David Millington Photography Blackburn Youth Zone – 05

Blackburn Youth Zone is a 21st century youth hub located at the heart of Blackburn, open to young people aged 5 to 25 years old, aiming to change the prospects offered to young people in the area.

Uniquely, this is happening in partnership with young people rather than on their behalf.

As such, the Zone is led with the principle of ‘starting where young people are, going where young people take us’.

We’re open 7 days a week and offer over up to 20 activities each evening. And entrance fee is just 50p.

The Zone is built on land where, 100 years ago, Blackburn’s first electricity generating station once stood. On the place where electricity first came to and powered the town, the Youth Zone is now powering the community through the energy and creativity of young people.

What also makes the Zone distinctive is its relationship with the local business community, who have wholeheartedly embraced the concept and pledged to work together to raise the aspirations of our town’s young people, equipping them with life skills, increased confidence and independence which in turn will regenerate our town from the bottom up.


Following research carried out by Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council, and the subsequent engagement of young people, it was clear that the young people were calling for better facilities and safer places to meet. It was also apparent that young people from different communities mixed very little, and that community cohesion was less than it should be.

Peter Little, the council officer who undertook the research and led the involvement of young people, contacted Jerry Glover, the Chief Executive of Bolton Lads and Girls Club, an organisation that had delivered youth work and support to the young people of Bolton for over a 100 years. Jerry was in the process of establishing a new charity, OnSide Youth Zones, which aimed to create five Youth Zones within five years. Blackburn became one of the charity’s initial partners.

Together with Blackburn with Darwen Council, OnSide recruited local businesses to join the board of the new youth zone. Initially chaired by Paul Baker, former Managing Director of Thwaites Brewery plc, the role was soon taken on by Andrew Graham, Chief Executive of Graham and Brown. OnSide, with the support of the Council and the new Board soon began recruiting Founder Patrons. It secured a £6m grant from the previous government’s MyPlace scheme, and identified the site needed. Strategically located in the heart of Blackburn, the Youth Zone has been one of the catalysts to securing funding for further regeneration of Blackburn, such as the current Cathedral Quarter development.

In 2011 Peter Little was recruited as the Youth Zone’s first Chief Executive. Peter worked with young people developing the organisation’s principles and with the architect on the design of the building. Building work on our iconic building then commenced. Young people were central both to the building itself, and to the creation of a spectacular opening by HRH The Earl of Wessex, in early 2012.

Blackburn Youth Zone made an impressive start, growing rapidly. After its first full year of operation it was judged the best not-for- profit business in Lancashire at the Red Rose Awards. This success was rooted in the principle of young people’s involvement with the pitch being made by two young people, Sam Ali and Mo Shiek supported by Peter. Peter left the organisation in late 2015.

Blackburn Youth Zone was recognised for bringing all young people from local communities, embracing differences and increasing cohesion. The impact of this work was recognised by Blackburn with Darwen’s longest standing MP, Rt Hon Jack Straw. His commitment to Blackburn saw him appointed, the week after he retired as the town’s MP, as Chairman of Blackburn Youth Zone in May 2015 with support from Andrew Graham as Vice Chairman.

After supporting Blackburn Youth Zone for six years and connecting the business community, Vice Chairman, Andrew Graham was recognised for his outstanding contributions and commitment to charity – receiving an MBE on Thursday 4th February 2016.

After the Youth Zone’s success in the first few years, the Board were passionate about focusing on sustainability and longevity. The Board worked closely with one of our supporters, Cummins Mellor Recruitment, in developing a robust recruitment process for a new Chief Executive.

In 2016 the Board appointed Hannah Allen as the Chief Executive of Blackburn Youth Zone. Hannah has extensive experience in successfully involving diverse communities, identifying need and targeting investment in projects that have lasting social change, in a variety of locations including Liverpool, South West England, France and Northern Ireland. Through this Hannah has built a strong network nationally and across a variety of sectors including voluntary, statutory, educational, third sector and private sector.

2016 has brought positive change to Blackburn Youth Zone, strengthening our partnerships and planning a more prosperous future. This wouldn’t be possible without our motivated team, volunteers and young people.

Lives are forever changed and great things accomplished when you look for ways to make a difference. So if you would like to help, comment, or have any questions for us, please contact us on: 01254 292000.


Rt Hon Jack Straw (Chairman), Hannah Allen (Chief Executive) and Andrew Graham MBE (Vice Chairman)


Blackburn Youth Zone is located at the heart of the Cathedral Quarter, off Jubilee Street, Blackburn. View map.

Blackburn Youth Zone is a registered charity no.1135949

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