Susan Press reports on how an impressive new facility is transforming opportunities for youngsters in south Leeds.
The South Leeds Youth Hub, built this year on the site of the old Merlyn Rees High School in Belle Isle, was one of the last schemes to be delivered by the previous Labour government as part of a £270million programme targeting teenagers, vulnerable groups and NEETS – young people not in education, employment or training.
In recent weeks the Hub has been a hive of summer activity, with everything from sport and IT classes to song and dance and lessons in recording music.
This evening, around 30 youngsters will perform a 45-minute musical inspired by the Glee TV series, created with help from community dance project Dazl.
In September activities will be significantly expanded as youth leaders and teachers work in partnership with a range of organisations, including Health for All Leeds, NHS Leeds, and Hunslet Boys and Girls Club.
Made up of seven “zones” offering facilities to schools and community groups, including a mechanics workshop, hair and beauty salon, recording studio, and performance space, the Hub also has a “chill out” zone,
Groups already using the premises include the Signpost project, which works with vulnerable young people aged from 9 to 14.
Community outreach workers from Leeds United and members of the business community are also getting involved in the bid to improve life chances for children in one of the most disdvantaged parts of Leeds. Careers counselling and health education also form part of the mix.
Coun Judith Blake, Executive Member for Children’s Services and Chair of the Hub’s Partnership Board,said: “During the day there are all sorts of opportunities for schools to do off-site activities to enhance their curriculums. Other projects work with vulnerable groups, including children who are at risk of exclusion.
“We are also there to hold families together and offer advice to help young people ready for the world of work.”
“We have been building the Hub for the past few months and are now looking to increase the work we do to full strength capacity and focus on a wider age range.
“It is up to all of us in the community to demonstrate what we can do with these facilities and keep our young people engaged and active.”
The centre manager, Leon Reed, said a key task is to ensure that by the autumn the South Leeds Hub will be open to the community seven days a week with over 80 hours’ of activity on offer.
“As the cogs get turning, more and more organisations are coming on board,” he said.