Members of a unique North Tyneside young people’s club are celebrating after winning a five-figure grant for a range of new equipment from a regional employer.
The Basement Project was set up in the basement of St Bartholomew’s Church hall on Station Road in Longbenton in 2014 with the aim of providing a safe, welcoming place to which local young people could go free of charge instead of being out on the streets or home alone.
Since then, it has developed to offer a wide range of after school activities on four evenings a week, and has forged strong links with the nearby Longbenton High School, for which it hosts structured after-school activities on each afternoon.
The Basement Project management team had been looking for ways to improve the facilities that it could offer to the 100 young people on its books, and to extend the ways in which the basement is used.
And after applying to the Banks Group’s Banks Community Fund, a £13,100 grant has been awarded has helped the Project achieve its goals.
A new suite of 12 desktop computers has been added which is networked with the High School’s IT system to allow users to access information they need to do their homework, while dining chairs, extendable tables, computer chairs, a dishwasher, outdoor bike stands and a smart TV have also been purchased.
As well as enhancing what they can offer to their regular users, the Basement Project team is hoping the improved facilities will encourage local businesses and other organisations to hire out the venue at other times during the week to increase the amount of funds coming into its coffers, and it is also hoping to set up a weekly Community Day on which other local people could take advantage of what’s available.
The Basement is located in an area of high deprivation, but is open to young people from all backgrounds and aims to help break down social barriers between groups that might not otherwise interact.
Activities range from financial education sessions and Kids Can Cook nights, where the members take it in turn to cook meals for everyone attending, through to sports, nail art and computer coding projects.
The Basement Project has also recently started working with The Prince’s Trust on its Achieve programme, a personal development course for 13 to 19-year-olds who are at risk of underachievement or exclusion which offers a practical approach to learning to help them fulfil their potential.
The Vicar of St Bartholomew’s, Reverend Martin Lee, recognised that the church hall basement could provide the solution to a lack of local facilities for our young people, and we’ve been working hard ever since then to create a place where they will be safe, can get something nutrious to eat and can do their homework or other activities.
Reverend Lee says: “The Basement has a vibrant energetic atmosphere. We know from the feedback we have received that dozens of young people get a huge amount out of attending the Basement Project – on a number of levels. Having built so much momentum in such a short time, we were keen to keep things going by making our facilities even better.
“The new computers, offer the latest up-to-date software and has made the breadth of work that the young people can do on them is amazing.
“We insist on everyone sitting down together to eat during our sessions to help build relationships across the different groups that visit us, and having our new tables and chairs is making that much easier.
“The equipment we’ve brought in would simply have been out of our reach without the Banks Group’s help. We hope it will help us make an even bigger difference to the lives of dozens of local young people.”
Chris Kelsey, communications manager at the Banks Group, adds: “The Basement Project is an inspirational initiative which has a position in the local community that no other organisation can fill. It has ambitions to help all the young people that use it to be the best they can be, and we hope the funding we’ve provided will enable the team to further extend their reach around the area. More power to Father Martin, and all at the Basement Project’s elbow!”
The Banks Community Fund provides grants for community groups and voluntary organisations in the vicinity of Banks Group projects.
Anyone interested in applying for funding should contact James Eaglesham at the Banks Community Fund on 0191 378 6342 to check if their group or project is eligible.