Keeping the options open for local young people

“We’ve got lots going on at the moment,” Pamela says as she leads me upstairs for our chat. “We’re preparing for a local parade just now.”

The Chill Out Room at The Factory Youth Zone has comfy chairs and sofas; books about anger management and sexual health, and lots of motivational posters.

I start at the beginning. “When did this place open? How long have you been here?”

“We opened in February 2012,” says Pamela Mason, “and I’ve been here from the start.”

A large colourful box of a building right in the centre of Harpurhey, The Factory Youth Zone is unusual for a youth centre. Pamela explains that it’s run by a charity and the building was paid for in part by local businesses and patrons.

“We got funding from people and organisations who wanted to invest in young people,” she says. “And there are more centres like this now open in Oldham, Wigan, Preston, all over.

“The traditional youth service provided by local authorities doesn’t exist any more. We’re the new path for that work. Our job is to keep the options open for young people.”

Pamela’s career in youth work started as a work placement at a youth club as part of a social care qualification. In her first paid role in Wythenshawe she and her colleagues toured the estate with their transit van.

“We’d park in hotspots where young people would congregate,” she recalls, “and we’d throw open the side of van where there’d be some seating, a kettle and even an X-box. It was up to us to discourage otherwise antisocial behaviour.”

Her first role at The Factory Youth Zone was as an outreach worker but has since moved through the ranks and is now Head of Youth managing a team of full and part-time staff.

“What sort of challenges do young people face in this area?” I ask.

“Well, as you know, the statistics show that Harpurhey and Moston are near the top – or the bottom, depending on which way you look at it – for things like domestic violence, child sexual exploitation, poor school attendance, poor health, drug and alcohol abuse. These all affect young people directly or indirectly.”

“And The Factory Youth Zone is making a difference?”

“Absolutely,” says Pamela. “We have up to 150 young people attending our senior sessions each week and about 140 coming to the junior sessions. And they keep coming back, so we must be doing our job well.”

But Pamela and her colleagues can’t do everything. “We often need to refer young people to other services – mental health, debt advice, housing or employment – and all these are under-resourced. It can take time before our young people get the extra help and support they need.”

The Fourteen programme has helped. The Factory Youth Zone has been awarded funding to run an 18-month project that encourages 14-19-year-olds to train as young leaders.

“We’ve been able to employ an extra member of staff who’s written the Learn2Lead programme which includes safeguarding training, a social action campaign and voluntary work placements,” says Pamela.

“It’s great to see the older ones with Young Leader printed on the back of their T-shirts, acting as role models for our junior members.”

“And what about being part of the Local Reference Group for the Fourteen programme?” I ask, “Has that been useful?”

“It’s like having a whole new group of colleagues,” enthuses Pamela, “with lots of new resources and contacts. You get to know much more about what’s happening in the area and learn new ways of working.

“It’s been great to get to know all the other community groups in our Big Meets, and we’re hoping, as part of the Learn2Lead project, to place some young volunteers with those groups.”

To find out what’s available for young people at The Factory Youth Zone, check their website or call into the reception.

Awards with a difference at Forever Manchester

Community Builder Graeme Urlwin tells why Forever Manchester’s approach is different.

Before I came to Forever Manchester I was at the other end of the funding process.  I was the  person writing the bids.

If successful, the money would soon be spent and it was time to start making new bids to continue the new activity the original bid had funded.

It’s an eternal treadmill and many funding-dependent organisations have folded over the last few years as funding sources have dried up.

At Forever Manchester there is a focus upon assets and how the pooling of skills and resources can lessen the need for funding.

When I came to Forever Manchester and was introduced to Cash 4 Graft – awards of £250 for grass roots start-up activity – I was sceptical. ‘What can £250 do?’

Over the last 18 months I’ve learnt that £250 can do a lot and that interesting things happen without a great big fat grant behind them.

Cash 4 Graft is designed to support local people to get an activity off the ground in their locality. They don’t have to be a formal group, have a constitution or even a bank account, just four people behind a good idea.

There’s a simple application form and, when successful, you’re given a credit card with £250 already on it, so there’s no worry about overspending. The whole process can be turned around in just over a week.

Since I’ve been working in Harpurhey and Moston Cash 4 Graft has helped set up a diabetes support group; take 45 kids to the local panto; support the development of a new foodbank; bring a disparate community together on a housing estate; help a dementia group buy some resources; funded craft sessions with older people. The list goes on.

But for me it’s not necessarily about the activity that is supported, it’s more about the process of applying for a Cash 4 Graft, and what that achieves for the people involved.

When local people discover that there’s a bit of money available, and it’s exclusive to them, it gets them thinking about what they could do. That leads to new ideas and enthusiasm and the money becomes irrelevant.

With the pooling of resources and skills, and a bit of begging and borrowing, their idea can happen without the need for funding.

The process has shown them that ‘we can’t afford to do it’ is no longer a valid reason for not doing something. The process itself gives groups and individuals confidence.

Local people coming to us for an application form are usually completely new to anything like that. Just the thought of sitting down to write a funding application can be daunting. But having done it, and been awarded the money, gives people confidence and self-belief which carries them forward.

To make a Cash 4 Graft application from Forever Manchester click here

More from Graeme next week as he tells how local people have benefited from Cash 4 Graft awards.

Photo by Anthony Bradley.

Being part of an active and friendly group

LRG member and owner of Chandlers Hairdressing, Stephen Chandler tells of his passion for the stage.

For the past five years I’ve been an active member of the North Manchester Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society (NMAODS).

We’ve just finished out latest production, The Vicar of Dibley, Love and Marriage, which ran for four nights (and one matinee) to coincide with this year’s Comic Relief.

For this show I was part of the backroom crew but I’ve also had acting parts in our versions of Faulty Towers and ’Allo, ’Allo.

It’s not the first time we’ve followed the adventures of vicar Geraldine and Alice the verger. We first covered the sitcom in 2014.

The original, starring Dawn French and Emma Chambers, was first shown on the BBC in November 1994 and ran for over three years, with a number of ‘specials’ after that. It was written by Richard Curtis and Paul Mayhew-Archer. Curtis is well known for comedy films, Love Actually, Bridget Jones and Notting Hill. His TV hits include Mr Bean and Blackadder.

I’m really enjoying being part of such an active society and friendly group and must thank our director Vanessa Randall and chairman David Gordon for that.

In 2019 the North Manchester Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society will be 100 years old. We were created from the merger of the Harpurhey Dramatic Society and the Simpson Memorial Tennis Club.

Our home, since 1919, has been the Simpson Memorial Hall on Moston Lane which was originally built from money from the estate of William Simpson, a wealthy local silk manufacturer.

Its original objective was to ‘promote the benefit of the inhabitants of Moston and neighbouring districts by associating with the local authorities, voluntary organisations and inhabitants to advance education and to provide facilities for recreation and with the object of improving the conditions of life for the said inhabitants.’

And with NMAODS we’re continuing to do just that.

If you’d like to join us, or get information on our forthcoming productions, visit

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