The Open Access Youth Club at The Hunslet Club has been running for a year now. To celebrate they held an open evening last week (17 May 2022) and went I along to find out how the project is progressing.
The building on Hillidge Road was already buzzing when I arrived at 6pm with more seniors (Year 8 and above) arriving all the time. The Senior youth club runs until 9pm, Monday to Friday and is free. It offers a safe space where young people can come along and join in any of the activities on offer or just relax with their friends. There’s also a Junior Youth Club (8-12 years), also free, that runs from 4:30-7pm on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Dennis Robbins, The Hunslet Club’s Chief Executive told me:
“We weren’t sure what to expect when we set this up to run over five nights from 4:30 through to 9pm, but the response has been unbelievable, amazing. Most nights we are averaging 50 at the junior youth club and 50 at the senior youth club; that’s 250-330 young people in the club when you include all the activities we run. That’s every night, it’s massive and I think it’s going to grow.”
I got talking to a group of boys playing pool, one of the boys explained:
“I come down here all the time. There’s pool, we can do X Box and then do cooking, or we can play football outside. You can do anything here. It’s just cool, it’s somewhere to chill.”
I asked the Youth Worker at the table if his job was mostly playing pool. He put me right, saying:
“We make sure the kids are behaving and being sensible. We monitor what they’re doing, but this is an open access club so we let them do what they want. If someone’s not right we might intervene, sometimes we let them sort it out themselves, but if they’re getting angry we might take them to one side and chat to them and see if they’re doing OK.”
Dennis told me that these youth work interventions are an important part of how the club runs.
“Our Intervention Workers are here to support any young person who presents with any problem. We have handled 230 interventions over the last 12 months. These range from bullying and loss of confidence at school, to pregnancy, drink, drugs and petty crime. Some cases are sorted on the night, some go on over a period of time, some are referred to other agencies.”
He told me of one case where a Youth Worker had noticed that two boys were suddenly buying everyone drinks at the tuck shop. He alerted the Intervention Worker who discovered that the boys were getting involved in crime. Work is ongoing to help the boys.
One of the girls I spoke to appreciated the staff as well as the activities. She said:
“I come down Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. I like the staff, they’re really nice and they help me with loads of things. There was an incident happened with this boy and they really helped me deal with it. I like to hang out with my friends, do baking and sports with them.”
There are plans to develop the youth clubs using ideas from the young people themselves. There will be a Games zone kitted out with the latest technology; a music room with DJ equipment and guitars, drums and other instruments; as well as a craft and design workshop.
“There’s nowhere else like this in Leeds – and there should be. 85% of these young people are from south Leeds but we have youngsters coming from 23 wards. We’re citywide provision, the only purpose-built youth club in the city. Other cities are getting new £8m buildings, Leeds is lagging behind. Look around you, we are proving that this kind of provision works.
“The young people keep coming, they’re meeting new people and making new friendships, I just love it.”