OnSide Youth Zones, the national umbrella charity whose aim is to build a network of 21st Century Youth Clubs, giving young people, safe and inspiring places to go in their leisure time were the driving force behind Wirral’s £6m Youth Zone in Bright Street, Birkenhead. It all started to take shape back in 2012 with a commitment from Wirral Council to build an OnSide Youth Zone in Wirral. That was followed by a meeting with OnSide representatives, Wirral Council and John Syvret CBE – the Chief Executive of Cammell Laird – at Wallasey Town Hall in October 2013. The idea was to approach John to Chair the project – one which we all know he grasped with both hands.
Identifying a site for the build of the Youth Zone was the next key challenge. As with any OnSide Youth Zone, it must be accessible by public transport and centrally located within an area of deprivation in terms of opportunities available young people. A site was found and agreed next to the fire station in the centre of Birkenhead in which the Fire Service generously donated part of their land to work in partnership to build the OnSide Youth Zone.
OnSide’s Youth Work team then recruited a ‘Young People’s Development Group’ who were made up of young people from partnering youth organisations across Wirral. This group worked to engage with over 300 young people in creating ‘The Hive’ as the official name for Wirral Youth Zone. The young people believed that ‘The Hive’ would represent a ‘hive’ of activity within Wirral and this group of young ambassadors for the project would grow and go on to play a key role in everything from, the design and colour scheme of their Youth Zone to even interviewing staff members and performing a rap video with football legend John Barnes!
Once all the planning applications had been agreed with Wirral Council back in July 2015 and the architects designs were approved (with young people of course) the £6m capital funding was confirmed. Funding from Wirral Council, Bibby Line Group, The Johnson Foundation, Lord Leverhulme’s Charitable Trust, Garfield Weston Foundation, UBS, Linbury Trust, OnSide, The Queen’s Trust, St James’s Place Foundation, Holroyd Foundation, Wirral Borough Council, Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service and support from the North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) NHS Trust meant the Youth Zone build could begin. To mark the occasion the world’s biggest spade plunged into the ground!
OnSide then worked with John Syvret to form a Youth Zone board. A key member of the Youth Zone board is Peter Bibby – the man behind Birkenhead Youth Club, a neighbouring, fantastic youth facility up the road from Wirral Youth Zone. The Hive’s opening times were agreed in close working partnership with Birkenhead Youth Club, to add to the overall offer for young people in Wirral.
Stuart Barnes was recruited as the Chief Executive of Wirral Youth Zone – now its own independent charity. During this key time, whilst the build was underway, John Syvret’s experience in the Wirral business community as well as the expertise of Stuart and the OnSide Youth Zones team enabled the sign up 20 Founder Patron’s which will ensure the Youth Zone’s revenue costs are funded for the first three years of opening.
The Hive will cost £1million per year to run and this will be funded through a combination of public sector and private sector funding. Local businesses and individuals have backed the project with the likes of Urenco UK, Boulting Group, Shirley and John Syvret, The Contact Company, Selwyn-Lloyd Charitable Trust, Cammell Laird, The Bibby Family, Hill Dickinson, Peel, Edward Billington & Son Ltd, Anne Duchess of Westminster’s Charity, B&M Waste Services, Andrew Collinge Hairdressing, Park Group, West Wallasey Car Hire, the Barton Family, Progress to Excellence, Russell Taylor Group, Hugh and Cathy Frost, as well as anonymous supporters all throwing their weight behind Wirral’s new Youth Zone. Liverpool and England legend John Barnes even signed up to become a Youth Zone ambassador – not a bad role model for local young people!
A further 50 full time staff were recruited followed by 100 volunteers to make sure The Hive offers the BEST service for young people. Wirral Youth Zone offers a multitude of facilities from a 4G football pitch, music room, recording studio, arts and crafts areas, health and well-being rooms, boxing gym, fitness suite, dance studio and employability and mentoring programmes. It will help raise the aspirations, improve health and wellbeing and enhance the prospects of an anticipated membership of over 3,000 young people across Wirral. In fact over 1000 have already signed up as members! The Youth Zone will be open for young people aged 8-19 and up to 25 with a disability when schools are not. Membership costs £5 per year and 50p per session and young people can sign up now by visiting www.thehiveyouthzone.org/new-member.
The Hive, Wirral Youth Zone, buzzing with a ‘hive’ of activity, opened on Saturday April 8th and now provides 21st century youth provision 7 days per week.