A vicar, a policeman and a football coach walked into a club…

It sounds like the start of a joke but it proved to be the beginning of MTV Youth, Hampton – a local youth project set up in response to concerns raised in the local community over a lack of support for young people and rising anti-social behaviour.

Reverend David Lloyd of St Mary’s church, PCSO Marek ‘Maz’ Regan of the Hampton Safer Neighbourhood team and local youth worker (then football coach) Nick Neilan met in early 2011, united with a deep desire to make a positive difference to the lives of the young people in Hampton, particularly those living in and around the Oldfield road estate.

On Saturday 12th March 2011 we ran our first session at the Oldfield Centre, coaching football to 5 kids from the Oldfield road estate, the 10 footballs having been donated by 10 members of St Mary’s church. The football proved very popular and momentum soon gathered leading to the decision to create a youth club on the same site. A committed group of twenty volunteers (aged 16 to 70+ years old) were soon assembled from St Mary’s church & the wider community and the church provided the funds necessary to progress the youth work. Penny Dimond joined the leadership team and suddenly there was order!

On the evening of Friday 28th October 2011, MTV Youth was officially launched. 

That same day the Maharishi Foundation made enquiries for the site – mistakenly contacting MTV. The Maharishi Foundation applied to open a free school which, if successful, would have put a stop to MTV’s use of the land. St Mary’s strong desire to preserve the work of the youth club led to it carrying out its own research on whether there was a need for a primary school in the area. They discovered that there was and within a few weeks they put together an application to run their own free school on the land. Several of MTV’s volunteers worked on the application and it was great to see our young people come out and strongly voice their support for it.

Despite not advertising, the club grew rapidly as word of mouth spread amongst the youth. Soon 50-60+ kids were regularly attending each week, enjoying a wide range of activities on offer whether it be football, skateboarding, basketball, arts & crafts, cooking, wide games, treasure hunts or more specialist workshops such as drumming with dustbins, spray art, rapping and water rockets.

A grant from Hampton Fuel Allotment Charity at the turn of the year ensured we could continue the existing work until the Autumn term and launch a series of ‘extracurricular’ small group workshop courses in addition to the Friday night club such as kayaking, boxing, circuit training and water rockets.    

That summer we received the great news that St Mary’s had been successful in their application to open a free school on the site.

In September 2012 we received a further grant from HFAC which covered the club’s core running costs for another academic year. At the same time receipt of a one year grant from Civic Pride enabled us to extend our work with the older youth in the area (16 years+) through the recruitment of Marvin Johnson, a well-respected & much experienced youth worker who had lived on the Oldfield Road Estate for a number of years.

On Friday 22nd March 2013 the Friday night youth club bade farewell to the Oldfield Centre as we knew it, building work soon to commence in preparation for the opening of St Mary’s Hampton CE Primary School in September that year.

April 2013 proved to be a month of significant change for MTV Youth. Not only did we move to our temporary premises at Linden Hall, we also signed an initial 2-year management agreement with YMCA LSW to help with the continued running of the club (e.g. insurance, payroll, training, youth work resources).

Sadly, we had to say goodbye to David Lloyd in June 2013 as he took up a position as Curate at St Thomas church, Norwich. David was such an integral part of the club and its visionary but our loss has been very much St Thomas’ gain and we were thrilled to hear how well he, Anna, Georgia & Zachary settled into their new home and the amazing work which they continue to do there. 

Meanwhile our recently trialled work programme was going from strength to strength as work experience & employment opportunities were secured for several of our older youth in local businesses. 

In February 2013 MTV held its very first fundraising event – a wine tasting evening. The occasion also marked the launch of the MTV Supporters’ Club, a move necessary to help ensure the longer-term survival of the Club. 

On Friday 18th July 2014 we celebrated the end of another great year with the third MTV Youth Annual Awards. The annual awards night is always a very important night for the youth club as we celebrate the achievements of our young people and this night was particularly significant in that it marked the end of our temporary stay at Linden Hall. 

That summer MTV Youth became a Charity and as well as a new status we were now also going to have a new home, well sort of…on Friday 19th September 2014 MTV Youth returned once again to the school site where it all began three years before! This time however we also trialled a special session for those aged 13+ from 8.45-10pm in addition to the usual club from 7pm to 8.30pm.

In early 2015 we accepted the wonderful offer from parent, local businesswoman and founder of Inspired Women, Susan Green, to pay for a promotional video of MTV which would help with the club’s fundraising moving forward.  On Friday 20th March 2015, 3 hours after receiving the final edit, the film made its debut at MTV Youth’s first Community Showcase event which was attended by 94 people. Ever since then the video has played a vital role in helping raise funds for the club.

One such example was our successful application to Garfield Weston for a grant to run an employability scheme which was launched at the start of the summer term in 2015. Eleven of our teenagers were put through their paces as part of the 6-month ‘Preparation for Work Programme’ which taught them what employers are looking for, as well as fundamental skills and work experience that would give them a head start in their future employment. The programme was a big success and culminated in a Team Building/Leadership Skills training weekend away at Woodrow High House – the club’s first residential!

That term an average of 60 young people attended the Friday night club each week. Meanwhile our Young Leaders were continuing to go from strength to strength and it was wonderful to hear them give a presentation at YMCA’s AGM which was received with great applause. 

In 2016 we continued to build links in the community by partnering with other local initiatives and organisations. The youth team at Hampton Baptist church helped at MTV Youth and attended our training sessions whilst we also encouraged our Young Leaders to attend their recently opened Friday night club (for those over the age of 14 years old). We volunteered our support at Hampton Academy and for two terms ran lunchtime gym and sports hall sessions on Wednesday and Friday lunchtimes with boys from Years 8 & 9. This continued until the redevelopment of their facilities and Astroturf put a natural stop to our involvement.  We were also delighted to be approached by Richmond Borough’s Community Links Team who wanted to make sure the views of young people were heard by Richmond Council in Hampton and Hampton North’s Village Plan process. In turn we helped organise a focus group meeting which was attended by fourteen of our young people (aged 12-17) who gave their opinions on a range of questions, including suggestions for local improvements, their views on life at school and interest in wider issues such as the balance between supporting local charities and those living in far off countries.    

Meanwhile our Junior Council, made up of five club members, were continuing to do a fantastic job of representing and supporting the club. This included coming up with the idea to run two fundraising events that year – a car wash and a film night – which they then organised. Both were very successful events, and it was great to see our club members get behind the fundraising film night by coming along to watch ‘Home Alone’, eat popcorn and take part in a raffle at the end.

In the Summer term we carried out our annual survey with the club members and it was so encouraging to hear their positive feedback about MTV and the important role it had continued to play in their lives. The term closed with our Annual Awards night which also marked 5 years of running the club. Over 100 people joined us to celebrate the positive contributions made by our young people including the local MP and Deputy Mayor who both gave out awards and were taken on a tour of the club by some of our Young Leaders.

In September 2016 we welcomed eleven new Young Leaders to work alongside our four Senior Young Leaders who had continued in their role at the club. Training kicked in straight away with a weekend residential at Hindleap Warren which sought to develop their teamwork, leadership skills and team bond. The trip was also a good introduction to the club for our new Youth Support Worker Natalie Blades who made a great impression with our Young Leaders. 

That same month, our club members (13-17 years old) took part in one of the focus groups conducted by Rocket Science Ltd on behalf of Hampton Fuel Allotment Charity (HFAC) – to establish what it was like to live in the Borough of Richmond and whether the needs of the local community were being met. As expected, our members made fantastic contributions and it was good to do our bit to help HFAC’s research especially as they have been such a wonderful supporter of the club – each year since we began we have been successful in receiving a grant from HFAC to help pay towards the running of the club.

Sadly, the October half term saw the end of the youth club functioning on one site for the foreseeable future – with the school growing there was no longer any suitable indoor space for us to use. To keep the club running whilst we continued to work on securing a long-term venue for MTV Youth on the St Mary’s school site, we made the decision to run an indoor club at Hampton Baptist Church and an outdoor club at the school. 

Despite our resources being split we continued to cater for over 50 young people each Friday night – this was only possible because of our incredible volunteer team who turned out every week, giving more and more of their time and energy to keep things going. Each week there were new crafts and cooking activities for the young people to try at the indoor club whilst at the school site a core group of our young people turned up regardless of the weather.

In March 2017 we collaborated with ‘Cut Films’ who helped a team of our young people to create a short film about the dangers associated with smoking which they could show to their peers. It was fantastic to watch the group rise to the challenge and develop new skills in filming and editing. On Saturday 14th June, alongside many other groups and supporters, our young people saw their film screened at the Odeon Richmond and go on to win two awards at the Cut Films regional event – winner for ‘Overall Popular Choice’ and second place for ‘Best film’ (Judges’ Choice) in the 12-15 age category. The team were also invited to speak at the event and did a brilliant job. When nominated for a national award in early July, they also attended the screening of their film at the Curzon Soho. Putting their new learned skills to work they went on to make a promotional video for the club which was aired for the first time at the end of term annual awards and 6-year birthday celebration.

In the summer of 2017, we were delighted to secure funding from the Civic Pride Fund to develop and run a Leadership Skills Training Programme. The aim was to train and equip our young people (aged 13-15) to be fantastic leaders at the youth club and beyond.

Ten Young Leaders attended the 14-week course which began in September of that year and featured individual mentoring, goal setting and a weekend residential.  The latter took place at Hindleap Warren during the half term break and involved night orienteering, pioneering, problem solving, mining, kayaking and crate stacking. The feedback from the instructors at the centre about our young people was particularly good with the caving instructors describing our young leaders as the best group they had ever had in all the years they had been doing it! Overall, we were delighted with how the course went and thrilled when Jenny Winterburn, formerly one of our original volunteers when we first started in 2011 (and who also designed our logo), agreed to make a short film to capture what the Young Leaders had learned during the course.

In January 2018 we teamed up with Anna Harris, who was now working at the Crossways Pregnancy Crisis Centre (Anna worked with MTV for 3 years in her role as Head of Youth Work at YMCA LSW) to run a Healthy Relationships Course with some of our young people. Designed by Romance Academy, the course had ten sessions looking at subjects around self-esteem, confidence, sex and relationships. We ran the sessions on Monday nights, providing a safe space for our young people to explore the issues and hear true ‘facts’. Our aim was for the young people to grow in self-esteem, confidence and emotional and relational literacy as well as to provide them with the tools to help them make positive and informed choices. Nine young people aged 13-15 years old attended the course and we were really impressed with their participation. 

Meanwhile we were also investing in our terrific team of adult volunteers. In February twelve of them benefitted from an excellent course called ‘How to Motivate and Mentor Young People’. Run by Ruth Bradbrook at ‘Developing Youth Practice’ we gained terrific insight into this topic, including lots of practical tips to develop rapport and relationships with young people, encourage change and raise aspirations. 

In June, thirteen of our volunteers also attended a very insightful Mental Health Awareness training session led by Yvonne Lentge from Richmond Borough Mind. 

We also continued to invest in our Young Leaders by discovering their individual strengths through the CliftonStrengths assessment and exploring how their own skills could complement the strengths of the other members in the team. At the same time, we set them challenges to lead sessions for the young children. The results were brilliant, and we were delighted to see the Young Leaders’ skills and confidence significantly grow as they saw through their ideas from start to finish. 

Although our teams of adult volunteers and Young Leaders were flourishing, unfortunately the limitations imposed by running the club off two sites had begun to take its toll and the average attendance fell to just over 30 young people each Friday night. Behind the scenes however negotiations were progressing with the Council for a lease of the ex-Caretaker’s bungalow next to the St Mary’s school site. We also applied to the Community Fund to pay for the internal refurbishment of the building which had sat derelict for several years. Months later we received the great news that we had been awarded the full £75,000 to carry out the refurbishment.

Having finally signed the lease in January 2019, internal refurbishment began in the February half term. On Friday 3rd May, well over two years after we had commenced formal negotiations with the Council for a lease and an option to purchase the land, we were finally in.

Attendance immediately picked up and since moving in we have seen an average of 45 young people attend the club each Friday night. We are thrilled to be back together again on one site, making the most of our new facility and the wonderful outdoor space at St Mary’s school. Quite simply it feels like we’re back home again. 

Thank you to the hundreds and hundreds of people who have all done their bit to support the club over the years. We would not be here without you. 

Please continue to support this community initiative because we believe that this is just the start of something great.