Anthony Rohan (pictured far right) supervises activities at White Elephant HQ. We plonked ourselves down on the couches to have a chat about what was new and happening at headquarters.
We’ve got a few meetings on tonight, and a few people coming in for a mix,” Rohan said.
The not-for-profit youth organisation has made a name for itself in Christchurch by running events organised by young people, and encouraging young people to make their own entertainment. They also provide a youth space in town and weekly classes in music production, DJing and events.
We’re trying to make sure we’re doing what young people want to do. If we’ve got some plans to do something and it’s not happening fast enough, or it’s fizzled out, we’ll move on to the next one.
The big open space when you first enter the HQ is used for meetings and dance crew Common Ground love the wooden for to practice their break dancing. The HQ also runs a family day once a month on Sundays where parents and children can have a look around.
The HQ is decked out in industrial chic – an older building livened up with tags and artwork which give a funky feel to the space. The audio production equipment and other facilities give a sense of there always being something to do – even if its having a go on the old school arcade games.
The trust has been incorporated since 2005, and has plans for bigger and brighter things, such as sound-proofed band practice rooms, DJ suites and purpose made meeting rooms - once enough funds have been raised.
We’re still looking to develop HQ," Rohan said.
We’ve made it as functional as we can in the meantime and we’re making sure its being used to its full potential before we fundraise enough to redevelop it. Young people want something now – but the fundraising takes quite some time to do.
We do quite a lot of dance parties – that’s our core. We partner with other providers like Massive, Delicious Music, and Audiodreams – a new concept for an event where you giveaway 150 tickets to build the base for the event. We’re hoping for 250 on the day.
Music production courses are the new thing in 2009, and the first course had 10 attended, and 18 more on a live video stream.
That’s just the first night. They taught how to use one of the synthesisers to create a bass line. We’re getting some really positive feedback about it.
It’s really helpful to have some experts and role models, the likes of Tom Cosm. He’s recognised internationally for the music that he makes and the way that he gives it all away for free, and he’s based right here in Christchurch. It’s really nice to have that sort of skills and expertise in-house. He’s willing to share whatever he does – it’s great.
As young people are constantly on the go, Rohan is always on the lookout for new people to get involved in the HQ.
The youth market is a really tough one because people are so transient in what they are doing, and they are quite fickle. I’m not trying to say that in a bad way, but there’s something that’s cool and you’re really into one year – it’s different the next. You’re moving round quite a bit, shifting houses, going off to uni …a crew of people that we used last year are going to be different to what we’ve got this year.
White Elephant suits all kinds of people.
We try to engage with young people who may not be as sporty or really academic and give them an alternative thing to do than sitting at home or socialising with people – which may not be in a positive way.
Our main goal here is to help facilitate leadership and promote positive youth development.
Rohan says there is always plenty of media attention about young people drinking, and drinking too much, which feeds a negative stereotype of young people. He argues that boredom and bad role models are contributing factors.
A study in the UK said that more than 50 per cent of young people drank because they were bored. Simply because they had nothing to do.
Rohan also says that Christchurch can be dangerous for young people, especially at night.
There are safety fears in Christchurch, and I put that down mostly to the older people that are drinking. I go into town on a Friday and Saturday night and am absolutely disgusted at the behaviour of over 18-year-olds, yet … the finger is always pointed at under 18 year-olds who are causing all these problems.
White Elephant events are alcohol and drug free, and although some young people try to bring alcohol into events, vigilant security and a safe environment mean the dance parties are a great time for all.
There’s always going to be [people] that try to push those boundaries. At the end of the day we can’t control what happens before they come to the event. We can ensure that when they come to one of our events they’re in a safe environment and there’s some safety mechanisms around to make sure that they are safe and have a good time.
There definitely is the peer pressure not to drink. If you’re the only one drinking you very quickly feel out of place – so naturally a young person would try to hide it as much as possible, or just not do it.
Anyone interested in learning more should just rock up to the HQ, Rohan says.
We like to find strengths that young people have. We look at what you’re good at and try and match that up with a project. Or, if you’ve got an idea for a project, we’ll provide a bit of a framework administratively and project wise to try and make it a reality. It could be anything.
Keep an eye on the White Elephant website for details of events and news.