In my role as Member of Youth Parliament (MYP) for Wigan and Leigh, I take great pride in visiting youth groups and projects across the borough. Two years ago I was pleased to take part in a project called #WiganMYPOnTour, it was a project which saw me visit around ten youth groups/projects over Local Democracy week. Throughout my journey, I took to twitter to brag about the excellent work of the young people I was meeting. The project was a fantastic way to meet the people I was representing, which is why I jumped at the chance to do it again this year.
Being an Ashton girl myself, it only seemed fair that I should start my journey by visiting my local youth council. Set in the local Salvation Army, the group has been running for around two years. As I arrived, myself and Daniel (the other MYP for Wigan and Leigh) were quickly welcomed in by the two workers of the group, Deb and Lisa. They were pleased to tell me about how over the last two years they have had over 76 young people as members and the group has been a quick success. Run in an open session style, it’s easy to see why the group has done so well – indeed the 16 to 17 year old lads who had turned up to talk to me clearly enjoy the group and are happy to donate their time. In their short time of being a group, they have already run community days, worked with councillors, local park group Friends of Jubilee Park and the Salvation Army. The lads (rightly so) boasted of their work on raising awareness about Fairtrade, working on the AIM Festival, helping the local skate group get their skate park and helping at a Health Event in Haigh Hall. But it must be said that one of their most impressive projects was no other than Xtreme Fridays.
Xtreme Fridays was a project which saw this incredible set of young people run five weeks of free activities and events in Jubilee Park last summer. The group organised and facilitated everything from climbing walls, drama activities, arts and crafts, sports, archery and much more. It also saw the welcome help from local services such as Brook and the Feel Well bus. Despite only lasting five weeks, the group had every right to feel proud after reaching and working with a record breaking 800 young people and getting fantastic feedback from parents and friends of all involved.
But Xtreme Fridays is not where it all ends – oh no. Not content with the way young people are stereotyped and perceived, the group set to making a video to prove just how wrong people were. The film – The Truth Beneath The Hood – saw the group talking about the youth council and what it is all about, interviewing parents and councillors. Working with Peter from Tradition Films, they helped to write all the scripts and work on sound and editing. Once the film was made, it was clear to everyone that the group was onto a winner and it wasn’t long before commendation after commendation started to pour in.
Consequently, on Friday 15th March, the group took a four hour journey down to Pontepridd, Wales for an awards ceremony, where they were nominated in the top three for the Zoom International Young Filmmakers’ Award. Sadly the group didn’t win, but the spokesperson for the group Jake (who not so long ago did a stint as Mayor for the Day) was quick to tell me that they had ‘never had this kind of recognition before’ and while it ‘wasn’t quite the BAFTAs’ it was a great laugh. The young man behind the clever film title, Ricky, told me about how it was ‘great to see young people getting opportunities they wouldn’t normally get’. The film has had support from many authority figures and groups, backed by the Wigan Youth Cabinet and the Voice Engagement Team; the lads had a fantastic support network behind them. The film itself is definitely worth a watch and can be found on YouTube (with over 70 views already) at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F_MmW_7XaRI it’s filled with music, interviews and snapshots from the work the group has done.
But don’t just take my word for how good the film is, how about local MP Yvonne Forvague? In January, the group travelled down to London to tell the MP all about their video and their group, it seemed that she was really impressed and the link to their video is now on her blog. While they were down in London, they received a tour of the House of Commons and even took a trip to the theatre to watch We Will Rock You - which seems perfectly apt for the group, because the lads are definitely prepared to rock the foundations of media built stereotypes. I have to commend them on their spirit; they are loud and strong minded but still friendly and approachable. It’s obvious that this group have the potential to go far and visiting them has only increased my pride in the young people of Wigan and Leigh.
You can tell that the success of the youth council and their projects means a lot to their youth workers, who must be thanked for all the tireless work they put into it. It’s an inspirational group who have still got years of campaigning left in them. It was a perfect way to start #WiganMYPOnTour and by the time we left, I was armed with plenty of notes and poor Daniel was relieved to be able to take a break from non-stop tweeting. So whatever you’re doing right now, stop and go look at the film. Take a minute to appreciate the hard work that has gone into not only that but all the other events that this fantastic youth council has done and when you’ve finished that check out our twitter at @JillyDanielMYPs and follow us as we travel to different groups all over Wigan and Leigh.
So as I leave you, it seems this group have worked their charm on the ladies of politics, first Yvonne Forvague MP and now me, so seriously, what are you doing still here? Go watch the video!
By Jilly McKiernan