On the bus, 1983

Girls just wanna have fun, sang Cyndi Lauper in 1983, one of the biggest pop singles of that year. Originally written by a male songwriter, she changed some of the lyrics, flipped the perspective of the song, and in turned it into a popular and enduring feminist anthem. This was a time when community artists were concentrating on youth festivals, media workshops and skills training with young people. The kids who had attended their playschemes were entering teenage years. 

It was generally recognised that young people did not have much access to the arts, particularly in working class areas, and groups like Jubilee offered a series of ‘taster sessions’ for young people exploring different artforms. It was also recognised that girls often had even less opportunity, often pushed out of youth activities by boys, and work needed to be done to address this imbalance. This photograph from 1982 is from an on-board Bus session, specifically for girls, which might involve singing, music making, writing, and drama role playing, or just offering a space to talk. This then led to more in depth work, enabling arts work of the highest quality to take off, totally under the control of young people – for example, Dee Murphy, for example, worked with a group of young girls in the Greets Green area, who later named themselves Fifteen Plus, creating original drama pieces.

Behind these two girls in the photograph is a poster produced by a project which was a significant inspiration for this kind of girl-focused activity. Using materials from their research project looking at ‘Girls at Risk’, Carola Adams and Leah Thorn worked with Graham Peet from Telford Community Arts and Jonnie Turpie, running sessions with a group of young women. The outcome of the collaboration, ‘Some Girls’, was a set of 9 posters, which examined the experiences of young women. This was work was widely distributed across the UK and well known, posters which are now in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Musuem.

The kind of youth work that Jubilee engaged with, particularly in close liaison with local youth workers, would be so much more difficult today. Funding to youth services by local authorities in England and Wales saw a real terms decline of 70 per cent since 2010, with an allocation of just under £429m in 2018/19, compared to £1.4bn in 2010/11, with more than 4,500 youth work jobs cut and 750 youth centres closed.


For a more detailed description of the work of ‘Some Girls’ project, see Graham Peet oral history (add web page link).

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