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Heartfelt tributes for Jack Straw’s contributions to Blackburn and Darwen Youth Zone at charity event.


Rt Hon Jack Straw was honoured and celebrated for his commitment and contribution to the Blackburn and Darwen Youth Zone at a packed-out event hosted by the charity at Blackburn Rovers on 27 March.

The focal point of the “Supper Club,” hosted by Blackburn and Darwen Youth Zone Trustee, Wayne Wild, who took over as Chair of Trustees from Mr Straw in December 2023. Having served as Chair since 2015, Mr Straw will continue to support the charity and its members as a Trustee.

The evening began with a heartfelt tribute to Jack from the Blackburn and Darwen Youth Zone’s Chief Executive, Hannah Allen who acknowledged that in Blackburn, Jack Straw needs no introduction. She described working with Mr Straw as an amazing opportunity, and that the successful position of the charity is in, referencing the exciting £3.1m Fuse Box redevelopment and £3m that will enable Blackburn with Darwen Council to double the size of Darwen Youth Centre through the Youth Investment Fund, down to the “hard yards” he has put in with the team.

Before the Q &A began, Wayne Wild told the crowd of 100 patrons and supporters from the local business community that “This is a surreal moment for me…Jack has been a very instrumental figure throughout my life. I’m exceptionally proud to be able to be sat here with you, asking some questions.”

Mr Straw fielded questions on a wide range of topics, from his experiences early in his career to his opinions on current issues. While asking for advice for the next generation of politicians, one delegate thanked Mr Straw for being an inspiration, and described “seeing you stood in the middle of Blackburn on your literal soap box.” The final question came from Ram Gupta, from Nybble IT, who thanked Mr Straw for “turning hope into reality” before asking his question about AI and politics.

Blackburn and Darwen Youth Zone’s founding Chair of Trustees, Andrew Graham, gave the closing remarks, echoing the gratitude and admiration that had been shared throughout the evening. “In the journey of Blackburn and now Darwen Youth Zone, we’ve had some tremendous evenings, and I actually think this is the best one that we’ve ever had with all of our patrons – a huge thanks to you all…”

“He [Jack Straw] has been involved in the Youth Zone project from day one, even when he was serving on the Cabinet he gave the time to the project… You heard from Hannah about his forensic knowledge about the Youth Zone and passion for numbers that drove us to be one of the best Youth Zones in the Country.” 

“It’s been an absolute honour to serve with you…we’re so delighted you’re staying on the board, and with Wayne’s leadership and brilliant trustee board that we have….we ain’t finished yet.”

Rt Hon Jack Straw described his time as Chair of Trustees for the Blackburn and Darwen Youth Zone as “fantastically interesting and rewarding.” He thanked the attendees for coming, and their ongoing support for the charity, “Because without your support we couldn’t do what we are now doing.”

His parting words were to his successor Wayne Wild – “Wayne you’re already doing a fantastic job, and you’ll continue to do so. And Andrew and I will be there to support you.” 

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Notes to the Editor

Serving as Honorary President since its inception, Mr Straw became Chair of Blackburn Youth Zone on retiring from the House in 2015, having served as MP for Blackburn since 1979. Between 1997 and 2010, Mr Straw also served as Home Secretary, Foreign Secretary, Leader of the House of Commons, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice.

As a charity dedicated to young people, Blackburn & Darwen Youth Zone provides over sixty hours of services when schools are closed.  

With over 4,500 members benefiting, its provision takes place at a state-of-the-art centre in Blackburn and satellite site in Darwen and also within the community.  

Core services are open for ages five to 19, with dedicated SEND and Employability services open to young adults up to the age of 25. 

Blackburn & Darwen Youth Zone is part of the national OnSide movement – a network of state-of-the-art Youth Zones in the most disadvantaged areas of the country who collectively see 50,000 young people through their doors every year, providing access to highly-skilled youth workers who empower young people to lead positive, fulfilling lives.