• Mon. Jun 17th, 2024

North East Connected

Hopping Across The North East From Hub To Hub

L-R, Mark Squires, Trustee of The Lighthouse Project and The Squires Foundation, Ben Roman, Operations Director, The Lighthouse Project, Chair of St Michaels Centre Partnership Byker, the Reverend Phil Medley, Keith McClure from Bradley McClure Architects and Lighthouse Project Trustee, Stacey DavidsonL-R, Mark Squires, Trustee of The Lighthouse Project and The Squires Foundation, Ben Roman, Operations Director, The Lighthouse Project, Chair of St Michaels Centre Partnership Byker, the Reverend Phil Medley, Keith McClure from Bradley McClure Architects and Lighthouse Project Trustee, Stacey Davidson

Plans have been unveiled for St Michael’s church in the heart of Byker to be transformed into a state-of-the-art youth and community hub, for the young people and community of Byker.

Named ‘The Lighthouse Project’, the new centre is being made possible with the award of a £4.2m grant from the Department for Culture, Media & Sport’s Youth Investment Fund, and through the generosity of Lord Crewe Trust and The Squires Foundation.

The Lighthouse Project at St Michael’s is due to open in January 2025, and will provide a safe and central meeting place in the heart of Byker where young people and the community can flourish, with access to a wide variety of community activities and services for around 1,500 young people and families each year, alongside a reimagined worship space.

Unveiling the plans for the Youth and Community Hub, Ben Roman, Operations Director, The Lighthouse Project, said, “We are absolutely delighted to announce these exciting plans for the transformation of St Michael’s into a state-of-the-art youth and community hub for the people of Byker.

“The Lighthouse Project will offer a broad range of sessions and activities, along with access to vital services.

“We plan to start the redevelopment works on this stunning development before the end of this year, and expect to be commissioning the finished building and grounds in early 2025, in time for our grand opening in March 2025.”

Planning permission for the scheme to proceed was recently awarded by Newcastle City Council and the scheme has enjoyed universal support from the Byker community, delivery providers, the Diocese of Newcastle, local charities and community organisations.

The whole project has been made possible with the confirmation of a £4.2m grant from the Department for Culture, Media & Sport’s Youth Investment Fund, a national government awards scheme which is funding new youth facilities across England.

The youth and community hub will offer a broad range of activities and services centred around young people including an open access youth club for juniors and seniors; homework clubs; family health & wellbeing programmes; mentoring & detached youth work spaces; crime & drug abuse and prevention educations; alternative classroom provision; arts & performance spaces and programmes, including a music studio and rehearsal space; office, meeting & storage facilities for local community partner organisations; and a new home for Byker Scout  Group.

Stacey Davidson, a Trustee of the charity behind The Lighthouse Project, who lives in and works with the young people of Byker in a wide variety of community roles, could not contain her excitement on receiving the news.

“This is fantastic news for everyone in Byker. There are very few places for young people to go and very little for them to do – we’ve been crying out for something like this for years.

“It’s going to make such a difference to what we can do for the local community.”

Unveiling the project’s vision, Chair of St Michaels Centre Partnership Byker, the Reverend Phil Medley said, “We want The Lighthouse Project at St Michael’s to be an inclusive place for everyone, but particularly our young people.

“In searching for a new lease of life for the building, we spent a lot of time consulting in the community and what came back loud and clear was that there were no facilities for young people in Byker.

“Quite literally, there is no proper youth club here and much of the youth work takes place on the streets as a result.”

Bishop of Newcastle, the Right Reverend Helen-Ann Hartley, affirmed the diocese’s delight at seeing the beautiful Grade 2 listed building being re-purposed to benefit the community in this way.

“St Michael’s has for more than 150 years been the beacon of our Christian presence in Byker and we are overjoyed to see this major investment in the building which will reaffirm its crucial importance to the local community.

“This funding will allow The Lighthouse Project to offer life changing services, particularly for young people, and be a safe and secure place to come and meet. I am so grateful to the team who have secured this funding which will undoubtedly help transform lives.” she added.

Mark Squires, a former businessman with strong family and commercial links to Byker, and a Trustee of The Lighthouse Project and The Squires Foundation, who has played his part in getting the project off the ground, said,

“We have been consulting with the young people, wider community, and partner organisations across Byker.

“This new facility is the response and will transform what we can do to support and help young people in the area – we have a long list of partners who want to do so much more but are currently constrained by the lack of facilities.

“It’s going to be a stunning place of aspiration and fun, a place where local people can come together, support one another and learn new skills.

“We’ve had a phenomenal response from all sorts of community providers who want to take advantage of the new facilities” he added.

Leo Pearlman, Director at Fulwell 73 Productions, who recently announced a brand new production and return of TV series Byker Grove, said,

“I was delighted to hear about The Lighthouse Project and their ambitious plans for a new youth centre in Byker, a resource that the local community has been crying out for some time.

“It felt fortuitous coming at the same time as our announcement to reboot Byker Grove, which garnered so much excitement on a national scale. This was an iconic show, a calling card for the region and meant so much to so many.

“But the far more meaningful impact we would love to achieve would be through helping The Lighthouse Project team to improve the lives and prospects of the local youth of the North East. We’re right behind this project and will provide whatever support we can.”