Project Directory - Project Entry

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Project Title:Groundwork's Marks and Spencer Youth Environment Programme (Gobnascale & Irish St Estates)
Contact:Alison Boyd
Address:Groundwork NI
IT Buildings
Queens Road
Telephone:01232 459494
Fax:01232 457231


The Youth Environment Programme has been operating for 8 years in Groundwork Trusts in England and Wales. In 1995 Groundwork Northern Ireland, one of a network of 43 Groundwork Trusts throughout the UK, was successful in bringing the campaign to Northern Ireland. It chose to work with youth from Gobnascale (St Brecan's High School) and Irish Street (Clondermot High School), two neighbouring housing estates in the Waterside area of Londonderry. The Gobnascale Housing estate is predominantly Catholic, and the Irish street estate is predominantly Protestant. Both Estates have high rates of unemployment and a higher than average percentage of young people.

The Youth Environment Programme's aim in Northern Ireland is to bring Catholic and Protestant teenagers together to work on an environmental project which will raise their awareness, stimulate action and increase their social and personal skills and help improve their local living environment. This is a three year programme and is funded by Marks and Spencer and the Central Community Relations Unit.

The funding has and is currently being used to operationalise Agenda 21 at a local level through a wide variety of small-scale environmental projects which are selected, developed and implemented by the youth.

These projects have included the following:

* Construction of a wildlife garden at St Brecan's High School:
In early January 1996, youth from both Clondermot and St Brecan's met to create a wildlife garden at St Brecan's School. A local contractor was employed to construct the pond. Over a week long period Groundwork involved Conservation Volunteers Northern Ireland to deliver a series of lectures to different classes from both schools on how to plant trees and the benefits of improving the environment. The youth were then actively involved in planting the tree species under the guidance of Conservation Volunteers Project Officers. No vandalism has occurred to date.

* M&S Youth Environment Launch:
In January 1996 the three year programme was officially launched at a ceremony in St Brecan's School. An estimated 60 people turned up for the ceremony which was led by Groundwork's chairman, Frank Johnston. Special guests at the event were the Lord Mayor of Derry, the Right Honourable John Kerr and UTV presenter Julian Simmons. Business Woman of the Year, the manageress of the Derry Marks and Spencer store also spoke at the event along with the headmasters from both schools.

* Visits to Lurgan Fibre:
On the 8th March 1996 youngsters from both schools visited the above exhibition, presented by 'Self Help', Hacketstown, Co.Carlow at the Central Library, Foyle Street, Derry. The youth saw examples of how African Tribes have used their ingenuity to create household implements e.g. toys, agricultural tools, kitchen tools out of rubbish. Their creations, many of which are sold at markets, enable the tribes to be self-sufficient. The youth were inspired and were circulated information on the recycling of paper, metal and glass.

* Video Project:
Back in December 1995, the youth went on a five day training course to learn how to record and edit a video production. From January to March, Derry Media Access assisted the Youth in recording a video capturing how they see their local environment and how they would like it changed. They interviewed pupils, staff, headmasters and local community representatives. The video is to be edited by Derry Media Access and ready for the pupils to view when they return to school after the summer break. The youth plan to use the video to pinpoint areas they would like to see environmentally improved. They will attempt during the remainder of the programme to consult with the Housing Executive, Belfast City Council, DOE, and the local community to develop sketch designs proposing how these areas could be realistically improved for its residents.

* Fashion Show, Magee College, Derry:
On the 6th June the youth travelled by coach to the University of Ulster, Magee College, to see the final year art students' fashion show dress rehearsal. A section of the Fashion Show focused on recycled outfits created by the students. The youth were taken aback by the imaginative display and decided they would like to run a similar event in the Waterside area of Derry.

* Fashion Fix:
On the evening of 28th June 1996, the general public were invited to a very unique fashion show to be held in the Broomhill Hotel, Derry. More than 150 people turned up for what was a most colourful display of outfits. The event kicked off with dancing from the St Brecan's Youth Club Dancers, who modelled T-shirts which were hand painted by the youth in workshops. This was followed by 'teenage fashion', a collection of outfits donated by local stores and modelled by the youth themselves. The second part of the show was entitled 'Recycled Fashion' and consisted of outfits created and modelled by the youth. This section was inspired by their visit to Lurgan Fibre, 'The Value of Rubbish' exhibition and Magee College Fashion Show. It comprised of 16 colourful outfits made from a variety of materials including old car seat belts, fishing net, toilet rolls, crepe paper, raffia, wallpaper, cloth, withy sticks, plastic bags, plastic tubing. The climax was an ornate caged wedding dress made using masking paper, plastic tubing, and withy sticks. Each section of the show was broken by modern dancing from the St Brecan's Youth Club Dancers. The event was compered by the hilarious UTV presenter Julian Simmons. A draw was held at the event and a £100 Marks and Spencer clothes voucher presented to the lucky winner courtesy of M&S, Derry. The event was a huge success and was a great finale to the school year.

* Environmental improvements, Clondermot High School:
As stated in the last report, St Brecan's wildlife garden had been completed by youth from both Clandermot and St Brecan's. Now it was Clondermot's turn. Through the video project and a few workshops, ideas from the pupils and teachers were suggested. Eventually the main pedestrian entrance into the school was chosen as it is high profile, very dilapidated and unkempt. This part of the ground is strewn with litter and contains extremely poor plant specimens which has an adverse affect on the pupils, teachers, parents and the local community. The sketch design for the site is now completed an d implementation is planned for Autumn, when the pupils from both schools will again help with the marking out and planning of the site.

* Recycling:
Previously the youth had expressed an interest in developing recycling units in each of the schools. The youth were inspired after their trips to Lurgan Fibre, a recycling company and the 'Value of Rubbish' exhibition that they visited early last year. Bins for aluminium can recycling were placed in both schools in September 1996 and many bagfuls have already been collected by both schools. From this idea, the children have requested that they increase this scheme to include paper and glass and this is currently being investigated. Many other suggestions have also been gleaned (such as linking into the National Spring Clean Campaign with everyone in the Waterside area taking part for one of the ten days) and these are currently being worked into this years programme.

* Workshops:
The children through their youth clubs, have been making suggestions for this programme to their youth tutors in school. These relate to activities they have enjoyed the most so far e.g. 'Fashion Fix', a recycled fashion show, but they have also states that they would like to try and involve the local community more. Several feasible ideas have been suggested and these are now the basis of the work programme for the rest of the year.

* Residential/Environmental Art Workshops:
This took place at the beginning of April with 100 first formers from both schools, 8 young leaders, 6 teachers and 4 youth workers. The week's residential was held in Lough Melvin Holiday Centre, Garrison, Co.Fermanagh, giving the children an opportunity to remove themselves from the troubles in their own area, and have the opportunity to visit a new destination which they would not have had the opportunity to see otherwise. The main aim of the residential was to give these pupils the opportunity to meet each other in a relaxed, fun atmosphere while taking part in a series of outdoor pursuit activities such as canoeing, archery, cycling and surfing.

The residential also featured three workshops relating to the environment:
1) Brick Sculpture - This involved the children carving 'wet'/'pre-fired' bricks and building them into four benches and set into suitable sites around the Waterside.
2) Batik - This is a form of dying calico cloth after treating the surface with a chosen pattern of hot wax. The theme was anything relating to the environment and a lot of beautiful work was created in a relatively short space of time.
3) Photography - The children were all given disposable cameras to capture the essence of the residential and the surrounding environment of Garrison, they also took part in photo-batik sessions and self portraits.

All the children said that they thoroughly enjoyed the residential, made many new friends and had a good basic understanding of the importance of their environment.

Future Intended Activity:
* Touring Art Exhibition - Currently an exhibition of all artwork completed is being planned and is expected to start in October. It is hoped that it will tour around several sites in the Waterside before moving to Derry City and later to Belfast. The preparation will involve not just the pupils who took part in the residential, but we are also hoping that the local community will also take part, e.g. Top-of-the-hill Women's Sewing group to sew the batik work into 2 banners etc.

* Implementation of Clondermot High School's Environmental Improvements.

* 'Planning for Real'
- This would involve the local community all coming together to give ideas and to state their feelings about how they would like to improve their areas through a series of model making workshops.

Resulting Benefits:
The youth have gained a great deal of knowledge and skills during the past two years which will help prepare them for when they leave school. Throughout the activities outlined the youth had the opportunity to liaise with people form many different backgrounds giving them insight and confidence for when they do leave school. They experienced the factory operations at Lurgan Fibre, the University atmosphere at Magee College, the Derry Media Access offices, the celebrities at the local radio station, the exquisite hotel venue for the fashion show, communicated with shop owners for the loan of costumes for the fashion show. At the launch they met and spoke to the Lord Mayor of Derry, Julian Simmons, manageress of M&S Derry, etc. There has also been a great deal of educational benefits with the youth having had talks and lectures presented by the CVNI on tree planting i.e. why plant trees, how to plant trees, plant maintenance etc. The youth also had classes led by the Art & Design lecturer on clothes design, materials and manufacture. The site visits to the Lurgan Fibre exhibition were also very educational. Derry Media Access ran a week's lectures on video recording and editing. One of the main outcomes so far is that the two groups from different traditions are not only communicating with each other, but friendships have been created and the in-built barriers between the two groups are being forgotten about. These are all new experiences for the youth at St Brecan's and Clondermot thanks to the Marks And Spencer Youth Environment Programme.

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