife crime.
You can set up drop-in centres, provide counselling, offer social
services support and all of these are important but the one thing
that really makes an impact is when those same kids communicate directly
with their own peers. Telling it like it is from the people whove been
there has far more impact than any outsider coming into those lives can
ever hope to have.
Been there, done that, got the tee-shirt could be a mantra for The
They played through a drama of their own creation in the Parliament. It
told the chilling story of a teenage girl who ends up murdered by a
knife. A few minutes after shes been introduced, you learn that shes
been dead for two days so what you see is told in reverse. The tale that
unfolds is how it happened.
At the end of the production, the MSPs looked not just shocked but
thoroughly shaken by what they saw. They were also profoundly impressed
and gave a standing ovation to the group.
Wendy McInally is the project manager and a great evangelist for its
success. She told me: Our main aim with The Street is about trying to
get young people to be aware of their own actions. The urban simulation
makes them see that every action has a reaction. Were trying to get
young people to make decisions about their own behaviour and considering
the repercussions of their actions before they take them. The Street
draws our attention to violent and brutal consequences of actions taken
by others to highlight their point with issues varying from knife crime
to sexual assault.
The young people
themselves are testament to the impact. Gavin Queen said: I did a lot
of this stuff on the streets myself. Thats the idea and what makes it
powerful. It could happen to you.
Grant Wingate, who has already served time for various offences, says
The Street has turned his life around: It has given me back that focus
and drive that I had when I was a youngster before I got into all that
trouble and I can see myself past the finish line with this and moving
on to other things as well.
As Wendy says, what makes The Street different is that they dont give
advice or counselling. She says its the way the kids innovate and
totally engage in these productions, which mainly take place in a
simulated urban street in a warehouse in Hamilton, that makes the real
difference. They arent being preached to by adults or told how they
ought to behave. Theyre working it out for themselves.
Im flattered to hear Wendys response to my own involvement:
Christinas support is really important to us. She has thoroughly and
avidly advocated our group and its engagement with the young people in
her constituency. We really welcome that backing.
This comment system requires
you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an
account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or
Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these
companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All
comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator
has approved your comment.