I arrived at Newcastle YMCA after an invigorating cycle from Newcastle’s Central Station – east along the Tyne and then uphill through Byker to Walker - to find a site in the final stages of construction.
The YMCA premises on Welbeck Road are in the middle of a refurbishment part-funded by LandAid. The ground floor was a hive of activity. Walls had been demolished to create a welcoming reception area and large light classroom spaces. A new toilet block extension was being built in the yard. Carpets were being laid, final coats of paint applied, security alarms fitted.
The work would continue over the weekend, ready in time for the official opening by LandAid’s Chairman Robin Broadhurst in late September.
Thanks to the work, double the number of excluded 14-16 year olds will be able attend the YMCA’s award-winning Alternative Education Programme. The students places have already been booked, and the council and the local Pupil Referral Unit would like to place even more young people, currently on a waiting list, with the YMCA.
After my site tour, I sat down with Jeff Hurst, CEO, he described the issues for local young people, and the demand for the YMCA’s services. During the meeting he described the plans they have to refurbish another building they own, a bit further down the same road, to enable more pupil places, and also to create affordable rented accommodation.