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Tuesday 25 June 2019
by Jackie Emson

Meet the Member - Leon from Warrington Youth Club

Name of Business  Warrington Youth Club 

• Who are you?  The Club’s aim is 'Inspiring young people to achieve' and engages with young people aged 7 to 25 from across Warrington and the surrounding areas. A registered charity, we have had a presence in the town for nearly 70 years and now support a membership of in excess of 3,500 young people. From the Junior and Senior Youth Clubs held at the Peace Centre, the Holiday Club schemes at Penketh High School to the bespoke young person’s Gym at the Junction on Buttermarket Street, the Club offers a wide range of universal positive activities and targeted programmes such as Mentoring, Employability and Enterprise, and National Citizen Service to allow young people to flourish, nurture their talents, increase and develop their life skills, and improve their emotional and physical wellbeing. 

• What sets you apart from the competition?  The Club is the largest voluntary sector provider in the town and we are ambitious, always striving to improve the lives of children and young people in Warrington. We are currently on a really exciting journey with the national charity OnSide Youth Zones for the Club to transition into a state-of-the-art, contemporary, flagship Youth Zone to be built right in the town centre near to Warrington Central Train Station. The scale and scope of the offer will be significant, delivered in a £6.5 million building which will be open to young people 7 days per week, 52 weeks per year. This will be a bold and impressive statement to say that young people matter and they deserve the best facilities and programmes that we can offer, and the benefits will be felt by the members, local residents and the business community.  

• How did the business come about?  In 1930, a group of parents were concerned that their sons were getting into trouble after school, and set up a small Club for their sons and friends to keep them entertained following the school day; this group developed into Warrington Boys Club and in 1935 the group was formally established as part of the Boys Club network. Following use of various centres around Warrington, the group moved to a new home on Rodney Street in 1950 which was officially opened by Princess Margaret, and over the intervening years, the Club has welcomed generations of young people from across the town. As the Millennium approached, the building on Rodney Street had become unfit for purpose and maintenance costs had become significant, and as a result, the Board of Trustees built a partnership with the Tim Parry / Johnathan Ball Foundation for Peace and the NSPCC and moved into the Peace Centre in 2000 when it opened. In 2003, the Club changed its name to Warrington Youth Club and became registered with the Charity Commission, and in 2009 started the first conversations with OnSide, Warrington Borough Council and other partners to become a Youth Zone whose location is interestingly very close to Rodney Street where the organisation started almost 70 years ago. 

• What are your main target markets?  We work with all young people aged from 7 to 19 or up to 25 if a young person has additional needs. 

• How long has your business been in existence?  67 years 

• How many staff do you employ?  Approximately 25 staff – a mixture of part-time and full-time employees who are supported by an army of 100+ community volunteers 

• What job or achievement makes you most proud?  Gaining the position of General Manager at Warrington Youth Club, and supporting the amazing team and seeing the impact that the work we do has across Warrington. A key element of this is the support we have through local businesses which support the organisation on a daily basis.   

• Where do you see the business being in five years?  The Youth Zone is set to open late Autumn 2020 and we anticipate that after the official launch, membership numbers will have doubled to at least in excess of 7,000 members. We will have transitioned from the Club into the new Youth Zone and we will be working with more young people than ever before, and have gone from being open 4 days per week to 7 days per week and transformed the services available to young people. 

• Why Warrington?  We were set up by the community for the community, and we are grateful to all of those parents who 67 years ago wanted to provide something positive for their sons to take part in when they weren’t in school. We sit within the heart of Warrington, having developed strong links with a range of partners including many well-known businesses in the town. 

• Tell us one interesting thing about the business that might surprise us?  Our current operating costs are close to £1,000,000 per year, which needs to be secured through fundraising events and grant applications. 

• Tell us one interesting thing about you that people might not know? (ie, hobbies, amusing fact, etc)  I am a level three Kayak coach and paddle over waterfalls  

• Brexit – good, bad, opportunity?  The impact of Brexit could have profound implications on our members, as it is the younger generations who will grow into adults and work and live in whichever Brexit situation materialises. We know from our conversations with businesses looking to be Founder Patrons of the new Youth Zone that some are waiting for the effects of Brexit to be felt on their business before they confirm their support and for some it is a real worry.  

• Fantasy dinner party – which six people alive or dead would you invite?  Richard Branson, Barack Obama, Rod Stewart, Bill Gates, Nelson Mandela and Thomas Edison