Network of Regional Youth Work Units England blog

A Network of Regional Youth Work Units, in England, collaborating across regions to promote good youth work and young people’s voices.

Self Contained

LevenshulmeThis week, Liz Harding from North West Regional Youth Work Unit blogs about the value of open access youth work…

Containers have loomed large in my week. Not those small plastic ones for storing leftovers, but rather the huge metal ones used to transport goods around the world. While one popped up in my local community, the other I have been trying to get moved as the youth project that uses it for storage has got to find another home. Have you any idea how complicated and expensive that can be? I am finding out!

The first container has led me to a story of good youth work, activism and partnership in my own community, Levenshulme in Manchester.

There are three lots of people involved in this story.

Firstly, those who’ve made it possible to splash a bit of colour on Levenshulme.

The people who aren’t content with just sitting back and obsessing about their own lives. While the rest of us indulge ourselves when we’ve got a bit of down time, walking the dog perhaps or compulsively managing our i-Tunes collection, these people are attending countless meetings and filling in even more funding forms. They don’t have to do that, but the rest of us are lucky that they do as their fundraising success means Levenshulme Market CIC now has a beautifully decorated container to store their equipment

Secondly, those who have actually splashed such colour over this particular corner of Levenshulme and decorated the container.

Levenshulme projectThe design is that of a 13 year old at Levenshulme High School, who, along with other young women involved in the youth project there, also put hours into its production. That project exists despite spending on youth work in Manchester being cut over recent years as a result of austerity politics. A budget of something like £8m has become £1m with the city council’s youth service being abolished and any survivors left to compete for what are mere scraps when it comes to educating and keeping young people safe in the many hours they’re not at school or home.

That brings us to the third group of people involved, Unity Arts Manchester, which was brought in to help the girls achieve their vision.

Unity started back around 1994 and its main focus then was an anti-racism festival, held every year at the start of July in Chorlton Park. This is an event and organisation dear to my heart and, writing this, I can almost smell the dirty cash from the collecting buckets that we used to count deep into the evening, almost overcome by fatigue, over communal pizza. That festival was a direct reaction to the murder of Stephen Lawrence. After many years of educating and entertaining people, the festival came to a natural end, but the drive and vision of the founder and volunteers made sure that it had a legacy that would make London 2012 look like it was a sitcom.

Unity Arts became an ongoing project engaging young people at countless venues and in countless ways right across south Manchester. The volunteers behind it also spend endless hours at meetings and filling in forms. For those on FB here are more examples of the colour Unity has splashed over my city.

Just today Children & Young People Now highlighted a survey conducted by Berkshire Youth which has found that 82% of children and young people who attend youth groups are happy, compared to 74% of non-youth club users.

David Seward, chief executive of Berkshire Youth, said the findings affirmed the importance of youth work. “It demonstrates the worth and value of youth clubs and Berkshire Youth’s ambition to help young people realise their full potential,” he said.

“The survey findings also highlight the many positive things young people do for their communities and the high percentage that volunteer at youth clubs, charities and schools across the region to help others.”

IMG_6667The container in the Market demonstrates that beautifully.

Thank goodness for these people who are prepared to give their time to bring youth clubs and activities to young people where austerity has forced councils to pull back. What we need now is a Government that recognises the value of open access youth work in supporting young people to become fulfilled and active citizens and so groups like Unity are not spending time and money trying to work out how and where to move a large storage container.

Elizabeth Harding
North West Regional Youth Work Unit


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This entry was posted on July 4, 2014 by in North West Regional Youth Work Unit and tagged , , .
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