A THRIVING Carlisle youth club will extend their exciting offering to the wider community when a major revamp of their city site is completed later this year.

Launched in 2007, The Rock Youth Project was initially based at Currock community centre before switching in 2014 to a new location, off Scalegate Road, which was previously home to a bowling club.

Since then it has continued to expand and, five years ago, a new branch of the registered charity was established a short distance away at Petteril Bank.

The project operates five nights a week — Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at Currock; and Tuesdays and Thursdays at Petteril Bank.

There are sessions for both juniors aged seven to 11 years, seniors aged up to 19, and a designated girls’ club for 10- to 18-year-olds in a fun, safe space.

“We can see up to 50 young people a night, maybe even more in the holidays,” says project manager Hannah Gill, one of eight youth workers. “Everything we offer is free of charge. The young people get absolutely loads from it. The main thing is that it keeps them safe and keeps them off the streets.

“We get some of the most hard-to-reach kids as well. A lot are not in mainstream school. They are at real risk of being exploited so by them coming with us we get a lot out of them. It’s a youth club so it’s their space and the young people can choose what they want to do when they come here.”

There are cooking lessons, life skills sessions, trips away from Carlisle and, at present, some young people are taking part in a fashion project, learning how to make, repair and design clothes. A free entry fashion show will be held at city’s Halston, Warwick Road, on 12th April.

But the latest, most exciting project of all has just begun in earnest. For several years there has been a realisation that facilities in the former bowling club wooden huts were not up to scratch.

“They were in really bad condition,” said Hannah. “They had mice in, weren’t waterproof and were leaking. They weren’t fit for purpose any more.”

So a massive fund-raising effort got under way in a bid to create new accommodation on the Scalegate Road site. And after an astonishing sum of around £175,000 was pledged, work has started to tear down the wooden huts and prepare the ground work for the installation of a new home.

“We’re getting shipping containers on site, custom-built for the young people. It’s going to be their space, in the community, where we’re based,” said Hannah. “We knew it wasn’t going to be cheap and it was going to be a challenge.”

But generous donations have flooded in. Almost £90,000 has been put forward by the Cumberland & Westmorland Provincial Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons. Carlisle-based Rachael Bell Wealth Management has also pledged a sizeable sum, and those involved with the project itself have worked hard to raise extra funds through community events and sponsored walks.

Project patron Grace Dent, a columnist, broadcaster and author who grew up in Currock just two streets away from where the club now operates, is also giving her backing to the improvement scheme.

“She’s a brilliant patron. She knows the area. She grew up here. It’s really nice for the kids to actually see someone from Currock making it quite big,” said Hannah. “When she was on I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here one of the kids said to us that he couldn’t believe someone from Currock was on TV!

“It’s nice having her on board. It raises our profile.”

While work is carried out at the Scalegate Road site over the coming weeks and months, Currock youth activities have temporarily switched to the nearby St Herbert’s church hall, Blackwell Road, and popular Hammond’s Pond will also be used in the meantime.

“We’re all so excited,” added Hannah of the new site plans. “Honestly, the amount of money raised is unreal. It’s one of those projects you just thought was never going to happen. It’s been such a long time coming, especially with Covid putting a halt to it. It’s going to be so worth it.

“Once we have that site, we’re not just going to be there for the young people. We’ll be here for the whole community. On site we’re going to have free laundry facilities, free cyber cafe sessions, coffee mornings for people in the wider community.

“It’s not just be a youth hub, it’s a youth and community hub.”

For more information about the project, visit therockyouthproject.co.uk or follow on Facebook.