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Our future, our Jarrow

Inspiring the next generation of community activists in Central Jarrow

On 15 March 2023, Central Jarrow Big Local hosted an event to celebrate 10 years of achievements as a resident-led partnership.

The positive impact they’ve created in their community is clear from their final evaluation report, showcases personal stories of change and impact stats. For example, 81% of residents told the partnership they are now happy with where they live, compared to just 58% of people who took part in the partnership’s first survey in 2015.

“[Big Local Central Jarrow] have brought things back to the people”
Central Jarrow resident

Amongst their achievements, the partnership’s efforts to engage young people stands out. In particular, the work they commissioned from YMCA North Tyneside eight years ago has transformed the lives of local young people and their parents. One parent said: “Two of my sons both use the activities and both can’t wait every week to go there … they are always buzzing when they come home and can’t wait for the next session to come around.”

The Central Jarrow detached youth project

Having chosen children and young people as one of their ‘big six’ priorities, the partnership found that more than one in three children in Jarrow were living in poverty.

In response, they wanted to commission projects which supported the health and wellbeing of young people and provide them with a range of leisure and training opportunities.

That’s where YMCA North Tyneside came in, with the partnership funding a worker from their organisation to run services and activities for young people in the area. From film clubs and first aid training to tenancy support and regular days out, the Central Jarrow detached youth project has been supporting young people in the area for over eight years.

One young person from the local area reflected: “I’ve taken part in almost every activity offered to me. Before I joined, if I was introduced to a family friend or somebody else in my class I wouldn’t talk or look at them. But after attending the YMCA’s youth project for years, my confidence and self-image have both greatly improved, shaping me into the young person I am today.”

The Jarrow WWI underpass mural 

In 2018, Community Arts Project North East approached Central Jarrow Big Local and YMCA North Tyneside to explore the possibility of an art project that would commemorate the WWI centenary.

Using feedback from residents, who had expressed a desire for improvements to be made to an underpass in the town centre, the partnership got permission from the local authority to begin work on an art installation.

As the young people started work on the mural, they met with members of the Jarrow and Hebburn History Society to hear stories about how WWI impacted the people of Jarrow. Over the six-week summer holiday, they worked on the mural alongside an artist from the YMCA, before unveiling the underpass to the public.

More than a year after the painting was completed, a reduced amount of graffiti has been seen on the underpass walls.

“The response to the finished work was described as ‘phenomenal’. The depiction and interpretation of the impact on Jarrow by the young people was very emotive.”

Central Jarrow partnership member

In March 2023, the youth group took their paints to Central Jarrow’s other underpass and transformed its walls with rainbow-coloured murals of the words ‘respect’ and ‘diversity’, reflecting the young people’s passion for championing LGBTQ+ awareness.

Securing funding for Jarrow cemetery

Another stand-out project delivered by the young people from the detached youth project was a local cemetery clean-up.

The idea came from three young people involved in the YMCA sessions. They felt sad when they walked through the cemetery and saw so many graves had been neglected, and wanted to bring love and care back to the space.

After chatting to the Friends of Jarrow Cemetery, the young people applied for funding to get tools and equipment and began volunteering there every Sunday morning. They secured more funding to buy flowers and turned extra attention to some of the most overgrown and forgotten graves.

They even engaged a local historian who identified many of the graves of local people killed in the WWI Zeppelin raid, the names of whom could be found on the underpass mural the young people had created a few years before.

Welcoming young voices

Grace, 17, and Kayla, 16, were the drivers behind the cemetery clean-up project. Following a lot of involvement with the YMCA youth sessions, they then became the youngest people on Central Jarrow Big Local’s partnership board.

Young people Grace and Kayla at Central Jarrow's celebration event

Young partnership members Grace and Kayla at Central Jarrow’s celebration event


“We knew that us being there would open up a different perspective to the older people on the board,” Grace explains. “We knew that some people in Jarrow had a poor opinion of young people and we wanted to show them that we are not bad and we can help and look after our community.”

Not only have Grace and Kayla made a difference as partnership board members, but they were both recognised in the North East Youth Most Inspirational Young Women award in 2020.

“The Big Local meetings give me insight into what’s happening behind closed doors,” says Kayla. “As a young person I never understood where the money for the activities at YMCA or other groups actually came from. I also get information and input about task groups to help improve our area. It’s a whole new adventure to be able to be part of such a big project which has such an impact on the entire community.”

Inspiring a future of community activism

From making sure young voices have a say in local decision-making, to reaching an estimated 75% of all local young people through the YMCA project, Central Jarrow Big Local have inspired a future generation of community activists. In the words of the partnership:

“The greatest legacy we will leave is the help, encouragement and equipment we have given people on an individual, group and community level. Residents and groups have been given a voice and have been supported to develop skills and expertise to address some of those needs and support them beyond the end of the Big Local programme. In short – we created a movement!”

Whilst Central Jarrow Big Local have spent nearly all of their Big Local funding, they’ve recently secured £260,000 from the UK Shared Prosperity Fund to continue to support local residents through its community and wellness hub. The partnership have set up a legacy organisation, Big Local Jarrow CIC, to deliver this funding and continue creating change in their community long into the future.

The partnership are also receiving fundraising support from our partners Stir to Action, who have so far helped them identify funding opportunities between the value of £10,000 and £100,000 and are co-writing bids with them.

Read Big Local Central Jarrow’s final evaluation report here.

About the author
Beth Lazenby

Beth is the senior engagement officer at Local Trust