The Benefits Youthworks Brought

In the light of the news that Youthworks has had to close because of funding shortages. Gemma Dunn’s poem, Our Club, makes sad reading now.

“We thought it would never happen,
Having somewhere we could go and meet,
We thought it would be the same old thing,
Hanging around Egremont Main Street.”

she wrote, expressing the delight and hope which the Youthworks Drop-in Centre inspired when it opened the doors of its premises in Dryden Way to young people living in Orgill and Smithfield, at a time when it made sense to invest in resources that could raise the aspirations of young people.

It meant a great deal more than ‘somewhere we could go and meet’, as Gemma made clear in her poem: ‘painting and stencilling was such fun’. So were visits to Whinlatter Outdoor Centre, dry-stone walling in Ennerdale and the use of Egremont Pool. Such visits were privileges earned by socially responsible actions such as clearing areas of litter. People living in the area quickly noticed the improvement in the behaviour of young people and the costs were recovered in the sharply reduced cost of vandalism. The Egremont centre had the distinction of housing the first Youthworks project to be based in a semi-rural rather than inner city location, and was the fruit of a partnership between Crime Concern, Marks & Spencer and Groundworks.

The cries of anguish expressed by youngsters and their parents when they learnt that this was all to go show how much it will be missed now. The many unpaid volunteers who helped these kids out of love and the leader and assistants who were employed by the project are feeling devastated by the loss. Former Chairperson, Cathy Hunter, told us of her deep disappointment when it became clear that that funding agencies no longer had the resources to back schemes that had brought so much value to the community. The help of Police Community Support Officers in organising cycling and swimming activities and promoting youth achievement awards helped to establish a positive relationship with the members of Our Club. Boys and girls were encouraged to develop habits of healthy eating through activities in the kitchen, and that went back to the roots of the Gardening Club, supported by visits from Callum Scott.

A lasting memorial to the artwork the centre inspired is the mosaic that decorates the roundabout in Castle Croft, a brilliant concept of Karen Storr through Creative Egremont. Karen has captured the concentration of young members encouraged and guided by visiting artist, Sarah Manders, giving them the satisfaction of making an indelible mark on their environment.

We hear assurances that something will be provided to replace the services that Youthworks provided, and we hope that these promises will be fulfilled, but at the moment we find it hard to understand why even in times of recession the benefits that projects like this can bring to a community are too complicated to find a place on accountants’ balance sheets.

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