New Youth Zone for South Bristol: Youth Moves partnership with OnSide

South Bristol Youth Zone building plans
17 March, 2021


South Bristol charity and Voscur member Youth Moves has partnered with national charity OnSide Youth Zones to create the South West’s first Youth Zone: a new building with open access youth services and activities.

When built, this new venue will be a place for youth organisations to work together in collaborations and partnerships, making sure young people in South Bristol can access facilities, activities and support seven days a week.

We spoke to Denise Clifford, Head of Youth Work Delivery at Youth Moves, about the exciting development.

“The Youth Zone will mainly have open access provision – there isn’t much of this around in South Bristol at the moment, as you usually need a referral,” she says. “It’s also about having resources and a venue that other youth organisations can use; there are loads of brilliant youth organisations in the area, but there is a lack of venues. This will become a hub, where Youth Moves is a sort of custodian of the building, but we won’t take over everything. We want to form partnerships and signpost to other services and groups.”

The OnSide Youth Zones model has already worked successfully in many other UK areas, including Blackburn, Carlisle, Manchester, Wigan and Wolverhampton. They offer leisure activities and support for people aged 8-19, or up to 25 years old for those with additional needs. Youth Moves had already visited a Youth Zone in northern England before there was a proposal from OnSide for a Bristol site.

One big difference between existing community venues and the Youth Zones is longer opening hours: until 10pm every day, including weekends. 

While OnSide is partnering with Youth Moves in the project, this does not mean Youth Moves will change its identity.

“We’ll still be a charity in our own right – we’re not disbanding, and OnSide respects that,” says Denise. “We love that people and agencies recognise the Youth Moves logo when they see it in South Bristol, even if they’ve never engaged with us before.”

How the city will benefit from the Youth Zone

  • Youth organisations offering citywide services will be encouraged to offer sessions at the Youth Zone, so that young people in South Bristol have direct local access and don’t have to travel.
  • While the focus is on supporting young people in South Bristol, Denise says “we wouldn’t turn someone away for being from another area, if they want to travel across the city for a specific activity.”
  • Local young people will be involved in the planning and design of the new Youth Zone, so they can help make it relevant to their needs and interests. They will form a Young People’s Development Group. When coronavirus restrictions lift, Youth Moves plans to take some service users to visit other OnSide Youth Zones to see how the spaces work.
  • With more than 20 activities taking place every night in the Youth Zone, youth workers and young people will get to share and develop different skills and hobbies and boost their careers. Facilities could potentially include a music studio, gym and café.
  • Working with OnSide opens up opportunities for youth workers to learn from a national charity and get experience in national youth work. OnSide will support the board transition to the Youth Zone, and a staff member from OnSide will be on the board.

The location will be one of three South Bristol sites offered by Bristol City Council. The shortlist of three sites was agreed by Bristol City Council, Youth Moves and OnSide.

Though the Youth Zone will cost £8.4 million to build, Bristol City Councillors pledged to give half of the money required, plus £400,000 towards Youth Moves’ annual running costs of £1.3 million. The remainder of the building costs will be met by OnSide through fundraising, accessible grants and trusts, and private sector donations.

There is currently a two-year timescale on the project, but it’s important to get the design right to serve the community’s needs; as Denise points out, “it’s not being rushed.”

We look forward to seeing the Youth Zone take shape, helping South Bristol’s younger residents reach their potential.

If you’re a youth worker in a voluntary, community or social enterprise (VCSE) sector organisation working with people aged 8-19, don’t forget to sign up for the last session of our free online youth worker conference, on 30 March. It will include CYP sector speakers, and the chance to share best practice and learn from your peers.