Six months at the Pod
It’s been just six months since the young people cut the ribbon, opening their new youth cafe, the Pod, in Holyhead, North Wales - but you wouldn’t know it from talking to them. In that short time, they’ve done some pretty amazing things.
Their youth café, named by the young people as ‘the Pod’, was developed as part of the Local Conversation project in Anglesey, North Wales, is supported by Mon CF, that began back in 2015, and is funded by People’s Health Trust.
Local Conversations is a flexible resident-led funding model driven by what local people want. Through the programme, residents are supported to identify and take action on issues that are important to them.
Through an engagement process, residents agreed on their priorities. They decided to focus on: improving youth facilities; ensuring local people are trained and job ready when recruitment opportunities arise in the area; and using events to bring the community together.
One idea to come out of the process was a youth cafe after young people said there was a need for activities in the area for them to take part in. In November last year, a lot of hard work paid off and their Pod was launched!
Talking to the young people, it’s clear that they are extremely proud of their Pod; there’s a lot to be proud of. They’ve been involved in the process from the very beginning and are the ones shaping its future. A picture of the article about their launch on the front page of the Bangor Mail is displayed proudly on their Facebook page.
Open after school, from 3.15pm until 6.30pm, Monday to Friday (and outside of those times when needed by the young people), the centre offers young people local opportunities for free to make friends, have a louder voice in decision-making, socialise, find information, develop their skills, improve the job chances, pursue shared interests - and have fun - in a safe, accessible space.
There are decks for budding DJs, they hold gigs where the young people with a shared love for music can perform for others, and there are hotly contested-monthly FIFA (a popular football computer game) and pool tournaments.
It also has a café area where the young people can share baking skills, or volunteer to make and serve hot and cold snacks to other members. There’s even a cinema room, and sofa areas for people looking to chill out for a bit too, as well as computers and homework spaces.
Yes, it’s a cool place to hang out, but it’s about much more than that. Importantly, the young people are taking an increasing role in running the Pod themselves, increasing their control over the whole initiative.
The project is shaped by the young people. At first they tried to set up a formal youth council and there was a lot of enthusiasm, but it was tricky to find times when everyone could meet up. The group decided that all members of the Pod should be considered a ‘council member’ and a ‘Youth Manager’ (a young person) was nominated to take the lead. When a decision needs to be made, they put it to a vote. The Youth Manager will note the details on the white board and asks the members to vote on the issue and write their comments on it. The board is photographed and filed as a record. By adjusting the process to suit the young people, lots more people have engaged with it.
However they’re doing a lot more than just their day-to-day business. In their first six months, they’ve achieved so much more.
For example, over Christmas they set up their own community ice rink, and during the February half-term break from school they set up and ran an arts fair with painting, digital, graffiti, cartoon and pop art workshops. They’re even planning to go sea kayaking in the summer!
The project is giving the young people a louder voice. They’re starting to influence environmental issues locally by attending The Wildlife Trust’s - Wild Welsh Coasts’ Committee meetings.
Last month, the Pod’s Youth Council met up with Caryl Mai Hughes, the Outreach and Youth Engagement Officer for the National Assembly of Wales. The group discussed the possibility of holding a ‘Question Time’ style event at their Pod. They wanted to invite Assembly Members along to see their Pod and answer questions about issues affecting young people. They agreed and the event’s taking place on the 21st April.
They’re helping to influence other projects too. Last month, volunteers from the Local Conversation project in Penparcau, Aberystwyth, visited the Pod, They spent the day showing them around and exchanging stories, tips and ideas.
As part of their own Local Conversation, Penparcau Community Forum are supporting residents to transform a disused boxing club into a vibrant community space for young people in Aberystwyth - so they were able to exchange their valuable experiences and learning.
Andrew Williams, Youth Team Manager at Mon CF, said: “Having now been open for over six months, we can reflect on the impact we have had within our community. The biggest of which is the message to young people that their voices have been heard.
"They spoke, we listened, they worked, they have. This is this is the basic philosophy of how the Pod works – slowly but surely, we’ve gained the trust and respect of the young people with an understanding that we are here to listen and through conversation, action will happen.”
The story doesn't stop here.
When asked what was next for the Pod, he added: “Our Youth Voices Team and volunteers have been asked by the young people to facilitate sporting opportunities, so over the coming months we’ll be working out in the community in an outreach capacity.”
And, no doubt, much more besides.
The Pod’ youth café is an initiative developed by residents with support from Mon CF through the Local Conversation project funded by People’s Health Trust using money raised by HealthDiverse through The Health Lottery.
To read more about the Local Conversation in Holyhead, click here.
To see more pictures from this project, click here.
To read about other projects funded by the Trust, click here.
To read more news from the Trust, click here