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In a special article Colin Wilson looks at the past, the present and the future of Hethersett Jubilee Youth Club


Hethersett Jubilee Youth Club hall is in the Post Code area of NR9 3JJ. It is situated in a piece of land rented from the education department which was part of the Hethersett High School grounds. 

The Jubilee Youth Club first started at the Hethersett Middle School in the 1970s when Hethersett was expanding rapidly as a housing area for people working in Norwich some six miles down the road. Numbers attending were high, between one and two hundred, and it soon became a priority to build a hall specifically for use by young people. Grants were applied for and fund raising commenced. This resulted in the Jubilee Youth Club hall being built in the early eighties on its present site. I believe it is still the only provision built in the county specifically for young people, by its own community.

I joined the committee when the hall was nearly complete but prior to opening in 1984. There was little money left so everything was done on a shoestring. The hall was then at the back of the village and down an unlit country lane with no footpath. It was poorly heated but we managed to run a mixed club and had income from hall lettings. The club then split into Junior and Senior clubs. Of the two, the Junior club was the more successful and has always been easier to
manage. As with schools, the older the children get, the less parental voluntary support there is.

Over the years, the club has been on a bit of a roller coaster, with numbers on the committee varying from only one, to 16 or more at its peak. We currently have eight committee members. After opening we struggled but by the nineties we were on a high, organising street carnivals and processions in Hethersett, outdoor Christmas carol evenings in the village centre, BBQs in the forest, raft races on the river and so on. Clubs were running two or three evenings a week with membership in the hundreds and good attendances on club nights.

BBQs and raft races were essentially youth club events but supported by the community with added manpower and resources when required. It was during this period that the hall heating and kitchen were upgraded. Although not directly related to the youth club it was during the late nineties that the Hethersett Youth Parish Council was formed resulting in the provision of a skateboard park across the road. The Hethersett Youth Parish Council is probably unique to Hethersett and is run on similar lines to a Parish Council and is a reflection on how much time and effort Hethersett puts into its young people.

Carnival and carol evenings involved the whole community but were organised by the youth club to raise the profile of youth in Hethersett.

Memories of the youth club's involvement in village carnivals (click on photos for larger images)

A direct offshoot of the youth club is the Slides of Old Hethersett shows we do. This is very popular with older residents and newcomers alike. It all started as a simple club quiz, and then a fundraising activity alternatively for youth club and church funds. We organise a narrated show in our hall, using slides taken directly from old photos and postcards of Hethersett prior to World War Two. I now have a collection of about 450 pictures going back into the 19th century. In many ways this has strengthened the links between youth club, the churches and the older generation.

An old slide of Mill Road, Hethersett

By the early 2000's we were beginning to struggle again and became more reliant on professional youth workers running the senior clubs and grant money from the Parish Council, as our ability to fund raise declined. Some good work was put in by dedicated youth workers trained and managed by Children's Services and NACRO, taking part in Thetford Forest trekking and hostelling in North Norfolk but then we lost the very successful junior club when the manager moved abroad, followed two or three years later when our senior club youth worker resigned. 

More Youth Club memories from Thetford Forest, Barbecues and raft races. Click on photos.

The youth centre was redecorated by volunteers from Canaries for the Community in July 2005. Canaries for the Community is a community initiative from Norwich City Football Club, supported by Norwich Union. Each year community work is be undertaken involving NCFC fans helping at a non-league East Anglian football club and assisting in a local area of need. Volunteers, which included NCFC staff and fans spent two days painting the whole centre as well as weeding and tidying up the grounds.

Canaries in the Community get to work in 2005

To enable a successful and sustainable Youth Club, we need to encourage the use of the hall by other groups within the community. To attract others into our hall requires a major upgrading of the premises, perhaps changing the type of provision we have. Some upgrading is required to comply with modern regulations, some to meet changing need of the youth and the community and others just to make it a pleasant place to be.