Our Impact in 2020

The young people we work with, despite facing barriers and challenges, want to be actively involved in defining their future. Our collective role is to support and enable them in doing this. 

Young people we meet have often experienced trauma. They may have been exploited, abused or neglected. Alongside physical harm, many more are living with mental health challenges, living in poverty or experiencing structural and systemic inequity because of their ethnicity, sexuality, disability or gender identity.

All young people have huge potential, and youth workers are one of the keys for unlocking this.

By building relationships that support and empower, by ensuring young voices are heard and listened to, and by understanding and responding to very individualised needs they help create the safe, stable environments young people need to thrive.

One size does not fit all. Our work is as complex and varied as the young people we work with, but it changes lives, making a real and tangible difference to young people, and all of us, now and into their future.

We look forward to continuing our vital work together.

Our response to Covid-19

2020 was an extraordinary year. Severe and persistent stress can overload our ability to manage. Young people already struggling struggled more, and those who were just about managing struggled.

Together we adapted, and although we’ve yet to recreate the brilliance and energy of youth club nights online, we’ve got close. 

We’ve responded to need whilst adapting provision, reducing the load on young people and their families quickly.  By stepping up, always working within government guidelines, and putting young people’s needs first, we’ve acted to ensure young people keep moving forward even during these difficult times.

In 2020 our work directly engaged and supported 6427 young people

This is two thirds of what we achieved pre-pandemic and rolling lockdowns – this reduction in numbers was inevitable given the situation with lockdowns, but crucially we have been there (in person or digitally) for young people whenever they have needed us, and in a uniquely challenging year we have prioritised those young people in the greatest need. In 2020 over 60% were young people experiencing significant disadvantage.

During one of the most difficult years of their young lives, we stepped up, and moved heaven and earth to maintain regular interaction, continuing the supportive relationships young people need. 

1. Helping young people in crisis

2. Building positive relationships

3. Change through creativity

4. Supporting young people in employment, education and training

5. Working within diverse communities

6. Empowering youth voices

7. Creating safe, accessible places and spaces

8. Our income and expenditure in 2020

1. Helping young people in crisis


The Station is our central-Bristol youth hub. Ordinarily 10,000 young people a year access this safe space, attending sessions and services dedicated to those under 25.  Open until 10:00pm weekdays, and on Saturdays, when other services are closed, it’s also the place young people come when in crisis. 

When Covid-19 struck, we went to them. 

Our youth workers visited parks, car parks, shopping centres, streets.  Anywhere young people were hanging out, they’d be, often late into the evening, keeping in touch, letting young people know how and where to keep safe.

Whatever the need, our youth workers are offering interest, concern, solutions. Whether it’s calling a hostel to find a bed for the night, offering a sandwich or hot drink, advising on keeping safe, or referring to drug and alcohol support, our youth workers are there for them.

Find out more

2. Building positive relationships 

There are no quick fixes. Positive relationships sustained over time are at the heart of improving social and emotional outcomes for young people.

Online and offline, one-to-one and in small groups, we worked with 6427 diverse young people to achieve positive outcomes.

Of the 260 young people regularly attending small groups supporting specific communities, for example young carers, LGBTQ+ young people, young refugees and asylum seekersand Somali young women, the following outcomes were achieved: 


*Outcomes are given on each session, so young people may be given the same outcome at different points, for participating in activities where it was deemed they had excelled in that area. One young person may have more than one outcomes of one type recorded.

3. Change through creativity

Creativity is the golden thread that runs through all that we do.   

For some it’s expression, having a voice, coping with demons, building relationships.  It’s accessible, builds life-skills, confidence and resilience, supports team-work, prepares for life ahead.

For the talented, we create opportunities and pathways into the notoriously homogenous creative industries, developing and honing talent and skills.  We offer professional mentoring, subsidised make-spaces and rehearsal rooms, youth-led productions and performances, networking, commissions, exhibition space and promotional opportunities. 

Scarlett's Story

I’m from a working class, single parent background, and lived for two years in a young person’s homeless hostel, without access to the internet, or comforts. I was on jobseekers’ allowance, eating from a one-can food bank, sometimes using fairy liquid to wash my hair. 

One thing I learned was to fight for my future. 

After creating art in my room, I started cleaning and saved enough money to rent a shop in my local town to hold a two-week art exhibition about an eating disorder I was living with.

This crazy period in my life was the best thing that could have happened, pushing forward my journey with art, which has been my saving grace since. From creating collages, to now combining sound and poetry I have written, my creative practice has grown with me.

Last year, another crazy period in my life, having the opportunity to work as a creative producer for Creative Youth Network was incredibly grounding.  I had access to opportunities, and was supported to host A poetic journey, my online exhibition taking you on my path of self-exploration, through the themes of memory and nature.

The truth is that talent is nothing without the kinds of opportunity I’ve had with Creative Youth Network.


The truth is that talent is nothing without opportunity. I’m so fortunate to have accessed opportunities specifically for young artists from under-represented and disadvantaged background.

4. Supporting young people in employment, education and training

Too often young people are excluded from school, or struggle to find the right course, training or work.  Having found it, they may have a wobble, putting all they’ve achieved in jeopardy.

Covid-19 has exacerbated these challenges, with many young people simply dropping out, losing their job, or becoming isolated at home without digital access to keep up with school work, training or job search.

Throughout 2020 we offered support those struggling to engage in school, particularly when schools closed.  And for those in digital poverty we fundraised for computers and 4G, keeping them in touch online.

We offered ongoing careers education, information, advice and guidance to young people, giving support to make the right choices and to stick with them. For those struggling to move forward we offered bespoke one-to-one and small group work, and holistic careers courses, getting young lives back on track.



Stuart’s story

I’ve found it really hard to stay in college. I do well academically, but really struggle with my mental and physical health. At the end of 2019 I was excluded because I didn’t go regularly.

I find using public transport really hard, so that was one reason, but mostly I find it easier to get on with adults than other people my age.

I spend quite a lot of time alone, but I do like doing stuff with my dad. I felt trapped a bit at home, though, with not much to get up for without college, and then the lockdown on top.

My youth worker supported me through email and telephone because of the pandemic. I needed their help in applying to do a course at College that I really wanted to do, but I also asked for their help to be more open about my emotional difficulties, particularly explaining this to my parents.    

My youth worker was able to support me in doing this, particularly in having the conversation with my parents that would have been difficult on my own. 

Being more open about my mental health is just the beginning.  I got into College, and with my youth worker’s support, feel able to focus on helping me to stay this time.


5. Working within diverse communities

Growing up is hard enough.  If you don’t conform to narrow social norms, or are experiencing systemic and structural inequality because of your race, your sexuality, your gender identity, your disability or because you’re poor, it’s a different magnitude of toughness.

Through all we do young people are finding their voice, experiencing care and interest, meeting others who share their challenges, and are learning. When lockdown came, we acted quickly, giving continuity online or by phone, providing stability in uncertain and stressful times.

When we could, we re-opened. Face-to-face, accessible work is best. We make sure young people’s spaces, and the diversity of their community, is visible and part of the local, vibrant fabric that makes communities. 

Deepraj Singh and Maria Imran are our young trustees at Creative Youth Network. They reached out to young people we work with and talked about how they experience racial injustice.

Ellen's Story

The session starts at 5:30 but they are already outside the door at 5:15, around 10 young people ranging from 11 to 19.

Growing up as a gender non-conforming young person is not to be taken lightly.

Over cups of tea and painting plant pots they tell me about school, about incessant homophobic and transphobic bullying.

As we cook fajitas they talk about how they are caring for their parents and grandparents at home, about their families’ struggles with alcohol and substance use, about the violence that is normal for them. 

Sometimes they arrive and say they have come to the group because otherwise they will stay home and self-harm.

Over badge-making and banner painting they will describe how they are not allowed to use bathrooms and changing rooms they feel safe in, how they are misgendered on a daily basis, and forced to wear clothes they do not feel comfortable in.

While colouring in, one young person describes how, when she told her mother she had been sexually assaulted, she responded with “it’s because you dress like a slag”.

But at the community centre at 5:30 on a Friday evening, something beautiful happens. There are other people there who, just a little, know something of what your life is, and what your life can be,  and love you for who you are, unashamed and queer.

6. Empowering youth voices

We give a platform to young people, amplifying voices that are too often unheard or ignored.

In 2020, thanks to support from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, we hosted three young-people led events.  Following the killing of George Floyd we focused on the impact of inequalities, particularly racial inequality, on young people’s lives, and in May we explored the impact of lockdown on young people’s mental health. 

In combination with all the content we share from the voices of young people, these ‘We the 33%’ events give the third of the population that is 25 or under opportunities to engage with and influence decision makers, changing hearts and minds and, in the longer run, policy and practice.  

Lucy's Story

Lucy (12) likes art and creative writing – in lockdown, she learnt lots of new skills and improved her wellbeing through our online creative courses.  The following draws on her sharing at a We the 33% event.

I’m 12 and I’ve lived in Bristol my entire life, and I really care about young people having really good access to wellbeing services.

When I was in Year 6 I was told I was going to have to dedicate lots of my time revising for my SATs.

I remember having to do the same routine every single day and that really started to take a toll and they never asked anyone if the work was too stressful.

It truly disgusts me that our education system forces ten-year-olds to stress over these exams that aren’t truly necessary in other schools across the UK.  Some days, I would just come home and throw things at the wall because of the amount of stress I was put through at such a young age.

I can remember the day before my SATs just crying on the floor of my friend’s room with the anxiety that I’d do something wrong. I think no one should go through what I and so many other people go through, especially at such a young age.

People say nowadays ‘these years are the prime of your life’ and that’s quite ridiculous because so many kids I’ve spoken to about this have struggled with their mental health because of how our school system has treated them. I think it’s time to change.



7. Creating safe, accessible places and spaces

The Station, our central Bristol youth hub, is one of several buildings we own. These are the places where we not only deliver our work, but also host organisations like Brook sexual health, Boomsatsuma and Young Bristol. It’s a one stop shop for young people.

We also host Ujima Radio, Artspace Lifespace and Circomedia among others, supporting and contributing to Bristol's vibrant cultural and creative ecosystem.

We run the busiest youth club in the South West out of another community hub we own in South Gloucestershire. Our buildings are ordinarily buzzing with tenants and hirers, mostly charities, to whom we offer affordable rates, with all income supporting our work.

In 2020 we moved a step closer to reimagining and redeveloping Bristol’s derelict Magistrates Courts into an enterprise centre for young creatives.  Thanks to the National Lottery Heritage Fund we’re closer to ensuring talented young people from diverse backgrounds have the opportunity of exploring and developing their talent, even setting up their own creative businesses right in the heart of the creative hub of Bristol. 

8. Our income and expenditure in 2020

We are open and transparent about our costs, we know it is important to our supporters. Although we lost more than £125,000 of unrestricted income through lost rentals because of Covid restrictions and incurred significant additional costs as a result of the pandemic, a combination of proactive financial management, the generosity of funders through emergency grants, and government through relief grants, meant we ended 2020 in a relatively stable position.   

Our surpluses go towards making sure we keep our services going in good times and bad. We’re pleased to say we have been able to make sure all our services for young people have carried on throughout, but we are not out of the woods yet. 2021 will be a challenging year, but with your ongoing support we’ll continue to enable many thousands of young people to achieve their potential.

*Figures are unaudited and therefore subject to change.

Thank you. 

We are grateful to each of you who shares our vision that all young people should have support to reach their own unique potential. 

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Thank you to all of you who make our work possible.