Barnstaple Youth House
Newsletter, April 2023
As we slowly emerge from winter, things have been looking up for Barnstaple Youth House. The place is busier than it has been for many years. Our youth Club, ‘It’s4U’ restarted after the pandemic and attracts teenagers who have additional needs or special educational needs. Covid has had an impact on all of us, especially on some young people who have found themselves stranded in their own company, lacking confidence to get wider experience. Our team of skilled volunteers create a welcoming environment and activities, which have proved very effective. If we can recruit more volunteers, the programme could expand further. (All volunteers are carefully vetted and police checked.)
The much-respected Barnstaple Town Youth Marching Band continues to be based at BYH. Young people learn up to thirty stirring musical pieces and are engaged in many public performances. It can be a life-changing experience for young people who may lack confidence.
We have a new service hosted at BYH. This is Pete’s Dragons, a Devon charity which gives support to family members who have suffered a suicide in their family. Counselling proves very effective and the charity is using two small rooms, with access to others, as required. In addition, BYH hosts a number of council and voluntary services, which more widely cater for young people with additional needs. During last summer, we became the meeting and activity venue for North Devon Student Excursions language school. A series of large groups of teenagers arrived in Barnstaple from European countries, hosted by local families. The organisers needed an affordable central venue and BYH fitted the bill. We have them returning for the current year, starting soon.
The trustees have been working hard to improve the energy efficiency of our large old building. A new control system for the heating means it can all be adjusted remotely. Extra insulation has reduced costs and shortened warm up times. Replacement lighting of LED units had reduced running costs. The ground floor toilet has been completely refurbished and the kitchen units have been upgraded.
Our longer-term ambition to develop use of the redundant abattoir behind the house has taken a big leap forward. With the generous help of RGP Architects and Petroc College, the trustees have been assisted in forming detailed plans. These preserve the historic character of the old building while developing a multi-use space. At the moment, we lack facilities for really active programmes. The new facility will enable activities such as ball games, theatre workshops, Pilates, arts and music workshops etc. The overgrown yard will become a peaceful space which can enable barbecues, discussion, gardening and perhaps outdoor performances. As we prepare a planning application, we have been fortunate to recruit more trustees and supporters with specific technical skills and qualifications. The timetable is in years rather than months but we have made a very good start.
To fully develop the potential of BYH, we do need paid professional staff. A project is underway to shape a small staff team, for which we will apply for funding from a range of local and national charities.
Our current immediate challenges include engaging affordable cleaning, to cope with the increasing usage of the premises. Refurbishment work on the Pannier Market and Queen’s Theatre is going on for some months and we are grateful to WMS contractors and council officers for making every effort to avoid disturbance. Trustees with careers in caring services are currently reviewing and updating our guidance policies, with help from the Devon wide Space Youth Services. We work closely with our neighbours to address local problems and give mutual support.
If you would like to become involved in some way in this vibrant youth project, do get in touch.
Pete Thorn, Chair