After years of planning and mounting excitement, we were absolutely delighted to give Blackburn Youth Zone its official launch yesterday, Monday 6th February. Officially opened by HRH Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex KG GCVO – present in his capacity as Trustee to The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award – the launch was an exciting occasion.
Launching Blackburn Youth Zone
Partners, local dignitaries and supporters were invited into Blackburn Youth Zone’s building for the first glimpse of the final building design, fittings and equipment. The event started with a welcome speech from Blackburn Youth Zone Chief Executive, Peter Little, who reflected on how far Blackburn Youth Zone has come, the insurmountable support we’ve had behind us, and how we now have the once-in-a-lifetime chance to turn around the options and opportunities for Blackburn and the surrounding area’s young people.
Following Peter Little’s speech, guests were given the chance to explore The Youth Zone, via guided tours from members of staff and the board. Guests were taken first to one of Blackburn Youth Zone’s key attractions – the rooftop kickpitch. From there, guests were walked around the state-of-the-art gym, then down to the dance studio and to the media suite, before arriving back in The Youth Zone’s main atrium. The tour also included the chance to learn a little more about Blackburn Youth Zone’s extensive volunteering programme, with volunteers on-hand to elaborate on why they decided to get involved with the volunteering programme, and how they have found the experience so far. Guests were also given the chance to meet some of the young people who have been involved with Blackburn Youth Zone since its very conception, and who have played an integral role in designing the building, picking the furniture, recruiting staff, and more.
HRH Prince Edward arrived midway through the event – taking the chance to meet many of the young people involved and talking to them about their experiences with Blackburn Youth Zone, before touring the Youth Zone.
Powered By Young People
Young people were the heart and soul of Blackburn Youth Zone’s launch event. With a dedicated young people display, depicting their involvement with The Youth Zone, young people spoke at length about their experiences, what The Youth Zone means to them, and what it can bring to the local community.
Cousins Jade and Jodie Conroy took on the not undaunting task of escorting the Royal party around The Youth Zone, showing off its various features and elaborating on the planning and development that has gone into it. Various young people also gave interviews to the present media, appearing on Northwest Tonight, Granada Reports and Radio Lancashire – the perfect champions for The Youth Zone.
Guests reconvened in the sports hall – unrecognisably transformed into a high-tech performance space, complete with enormous cardboard and video art installation, courtesy of The Cardboard Box Company and film-makers Albino Mosquito
Blackburn Youth Zone Chairman Andrew Graham began the ceremony talking about Blackburn Youth Zone’s journey and the work we have yet to do, before thanking HRH Prince Edward for opening The Youth Zone and all of the young people involved in its development. Blackburn Youth Zone President, Jack Straw, spoke about his involvement with the project, calling the opening “a very special day”. Finally, HRH Prince Edward spoke, saying it was “a great pleasure to be here on this day, doing something for the next generation”, adding “we’ll never forget the day Blackburn Youth Zone was switched on”. No boring ribbon cutting or plaque unveiling at Blackburn Youth Zone, oh no, instead the Youth Zone was officially launched through the pulling of an antique lever (a loan from the Museum of Science & Industry). HRH Prince Edward joked the pulling of the lever “alarmed him considerably” before gamely initiating a countdown and pulling the lever, officially opening Blackburn Youth Zone.
The pulling of the lever launched both The Youth Zone and the performance, the music fading in as the lever went down. Four members of the Young People’s Development Group (a core group of youngsters involved in almost every aspect of The Youth Zone’s development) performed a stunningly choreographed street dance performance. Following the dance, five young rappers took to the stage, performing a piece they have penned themselves, about The Youth Zone, backdropped by a music video they themselves created. A fitting finale to an event launching a centre focussed on what young people can do, given the right support and resources.
The official launch of Blackburn Youth Zone is the first step in opening up The Youth Zone to all young people aged 8 – 21in Blackburn with Darwen. We will now be focussing on a series of “soft openings” – trial openings for various youth groups and schools, before throwing open the doors to all. And we can’t wait…
For more images and video clips from our opening, watch this space…!