Pop Up Youth Cafe Goes Down a Treat with Youth in Devizes

What a brilliant initiative on the Green in Devizes this week, and a pleasure to see what can only be described as a “mobile youth club.” It pitched up every day this week, with kids of all ages enjoying the facilities it provides. Me, ageing, either sleeping, working or complaining about sleeping or working, managed to completely overlook its very existence, while my kids and better half were aware of it.

Why am I the last to know about everything? Because I can’t be expected to look past my phone these days, relying on the book of face for my news, in-between sleeping and working! Councillor Jonathon Hunter Facebook posted about it, I inquired, perhaps unintentionally sternly, but only as a senior moment, I couldn’t see from the photos quite what the deal was!

So, I ventured down to see for myself, and aside the drizzle, it was in full swing. A volleyball net currently unattended, collapsible football goals with a group playing between them just beyond it, and at the van, children are surfing the net, or else playing a Tony Hawks skateboarding game on a console. There’s drinks, sweets and doughnuts aplenty, and Steve Dewar stands proudly by it.

Other features of the mobile youth club include a rock-climbing wall, which couldn’t come out to play because of the rain.

I was surprised to hear it had been in operation for five years. “I’ve been running Potterne Youth Club for about ten years,” Steve explained, and moved onto why it hadn’t been advertised on Facebook and other social media. “The reality is we don’t, because Facebook isn’t the best place to communicate with teenagers. It’s detached work; what we do is pitch up and engage with the young people there, we do it throughout the whole week, and day-on-day there’s an increase.”

Steve couldn’t see the point in me mentioning his mobile youth club, adamant the best form of communication for younger people is face-to-face, and besides, it was the last day it pitched on the Green, moving onto Trowbridge next week. I beg to differ, for if only to pay tribute to this guy and the wonderful work he does. In the plight of social facilities for children and youth clubs multiplied by this post-lockdown era, what Steve does here is at last as positive spin and proof amidst the doom and gloom of public services, there’s still saints like Steve, out their engaging youth the best way he knows how.

The opposite effect of a lack of amenities for youth is unfortunately anti-social behaviour, juvenile crime and possible drinking and drug taking, as we all know. Steve mentioned how the charity aided awareness and prevention of these difficult predicaments. But all the time, parents were always viewed as runners-up, his focus was entirely on the wellbeing of the children, except when he offered me a doughnut, kindly donated by Morrisons! The youth demographic there was all-encompassing, and clearly, they all enjoyed it equally.

It’s certainly evident here, social media is not needed to make kids aware of an occasion, it works by word-of-mouth as it always has. Grown up with it fed to them, rather it’s the adults who engage more with the internet, and while kids are still out, running, jumping and playing sports and games outdoors, a large majority of generation X are glued to their devises, ironically whinging that the kids are glued to their devises! I knew this, I’m guilty too, but it was great to actually witness evidence of it happening in our own town.

Steve also noted he attends local schools to let them know about the project. The van moves across the county, planning to pitch up in Trowbridge. “We’d love to do it more,” Steve expressed, “as a concept we could run this throughout the entire summer holidays, but because I work in schools termtime as well, my wife would kill me if I spent my entire summer holiday doing this! And also, financially as a charity, we get a little bit funding, and if we had more, we would plan to do more.”

And I conclude, ultimately, what an absolutely fantastic and inspiring guy, I tip my hat to Steve Dewar, and ask science, can we clone this chap?! We need more facilities like this, operating throughout the county and school holidays, we need more Steves!


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