Doing It For The Kids

by Sophia Smith

Mischief can be extremely influential when you’re young and, even though young people may well have been brought up to hold decent values and respect, they can still get into trouble…

A rapid rise in anti-social behaviour occurred throughout the pandemic, not just in Colne, but in Trawden, Laneshawbridge and Foulridge too. Councillor Sarah Cockburn-Price and Margaret Foxley set out to find out how they could change this…

“There is an awful lot going on in Colne for young people, but it is apparent that the young people don’t want to join things. What precipitated the charity for me was after the first lockdown, all of a sudden, I had lots of complaints as a councillor about anti-social behaviour; bins turned over, play equipment spat on, people being rude, egging cars, trees uprooted and throwing mud. We were aware there was a lot going on,” said Sarah. “I was at a meeting and the police said, ‘Colne is the anti-social behaviour capital of Lancashire.’ I don’t want that label; we want to be known for all the great things about this town!”

Margaret Foxley is a Restorative Justice Expert, having trained following the untimely death of her daughter Jessica in 2009. Together they joined forces, visiting schools in the local area. Each school made it known that lockdowns have left children and teenagers without structure in their lives. After speaking to the schools, businesses, police and councils they realised that something needed to be done to stop this troublesome behaviour, and that’s when CYAG (Colne Youth Action Group) was born.

One of CYAG’s trustees, Jerry Stanford, founded Colne’s first youth club as a teenager in the 1950s… “The first thing we decided to do is put on a few events for the young people, acquiring vouchers for the gym. I spoke to a chap from Salford who did something similar for young people over there. His advice was to get a building, and a bus!”

Sarah knew just the perfect spot. “I found a building on Byron Road in Colne, it’s the former LCC Youth Zone building. We’ve just entered a formal lease with Lancashire County Council and documents are being exchanged so we can get the building. The building will be a drop in for the kids, and it’s a more casual place for them to visit and meet friends. We can put events on at the building, people can play table tennis, possibly cookery courses and interesting career lectures. We recently planted 15 trees at the bank outside of the building and they’ve made a huge impact. XLCR paid for the trees and the nursery that supplied them knocked 50% off the price too, so generous!” Next on the list might well be a CYAG bus, so transport for young people won’t be a problem, as CYAG puts on events around Colne, Trawden, Laneshawbridge and Foulridge.

“We got wonderful funding from all three village parish councils and Colne Council to organise events for young people. We realised teenagers tend to operate within a really small area, so if they’re from east Colne they hang out there, if they’re from Laneshawbridge, they stay there. So, we decided to take the events to the potential audiences instead,” smiled Sarah.

 “The young people of Colne are really getting their money’s worth” 

“Our first big event was in April, we worked with Burnley FC and organised football on Wednesday at King George’s playing field in Colne. We also run a Horticulture event with Open Gate, a pizza and crêpe-making workshop delivered by All Fired Up and Friday Football at Fishermore. We want to offer different things in different places and times, so there’s something for everyone.”

It costs just £3 per year to join CYAG. It’s open for ages 10 to 16 and you must live in Colne and surrounding areas and go to school there. The joining fee entitles users to turn up to any session. What an absolute bargain!

“We started our kayaking and canoeing course in August, it’s a very expensive sport and, for young people, it is a great deal. You wouldn’t get one kayaking session for £3 normally. We’ve got more people introducing their friends to CYAG, a boy called Harry from the football sessions came along to me and he said, ‘I’ve got a friend who hates football, can he do horticulture with you?’ I found it really sweet,” grinned Sarah. Looks like the young people of Colne are really getting their money’s worth. And, as mischief drops, confidence is rocketing in the younger generation. “On Saturday afternoons at LBS in Cotton Tree, there is a Martial Arts – Karate, Judo and Jujitsu session. There is also a bootcamp at the Pendle Leisure Sports Hall on a Saturday. Lots of the young people feel unsure about the activities, and suddenly, there’s a ‘we can do this’ type of feeling. One boy’s aunt from the boxing event told me her nephew is absolutely transformed, is calmer and has lost weight. A mum of one of the boot camp girls said she was very surprised to see her daughter CYAG is definitely feeling the local love. “Colne BID has offered us £10,000 a year for three years to keep us going, they’re a group who look after the businesses in Colne. That’s the reason they gave us the money, to improve the safety element in Colne, they are our biggest supporter. With Colne BID, we want to offer work experience and ideas about careers for the young people.”

This autumn, CYAG have many exciting new courses to offer young people such as war gaming, cosplay, roller skating lessons and mobile phone photography sessions. This will keep them warm inside when the temperature drops outside and it becomes chilly. “There’s so many opportunities for young people to do different things, they aren’t tied to us either. We occupy a little gap that people are missing.”

Sarah and her husband, David, who is also a town and borough councillor, attend every single activity put on throughout the week, now that’s true commitment! But where did their love for the town come from?

“I’m from the Fylde coast and, after we went to university, we began our careers in Manchester. When me and my husband had our son, we wanted him to have a free-ranged childhood, like ours. We moved to Colne so he could have space to run about freely and not suffer all the crime that Salford has.

“We need more volunteers. People with DBS checks, people with special skills like footballers. We have just hired our first professional member of staff, Karen Howarth, and we are offering a work placement to a university student. We are still really young, we started in November last year, so we’re still working out what is best and adding new ideas every week.”

Since the birth of CYAG the group has made a very positive difference to the town… “The police told us that reports of antisocial behaviour have gone down in the last few months, they think it was down to us, not all of it but we definitely made a difference. We’ll take that!”putting herself out there and making friends. It’s so lovely, young people can be who they want to be at CYAG.”