Search for city 'patrons' to help with the running costs of Preston's new Youth Zone

The hunt is on to find the estimated £1.5m that will be needed each year to operate Preston’s new Youth Zone.
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The charity behind the long-awaited facility – which is due to open opposite the city’s bus station in 2025 – is appealing to businesses and philanthropists to become “founder patrons” who will help get the service up and running.

The campaign has already taken off after aerospace giant BAE Systems pledged to donate £350,000 in total to the project through until 2028.

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Guy Topping, chair of Preston Youth Zone, said that he hoped having such an “influential” organisation on board would encourage others to follow suit.

The forthcoming Preston Youth Zone, as viewed from the bus station opposite (image: Elephant Visual)The forthcoming Preston Youth Zone, as viewed from the bus station opposite (image: Elephant Visual)
The forthcoming Preston Youth Zone, as viewed from the bus station opposite (image: Elephant Visual)
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Preston Youth Zone gets the go-ahead after a decade-long wait

Revealing the expected annual running costs to the Lancashire Post, he added that he was taking comfort from the fact that the OnSide charity was now operating 14 other Youth Zones nationwide – “and they are all managing [to find the money]”.

“None of it is easy, but I’m confident that we’ll get there,” Guy said.

He told the Post that the push to find patrons would be made easier the more people heard the stories of those who have attended other facilities in the network – and the difference it made to their lives.

Guy Topping, Preston Youth Zone chair, is searching for financial backers for the projectGuy Topping, Preston Youth Zone chair, is searching for financial backers for the project
Guy Topping, Preston Youth Zone chair, is searching for financial backers for the project
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The launch event for the campaign heard from one young woman who attended the Inspire Youth Zone in Chorley – and is now a BAE Systems apprentice

Guy said that it was a timely reminder of what the project – which he has been trying to get off the ground for 14 years – is all about.

“I’ve heard [similar stories] before on many occasions about the impact [a Youth Zone] has – and it just makes you realise it’s an essential thing that we absolutely need in Preston, it’s not an option.

“That then spurs you on to go out and find the money to make [this] a reality. When other people hear [Youth Zone members] speak, I think it will motivate them to put their hand in their pocket and help out as much as they can.”

BAE Systems apprentice Lydia Wright tells the audience at the Founder Patron event for the Preston Youth Zone how she was helped by the facility in ChorleyBAE Systems apprentice Lydia Wright tells the audience at the Founder Patron event for the Preston Youth Zone how she was helped by the facility in Chorley
BAE Systems apprentice Lydia Wright tells the audience at the Founder Patron event for the Preston Youth Zone how she was helped by the facility in Chorley
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When it opens its doors, the facility will welcome young people aged between eight and 19 – and will be open up to the age of 25 for those with additional needs. It will offer a range of sporting, artistic, cultural and recreational activities and will cost 50 pence per visit, plus an annual membership fee of £5.

It is expected that as many as 2,000 young people per week could attend – and not just to enjoy themselves, but also for practical purposes like support, training and mentoring.

Guy said that the extent of the Youth Zone’s offering will allow patrons to play a hands-on role, should they wish to do so.

Employers who are always looking for young people to come into their business, [could] maybe get involved in the employability side of things and go into the Youth Zone to train people and help them with the skills [they need] for getting jobs. And in return, they may well end up attracting some local young talent into their business.

How Preston's new Youth Zone could look on the inside (image: Elephant Visual)How Preston's new Youth Zone could look on the inside (image: Elephant Visual)
How Preston's new Youth Zone could look on the inside (image: Elephant Visual)
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“Of course, some people don’t want anything to do with [the day-to-day operation] and just want to give the money. So the basket of people who end up getting involved is very varied – but there’s something in it for everybody.”

Guy says that he hopes support for – and pride in – Preston’s Youth Zone can engendered within the community and those with the means to ensure that the city’s state-of-the-art facility can fulfil its potential – almond with those who attend it.

“I’d say that if you’re from the Preston area and you’d like to give something back, there’s probably nothing better, more worthwhile or more rewarding than getting involved in the Youth Zone.

“I think not only will it give great value for your money – because it is going direct to the service rather than to a fundraising arm of [a charity] – it’s something that you can come down and see firsthand,

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“You can get involved in [with the] events and opportunities that there will be to come and share in the excitement and the pleasure of being involved in the Youth Zone family.

“That’s how it was in Bolton when I got involved over there. The whole town was involved and it was very much their youth club – at the events all the great and good of Bolton were there.

The land bound by Tithebarn Street, Crooked Lane and Lord Street on which the new Preston Youth Zone will be built (image: Google)The land bound by Tithebarn Street, Crooked Lane and Lord Street on which the new Preston Youth Zone will be built (image: Google)
The land bound by Tithebarn Street, Crooked Lane and Lord Street on which the new Preston Youth Zone will be built (image: Google)

“It’s going to be the same in Preston – and it’s a very enjoyable and rewarding thing to get involved in.”

‘A PLACE TO CALL HOME’

Preston’s will not be the first Youth Zone in which BAE Systems has been involved. The company is a longstanding patron of the Blackburn and Darwen Youth Zone, where they have helped to develop the facility’s “Maker Suite” with its 3D printers. An eco-lab project also aims to give young people the skills and knowledge to thrive in a green economy.

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BAE Systems senior air board member – and proud Prestonian – Dave Holmes said that “being part of a community” was important to the firm.

“This means playing an active part in making the areas we operate and live in better places and, given our long and proud link with Preston, which is located between our two Lancashire sites employing approximately 10,000 people, we wanted to work with the Youth Zone and support the young people of [the city].

“Ensuring Preston’s youngsters have a safe, inspiring and educational place to call home is really important and we’re delighted to help Preston Youth Zone on this journey over the next few years. We would really encourage local business to get involved [as well],” Dave added.

‘LIFE-CHANGING’

The majority of the estimated £11m build costs of the Preston Youth Zone have been funded with a share of Preston’s £20.9m tranche from the government’s Towns Fund grant and £6.2m from the nationwide Youth Investment Fund.

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The Eric Wright Charitable Trust is amongst other supporters of the project, along with Preston City Council, which will also make a contribution to the annual operation.

The authority’s leader, Matthew Brown, said that the venture would be a partnership between multiple organisations.

“It is important that our young people will have somewhere to go, something to do and someone to talk to.

“We encourage more local businesses and philanthropists to become part of Preston’s Youth Zone Founder Patron’s Family, to contribute to its annual running costs for the benefit of our young people and help to make a life-changing difference to those that need support the most,” Cllr Brown said.

WANT TO HELP?

For more information on how to get involved, email Jim Fieldsend at [email protected].