Bewbush Youth Centre
Giant poppies. That’s the first thing I saw as I walked into Bewbush Youth Centre. Red flowers, swathes of crepe paper and a LOT of red paint (which many young people seemed to be “wearing” by the end of the evening).
My second impression was that it was surprisingly quiet. A few girls worked with Helen at the art table while, in the kitchen, Megan was stirring a pan of apples, ready for the crumble she was making. Several abandoned plates of beans on toast had been left on the hatch for later. Other than that, no one.
“Oh, they’re all outside playing football with Les” explained Laura (Centre Manager) when I commented on the tranquillity.
Soon enough they streamed back in, some heading for the kitchen to polish off food or bake cakes, others picking up pool cues or table tennis bats, while still others drifted into the quiet room to listen to music and chat. The background volume shifted up to “youth club” level – a companiable buzz. There was a sense of everyone having their place.
Young leader Megan confirmed this, saying how she felt immediately at ease when she first came to club (just under a year ago). “I just felt like it was the right place. It felt perfect – like something clicked.”
Megan (11) wants to be a writer but also enjoys art and music. She loves the fact that you can try so many things here. With opportunities to experience everything from sports to singing, cooking and dancing, it is a place of inspiration. Over the summer, Laura also organised day trips at subsidised prices.
Generally, people home in on their favourite activities, though they are strongly encouraged to try everything and this often leads to the growth of new interests. For Megan, it’s been music. Since coming here she’s grown to enjoy this more and is hoping to learn the piano.
Another young leader, Ashley (13) began as a regular member before becoming a volunteer and then young leader. She calls it her “freedom time” once school, homework and any other chores are ticked off. She particularly enjoys the art but mostly just loves the fact that anyone can come here, no matter what their situation. Ashley loves animals and wants to be a vet.
Youth club isn’t perfect. Sometimes things don’t go to plan. Occasionally people fall out. But here, as well as having fun and acquiring useful life skills, young people are learning how to deal with such relationship blips.
Problems are addressed and learned from. There is always a welcome, an invitation to “come back tomorrow and try again.” And, as Ashley says, “People don’t judge each other here.”
(First posted November 2017)