When it comes to addressing the biggest needs or issues that our youngsters have or face in Burnley, the lack or low level of aspiration for young people to achieve and prosper is very much on our radar.
A quick online search for Burnley Bondholders will direct you towards some interesting statistics. For example, did you know that Burnley’s business growth is currently higher than the national average? And did you also know that in terms of digital business growth, the figure for Burnley is even higher still about the national average?
These figures are of huge interest, because despite such positivity and progression within the town in terms of business growth, it seems that young people don’t – or can’t – make this connection, and still view Burnley as a largely negative place to live with little opportunity for it being a place to work or have a career. We need to change that view, and we believe that raising aspirations and giving young people the opportunity to see not only what they can do, but what opportunities are out there for them in our town, should be a focus of our work.
One project that addresses these issues, in partnership with our friends at Calico Homes, is the Happy and Proud project. This project started in August 2018, working with a group of Year 11 girls who were already known to Participation Works through their involvement in previous projects. We love it when our young people join up to multiple projects with us as they grow up, as it shows us that they have faith in what we can do both for and with them as they develop.
Alicia Foley, who champions the Happy and Proud project, which sees our girls focus on local inspirational women from the past, is always keen to remind us how vital it is that young people have somewhere to go and someone to talk to. In a digital age that isolates us from real relationships and real presentations of life, face to face social connections over a set project and period of time can be life changing in a world where girls in particular struggle to find positive role models, but a host of negative ones. Aspirations become skewed, and so the Happy and Proud project encourages our girls through a range of practical project design and research tasks to find their identities, find their skills, and to be proud of what they create and who they are.
In February, a six-month project of mentoring, where the Year 11 girls themselves in turn actually became mentors to Year 6 girls, will see our girls bring together all of their activities to present their very own film and exhibition of work out at Mechanics Theatre in Burnley.
The fruits of their labour, which will include their own fabric designs made under the mentorship of local fashion designer, Becca Who, will then be on display until April, before the exhibition then moves to Gawthorpe Hall near Burnley, taking prime place at a prestigious National Trust setting.
Having come to us at a turbulent time when their school closed down in their final year of studies, Happy and Proud has been an essential project about aspirations that shows it’s never too late to find something you can take pride in, be a part of, and feel truly happy about.
We’ve loved running the Happy and Proud project, but are even more excited about what the future now holds for our girls as they build on their exciting prospects!
Our exhibition will be on show to the public at the Mechanics Burnley from Thursday 28th February to Thursday 11th April it will then move to Gawthorpe Hall Textile Museum from Wednesday 17th April onwards.