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The N Factor Normandy Youth Club

The N Factor Normandy Youth Club

South East

United Kingdom

Voluntary and community services

A voluntary, rural, community-led youth club that provides culturally sensitive youth work supporting the settled and Gypsy, Irish Traveller and Showman communities.

The youth club provides an out-of-hours, non- religious, non- uniform leisure facility that encourages members from all sections of its community to socially integrate and positively raise their profile within the community.

The youth club also provides NEET mentoring support for volunteer youth supervisors and its older youth helper members. This has proven to be an on-going success with supervisors and youth volunteers gaining work experience in various administration and club activity roles that has attributed to them successfully gaining fulltime employment.

The founder/ coordinator seeks out youngsters in the various communities and where the older members of the family under the age of 18 are reluctant to go through the formal entries to education, i.e. school., they are comfortable with the idea of attending youth club that provides internet facilities and interactive computer games and the more traditional games allowing them to learn literacy skills and socially integrate within the settled community.

The outcomes are to encourage both the settled and the ‘Travellers’ to attend the rural youth leisure facility provided, that will socially integrate, engage the ethnic minorities with the rest of the community and reduce boredom-related youth crime of ASBOS and theft.

Raising a positive profile of the youth in the community, by showcasing their talents through public events including summer art competitions, photographic exhibitions and shows put on in the village hall.

Proposed outcomes have also included educating the local authorities as to the specific social exclusion experienced by the settled and the ethnic minority communities.

Which groups does it relate to / who are the beneficiaries?

  • Gypsies and travellers
  • Local communities
  • NEET
  • Young people

How would you categorise the project / what vehicle or theme does it use?

  • Building good relations / encouraging interaction
  • Challenging myths and prejudice, bullying, harassment and abuse
  • Communications: belonging / valuing diversity
  • Community leadership and vision
  • Human rights
  • Participation / engagement / empowerment / volunteering
  • Rural issues
  • Tension monitoring / community safety / conflict resolution

It was created in response to the lack of out of school hours, non-uniform and non-religious youth leisure facilities in the parish of Normandy and its surrounding hamlets.

Incidents of boredom related youth crime were taking on a more violent form, with trends towards more intrusive, aggressive crimes including incidents of drive-by-night air-rifle shootings through residents windows.

Due to the increasing ASBOS incidents, there was an increasing element of demonising youth and the young people in particular felt little encouragement to dispel that through the stark lack of facilities for their age group. There was a need to positively raise their profile and presence within the parish. Evidence proved there was a high demand for the facility, when at the launch the youth club was inundated with membership and a waiting list had to be put in place.

Raise and maintain a positive profile of all children and young people, by showcasing their talents through the creative arts. (By not distinguishing members of the various ethnic minority communities allowed all youth club members the freedom of expression without prejudice. Thereby offering the Gypsy, Irish Traveller and Showman ethnic minority communities the unique experience of blending in, not having to endure discrimination and offering them an insight in to social integration within their age group.

Providing NEET supervisors and members an alternative avenue to work experience.

Evidenced by the general consensus of the Parish Plan questionnaire compiled in January 2013 that demanded youth club facilities were warranted in this rural, semi-isolated community, was a reflection of the changing demographic of the parish.

The founder/ coordinator is Maria Angel, an ex FE/ HE teacher and also includes a small team of 3 additional volunteers who also assist in providing NEET support, the leisure activity programme and youth supervision.

The youth club is partly funded by Surrey County Council, local fundraising initiatives and donations.

A bid was put forward to the EHRC to fund the youth club chosen annual art competition theme called, ‘Walk a mile in my shoes’ and Photographic Exhibition.

Funding has been secured for a further year through to 2013-2014.


Statistically boredom-related youth crime has decreased annually since 2008. In direct comparison with the current crime figures (Data source HMIC: from December 2010 to November 2011 = 69 ASBOS in Normandy and December 2011 to November 2012 = 52 ASBOS in Normandy, the youth club has contributed towards reducing the number of incidents of ASBOS in Normandy by over 25% for the year.

We offer an on-going programme of annual initiatives that take on an Equality & Human Rights Commission (EHRC) core theme. This year it is the ‘Walk a mile in my shoes’ initiative, where we encourage our members to express creatively through art competitions and photographic exhibitions. These themes have been run since 2009 and have always been successfully patronised and exhibited at the annual August Bank holiday parish fete.

As a result, a positive profile has been maintained by the youth club, gaining a good reputation for behaviour and creative works within Normandy parish (Having received The Surrey High Sheriff Youth Award in two consecutive years in 2009 and 2010), Guildford Borough Council and Surrey County Council, who all hold information on the youth club on their website.

The majority of the Gypsy, Irish Traveller and Showman communities, although highly intelligent are illiterate and using phonic literacy programmes in the Internet corner of the youth club has assisted in improving literacy, to the point that all members from the ethnic minority communities have introduced each other to the computer section where they have taken advantage of the Phonic literacy computer programmes that they have the ability to download on to their mobile phones for their own use. Much to the members’ amazement, rapid progress has been made by certain members who in one sitting alone were able to sound all the phonic sounds, and then go straight into sounding out full words into sentences. 

Normandy ‘has been put on the map’ due to the high profile media coverage (BBC Radio Surrey, national and county newspapers, invite to 10 Downing Street, regional and national community awards) that the youth club and its founder/ coordinator has raised. Maintaining a high profile has allowed the project to secure financial backing for the long term.

Youth club supervisors have also benefitted from the project. From 2008, 6 youth club supervisors and youth helpers have taken advantage of their youth club experience and go on to progress in their careers. This has included 2 supervisors gaining teaching careers, one advancing in her teaching career and gained The Guildford Mayor’s Services to the Community Award 2010, a further NEET supervisor gaining fulltime employment, another setting up his own business and a youth volunteer completing his Bronze Duke of Edinburgh Award using his youth club experience.

The feeling of ‘good will’ and improved community relations ‘spilling out’ from the youth club project into the adult population of the ethnic minority communities as a result of youth club activities has also been evident. There has been evidence of community inclusion, particularly within the Showman community. The leader of the Showman community, Alfred ‘Alfie’ Gregorian, regularly run the fairground for Normandy Parish Summer Fete (which a member of our supervisor team assists with) for several years now and as a result of his own community service, has been nominated for The Guildford Mayor’s Services to the Community award in 2013.

We have maintained a reasonable working relationship with Normandy Village Hall and have now exercised the right for our members to not only enter the main entrance along with other hall users, but also to enjoy using the park bench situated immediately outside during the summer months.

Since the youth club opened its doors in January 2009, having taken over 6 months to set up, registered membership has risen to over 300 members with a regular attendance of 20/ 25 members per session, that are geographically spread around the various hamlets within Normandy parish including Christmas Pie, Flexford, Pinewoods, Willey Green and Wyke and those neighbouring the parish including Ash, Surrey, Ash Vale, Fairlands, Pirbright, Wanborough, Surrey, Wood Street and Worplesdon.

Along with the Parish Plan questionnaire compiled in January 2013, that demanded even more youth leisure facilities from the parish, the youth club project looks set to continue for the medium to long-term and where funding is provided, expand to include a dedicated room solely for youth club ownership.

Positive feedback has been given by member parents, through the annual grant support from Surrey County Council, High Sheriff in 2009 and 2010 and Surrey Police where the founder/ coordinator was awarded the Surrey Police local hero award for Community Cohesion in 2009.  

The project raised interest at Cabinet Office level, where the founder/ coordinator was chosen out of 4000 entries along with 9 other women to be invited to 10 Downing Street and meet the prime minister Gordon Brown in March 2010 under the Tesco Magazine Community Mum of the Year Award 2010.

Although demographically Normandy Parish has changed over the last 10 years from being a majority of older population, this has shifted to an increasing number of younger families residing in the area. However, the mental shift in terms of the leisure facilities that is on offer in the parish show a much slower transition to adapt to the change. As a result, the older population have been slower to appreciate the needs of the younger community, such examples include the lack of respect to the youth club members with other older village hall users, merely seeing them as a nuisance rather than welcoming the in. An example of this was evident where originally, youth club members were not allowed around the front of the village hall or allowed to sit on the entrance bench, as it was considered ‘off-putting’ to the other hall users. Older village hall users would also consider it acceptable to enter into youth club area without asking permission and thereby compromising CRB issues. These have since been alleviated and negotiated with building up a good relationship of trust and respect by the founder/ coordinator with the other hall users and hall management team. Should in the future the youth club have its own purpose-built youth club room attached to the main hall, then it will encourage members to feel much more engaged within the community and empowered by ‘owning’ their own part of the parish.

The founder/ coordinator of the youth club, who is also a voluntary parish councillor and chair of the planning committee, has spent the last 5 years gradually convincing and educating the rest of the parish that a youth club facility is not only warranted but should be encouraged and given regular financial support.

As a result, a youth club with reasonable facilities does exist, grant money has increasingly become available to furnish Normandy Common and Manor Fruit Farm recreational space, so that more up-to-date outdoor recreational facilities are available, such as a new playground, adult fitness area and to soon be new football ground and open-air snooker game.

Building trust with the adult traveller communities in allowing their children to join the youth club has become an easier task, now that the founder/ coordinator has built up a good reputation of trust with them. The female members of the ethnic minority communities seem much more open to persuasion than their male counterparts, who have without always obtaining the ‘permission’ of the head of the household,  allowed traveller members to join the youth club. 

The founder/ coordinator has made a regular round of visiting parks to talk to families and encouraging them to participate, that when explained can bring its own advantages of improving their literacy through play, e.g. computer & Wii games.

The founder/coordinator suffered long-term sickness that affected the management of the youth club, with sessions having to be reduced during recovery time. Volunteer support is difficult in the current economic climate, with many who may be interested in the short term, not able to provide a long-term commitment to sustain any meaningful value to the project.

To maintain this project as a long-term legacy, the founder/ coordinator is seeking to investigate and establish an alternative management support network through the local authority or charitable organisations such as the Lions Club, who can provide management administration assistance and supervisory support in tandem with the youth club team.

Maintaining a good working relationship with the police remains key. Keeping in touch with the local PCSO, inviting them talk, to introduce them to our members and encouraging them to play more of a positive role within the youth club mostly depends upon their workload and the current initiatives they have launched and is seen as an on-going objective of the youth club.

The youth club needs its own dedicated room so that it can have the equipment permanently set up making the logistical aspects of the project easier to administer.

A dedicated room would also allow its members to symbolically feel and take ownership of a part of their community. Ownership of their own room allowing members to furnish and decorate it, adding artistic expression through murals, art work and an on-going photographic exhibition, would allow members to feel more engaged in the project and give them a platform to showcase their talent, thereby improving the perception of the rest of the community.

To have such a room, would require a separate extension on the existing two room building within the present village hall, along with a permanently installed broadband facility as an improvement on the presently unreliable mobile dongle facility that serves our computer area.

Within a rural semi-isolated community (Normandy Parish has a population of nearly 3,000 and geographically sits 5 miles equidistant between Guildford and Aldershot, making it a rural, semi-isolated community, pronounced by the lack of community facilities having no community shop, pub nor a petrol station within the parish.

Communication and access to information and support between the communities is an issue, and the founder/ coordinator still finds home visits to the various sites more effective to explain the benefits of the youth club.

This culturally sensitive youth work is considered of value and fit for purpose, as it has been endorsed by the local parish, borough and county council through grant support and being advertised on their websites as a suitable youth club facility. The founder/ coordinator have also received several community awards in recognition of her efforts towards community cohesion.

The youth club is always aiming to continue to improve its performance in carrying out its aims and objectives.

By using the EHRC (Equality & Human Rights Commission) ‘Walk a mile in my shoes’ initiative as the core element that runs through the youth club’s aims and objectives, the philosophy of the youth club has been that it is in an area of ‘No-mans-land’ (historically the name Normandy was a corruption of No-mans-land) and in that area, all are equal without suffering prejudice and all are given the opportunity to express themselves creatively.

This initiative requires support from the rest of the parish, the settled and minority communities, financial support from the local authority and the willingness for all participants to remain open-minded, realistic in their expectations and patient as to outcomes. Because although the youth are more open to change, their parents are constrained within their own barriers to change and that takes much time, effort, proof and persuasion.

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