I took a call from Rachel during the middle of a misty Tuesday morning. “Aren’t you at school?”
“Sure, on break. Listen. We’ve won a meeting with the planning people at the town hall today at 5pm. We want ‘pillars of the community’ on our side to attend, and our group thinks you’re one. Kinda funny, but guess you are.”
“Dad! Yes, North Street Skate Park, remember?”
“Ah yes. Well that sounds interesting, very well done Rachel, but it’s a bit short notice and…”
Let’s just say I never finished the sentence and I was at the town hall at 5pm. And I’m glad I was. I had never seen such a prepared, coordinated and articulate bunch of teenagers in my life, and by the look on the planners’ faces I don’t believe they had either.
The Defenders, as the group labeled itself, had been allotted 15 minutes to present its case. Rachel’s role was to hold an iPad with a big countdown clock on it and make sure the group kept to time; no mean feat when the presentation included video evidence played out on the biggest of laptops (the room had no audio-visual facilities), various schematics printed on large sheets of paper, excerpts of commentary left on the online petition and associated Facebook page, a roll call of ‘pillars of the community’ in support of the Defenders (my two seconds of fame), statistics describing the number of social media check-ins to the park during the past twelve months, and a topping and tailing of the representation by the elected leader, an overly tall seventeen year-old called Trent or Demon depending on who was addressing him.
A little guy darted around the room taking photos on his smartphone with immediate upload, and another sat typing furiously on a battered laptop, live blogging. I learned later that their request to video proceedings had been declined.
The finale entailed two kids walking up to the planners’ table, buckets in hand, and literally pouring hundreds of photos of people enjoying themselves at the Skate Park onto the table. Trent: “Thanks to North Street Cameras for joining our campaign and for printing these photos free of charge. They’re the best.”
I was astonished. With the photos, they’d even recognized when to drop digital and get analogue for the less net-savvy on the committee. These guys are going to shake up the workforce in a few years.