Regular readers will know that I’m a big supporter of scouting and guiding for young people.
It’s a sad reality of life for many kids today that life is pretty limited in lots of ways – while our children have access to information and technology my generation couldn’t even dream of, many children today don’t get the opportunity to explore, to play independently and serve their community in the way that I took for granted as a kid.
Guiding is a brilliant way to give girls a taste of that experience. Being a girl guide means making new friends, trying new experiences and being encouraged to discover and learn in new ways. I do think for some girls, it can be intimidating to try new activities in a mixed sex group (and research suggests that this can be a big issue during the secondary years) and girl guides provides a safe, supportive environment for kids to try everything from competing in outdoor pursuits to developing new technology skills.
But I suspect a highlight for many girl guides would be The Big Gig – a massive concert organised by the Girlguiding UK charity, for girls from all over the UK. This year, Flea and I were invited to attend The Big Gig in Sheffield, along with 9,000 girl guides from all over the country.
The concert itself was fantastic. Flea loved The Vamps and The Tide, and we both thought the new Finnish pop star, Isac Elliot, was brilliant. Labrinth was quite the loudest, flashiest set I’ve seen in a long time, and we sang along like fools to all the songs we knew, and a few we really didn’t.
But The Big Gig isn’t just another concert. Being exclusively for guides and their volunteer leaders means the audience is entirely female. The guides get completely into the spirit, dressing up in different costumes – we saw groups of princesses, lumberjacks, lots of 80s retro costumes and a group of young girls with the most brilliant traffic cone hats. The atmosphere feels very safe and supportive, and it’s not at all commercial – you can buy a Big Gig t-shirt or teddy, but the proceeds go to charity, and you don’t get the usual rip-off tour t-shirts and programmes you’d get at a regular concert.
The Big Gig has been running for 14 years and in that time, more than a quarter of a million girls and young women have attended the gathering, which happens in different UK locations each year. The event attracts top acts like Little Mix, Ed Sheeran, Olly Murs and The Saturdays. The event is a pop concert, but it also feels like a celebration of what girls can achieve – there’s a lot of chanting about “What can girls do? ANYTHING” and inspiring talk from the stage about how important it is for girls to be empowered and independent and grow into good leaders. I can imagine the girls in the audience of The Big Gig went home feeling pretty fantastic about being a girl.
If your daughter attends guides, then we whole-heartedly recommend The Big Gig – groups can apply for tickets on the Girlguiding website, where you’ll also find more information about getting involved in Girlguiding as an adult or a guide.