Teenagers rage in safety
By CARMEN VAN KERCKHOVE
FOUR years ago Tricia Carton, a concerned parent, realised the problem caused by the lack of safe places for teenagers in Hong Kong to socialise.
She learned that people as young as 16 and 17 were going to adult venues where they had access to alcohol and drugs, and that they were being led astray by these temptations.
''These kids were there simply because they had no other place to go. They felt intimidated by the adults, and could not be in control of the situation.'' Prompted by her 15-year-old daughter's search for some other venue besides fast food restaurants, Ms Carton decided that she should try to create a place where her daughter could have fun, safely.
''One of the nicest things teenagers can do is mix and mingle with other people of the same age. To me it's terribly important, I think it builds confidence.'' Her idea won the support of other concerned parents and various clubs in Hong Kong, which had been trying to arrange programmes suitable for their younger members.
ASYLUM initially began under a different guise but achieved only limited success because it was run by adults - youths did not like the idea of going to a disco arranged by their parents, and venues like the American Club, the Ladies' Recreation Club andthe Kowloon Cricket Club were found to be impractical for holding such a function.
''Parents were over-concerned and kept coming into the room. This made the kids feel very uncomfortable,' said Ms Carton.
Today, ASYLUM is held once a month in a purpose-built disco room at the Mariners' Club. This is much more independent than any of the other venues and is perceived as a ''Mummy and Daddy's club''. Also, the ASYLUM committee now comprises primarily teenagers representing various schools, including the Hong Kong International, St George's, German Swiss and all the schools run by the English Schools Foundation.
Ms Carton has tried to keep adults in the background. The parents that do serve on the committee are usually those whose children are studying abroad, so they have no direct interest in ASYLUM.
This has proved to be a much better system, as ASYLUM's reputation as a successful meeting place for young people reveals.
Heidi, a KGV representative, said: ''The best thing about ASYLUM is that it is really a club run by teenagers for teenagers.'' The name ASYLUM was conceived by students of South Island School, who wanted it to reflect the concept that this was a place where teenagers could have fun, but at the same time be sheltered from threats by triads and exposure to drugs and alcohol.
ASYLUM targets teenagers aged from 13 to 16 years. Ms Carton hopes to attract young people before they resort to less safe clubs.
''I believe that once they experience ASYLUM, they will, in any situation, be less willing to succumb to peer pressure. Once they know that there is an alternative, they will not feel the need to give in to the pressure to experiment with drugs and alcohol.'' The music at ASYLUM is provided by a mixture of bands and DJs. Special guest DJs have included Andy Curtis, Ian Delahay, and Gerry Jose while popular local bands, such as Huh!?!, as well as school bands, have also performed.
There are raffle tickets and dance contests; both offer a chance to win big prizes. The next ASYLUM will be held on November 27 at 8 pm at the Mariners' Club. The price is $50 a head, and includes one free (non-alcoholic) drink.
If you would like to help out, or join the committee, see the ASYLUM representative at your school. If your school does not have one, talk to your teachers about ASYLUM, then contact Heidi on 719-5146 for more information.
Any bands that are interested in performing, or companies which can offer raffle prize sponsorship, can also contact Heidi.