Full story and video: Ronan Parke and politicians praise the Open Youth Trust in Norwich

PUBLISHED: 11:19 19 July 2012 | UPDATED: 11:51 19 July 2012

Ronan Parke at Open during the secretary of state's visit.
Photo: Bill Smith

Ronan Parke at Open during the secretary of state's visit. Photo: Bill Smith


A youth venue in Norwich was praised by politicians and Poringland pop star Ronan Parke, for its work with young people aged 12 to 25 in the city.

Open Youth Trust, on Bank Plain in Norwich, played host to special guests Tim Loughton, the Minister for Children and Families; Chloe Smith, MP for Norwich North, and Britain’s Got Talent 2011 runner-up Ronan Parke.

Open, in the former Barclays bank, offers a range of services to young people, from a dance studio, media hub and climbing wall.

Mr Loughton described the venue as “fantastic”, praising the city centre location and the positive work being done with young people.

He said: “I know young people are volunteering more than any other age group and I am really keen to promote these positives.

“Open have made use of a really great building providing services for the young people of Norwich – they’re showing it’s not just about playing ping-pong.” Pop star and youth ambassador for Open, 13-year-old Ronan Parke, was in the main hall practising for his come-back gig at Epic in Norwich on Friday.

He said the work the centre does for people his age is “brilliant”.

The 2011 Britain’s Got Talent runner-up said: “I have friends of friends who use Open and I think it really helps with the community.”

He said he was “really excited” to be back performing his new material for his fans, and performed his new single, We Are Shooting Stars, which is out on August 5.

Youth worker at Open, Dan Jerrey, 28, said: “At Open we see young people from across the county using our services – from the drop-in centre, to just having somewhere to go.

“So having the politicians here today is great for the young people because they don’t often get to meet people who are making big decisions, maybe they only see them on TV.”

During the morning, Miss Smith and Mr Loughton were given a tour of the venue by Sarah Mintey, principal of the Open Youth Trust since February 2009, as well as meeting the Trust’s partners to discuss youth voice and explore what helps to make Open a sustainable Myplace centre.

The Myplace scheme gives young people access to activities, aiming to encourage young people to engage in their communities.

Mr Loughton recently launched the national Myplace network by investing £200,000 to help connect the existing 63 centres.

Miss Smith said she is a “big supporter” of Open and she was proud to show the minister the work of the city’s trust.

She said: “We have so much to show off here in Norwich and I’m really glad we can show the minister all we have in the city.”

She added: “We all know young people want skills and to work.”

Miss Mintey said: “To have this level of support from ministers is so great for the young people who use the centre.

“And having Ronan’s support is so valuable. He’s always so generous with his time and, as a young person, we want to continue to support him too.”

Open has recently announced a change in its operating schedule, starting in September, which means 14-17-year-olds can go to live music events. Miss Mintey said the change would enable Open to secure a greater number of national touring dates from leading bands, such as Sam Kelly who will be playing two shows this weekend, Saturday, July 21.

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