You could take a walk through the streets of any town pre-COVID and witness gangs of kids hanging around and often creating (mostly) low level nuisance, primarily through sheer boredom.
Nowhere to go and nothing to do except stay in their bedrooms playing on their Xboxes and munching Pringles, something that they then get criticised for anyway by older generations who can’t wait to have a pop at “the bloody kids of today”.
The obvious solution would be under 18s gigs where young bands, DJs and soloists could take their first tentative steps into public performance and where their mates could hang out, but these events have been conspicuous only by their absence in North Wales in recent times.
Many years ago, I helped to set up and run a series of dry, supposedly under 18s gigs at Bar Blu in Rhyl. I say “supposedly” because we took the decision that over 18s could attend if they didn’t mind the fact that no alcohol was on sale. The gigs were co-run with a time-served police officer, were very well attended and only came to an end when the venue itself shut down early in 2008.
You could therefore be forgiven for wondering why another venue didn’t simply pick up the baton and get itself an event that would in itself be a nice little earner on a Monday night and also introduce itself to potentially the next generation of adult customers.
Unfortunately the events, although trouble free on the surface, had revealed potential issues that would have given nightmares to any licensee who tried to carry them on, particularly as the copper who had been helping to co-ordinate the events was no longer able to stay involved due to other work commitments.
Kids being kids, there were always a few who would be refused admission at the door, either because they were already clearly intoxicated or because they were trying to sneak alcohol onto the premises. This wasn’t a massive problem for Blu because admission to the upstairs was gained via the downstairs bar where the kids were allowed through in groups of four, making it easy to judge if any of them had been drinking and, as already mentioned, the venue had the support of North Wales Police.
Even so, there were occasions where drink was sneaked onto the premises despite the best efforts of door staff who had been hand-picked for the events because they had reputations for being the best at the job.
When attempts were made to stage under 18s shows at other venues it quickly became apparent that NWP and the local licensing committee were not going to view them with anything other than deep concern at best and outright hostility at worst.
This latter attitude had become apparent even before Blu closed when I was contacted by the licensees at the time of The Seagull in Towyn who wanted to put on similar events by linking up with the PTA at Ysgol Emrys ap Iwan and who had arranged a meeting with representatives of NWP to discuss the proposal.
Despite some support from the beat officers at the meeting, their boss, who was head of the NWP’s licensing branch, made it clear that he wouldn’t even discuss the project, much less allow it to go ahead and went as far as to say that he wouldn’t have allowed the Blu events to happen if he’d been in situ at the time. It is safe to say that the authorities attitude to under 18s public gigs has hardened in the ensuing years and so the chances of them happening at all in the near future are therefore virtually nil.
Would there be enough young musicians to play them? I would say “yes” and I can base that response on the fact that I’ve been able to present plenty of young performers in “adult” venues because a lot of licenses allow under 18s to perform before a curfew time. Additionally, a lot of the performers we put on at those under 18s shows were older and were more than happy to play to an audience that was enthusiastic and adding to their fan base.
However, you only have to look at the draconian way in which the licensing authorities in this area currently operate to realise that they are not going to allow under 18s events anytime soon.