Here is a short story we have recently put together, tracking just some of the inspirational ways children and young people have been involved with Big Kirk Hallam since it started in December 2012.
Being there at the start
Young people have been involved from the very start of Big Kirk Hallam and throughout its progress since. They have been a vital force, representing wider community needs and those of their peers. They have been community activists, campaigners, journalists and ambassadors for their community as well for Big Kirk Hallam.
Energising community consultation
Young people contributed to the initial scoping of community priorities, including on tough and often hidden issues about responding to drugs and alcohol and to vandalism. Dallimore students shared their views in the same week that Big Local was launched in Kirk Hallam. So did students from Ladywood. They did this through small focus groups, art work, photographs and picture books and recorded thoughts on video; they undertook, designed, distributed, collated and shared findings of a survey to 1200 students. The young people from the academy linked with and supported students from the two primary schools in sharing the things they liked and those they wanted to see improved in Kirk Hallam. In 2016, when reviewing progress, many young people took part in a survey to help build the new plan.
Making sense of the background profile
Young people from the academy took on the challenge of interpreting the long and detailed community profile and created a range of visual resources that are still around in Kirk Hallam to share with residents more easily the key findings and messages that underpinned the plan.
Taking part in the action
Young people soon moved from contributing and sharing ideas to taking in projects and getting involved in the action. By May 2013, two young people joined the first community chest panel and worked for many months with adult residents in agreeing grants to local groups from start-up moneys available before the first plan was launched. Young people and adults had longed championed the call for a skatepark in Kirk Hallam and as this pressure grew, one young person, Matt Betesta, took the initiative to galvanise opinion and share designs and watch over its construction. More recently, Sylvie Humphreys campaigned for and gained a reading shed for Ladywood primary school, an initiative now modelled also at Dallimore school.
Gaining from the activities
Some of the best ambassadors for Big Kirk Hallam have been the young, especially those from the two primary schools, in large part because they have lived the benefits of a whole range of activities, projects, trips and resources. Some, such as the skatepark and youth club, arose from much inter-generational collaboration and lobbying. And though the youth club struggled in its latter stages, the early success included regular attendance of about 70 young people. The passport, campout and Fishy Friday school meals are just some of the myriad of activities supported through Big Kirk Hallam.
Sharing the story
Young people from the Academy have had significant involvement in sharing the news of Big Local in Kirk Hallam and further afield right from the start. A dedicated group became part of the communications hub, contributing stories to newsletters and the website and sharing through social media. Young people also took part in national Big Local events, taking the one in Nottingham by storm and contributing to one in Birmingham on young people’s involvement in Big Local. They featured in national Big Local newsletters and case studies. More recently, in October 2017, Big Kirk Hallam was represented by two young people at the Big Local national event held in Allenton, Derby. Sylvie Humphreys and Matt Betesta spoke of their involvement in Big Kirk Hallam and Sylvie took part in the reporting and creating of a newsletter for all participants on the day itself.
Helping run things
From the earliest days, young residents of Big Kirk Hallam have not only helped build the community conversation and taken part in a wide range of activities and projects. Some have also wanted to get involved in running Big Kirk Hallam itself. In recognition of this, Big Kirk Hallam’s partnership constitution of May 2014 ensured two reserved places for those 12 – 17. Matt Betesta has been on the partnership since 2016 and Sylvie Humphreys joined in early 2017, once she was 12 years old. They are full partnership members, with equal responsibilities and voting rights. Matt Betesta has been Co-vice-chair since 2017. Looking ahead, the partnership and the three local schools are working together to scope a model for a young people’s forum to share their views on what should be happening and how things should be run.