Photo gallery: Sprowston project offering safe place for teenagers opens doors to its new home

A new-look youth cafe last night opened the doors at its first permanent home, nearly three years after its members began meeting.

The Sprowston Youth Engagement Project (SYEP) offers a safe place for teenagers aged 13 to 18 to socialise, learn new skills and get advice.

The group has been in development for over a year, and carries on work begun by the Matthew Project's Voicebox service, which began operating at Sprowston recreation ground three years ago.

The product of co-operation between bodies including the Matthew Project, Norfolk Constabulary, Momentum, Sprowston Town Council and the Anglican Church, the group was formally opened in its new home at the annexe at St Cuthbert's Church last night.

The opening night included a demonstration of BMX skills from Revolutionz, a DJ workshop and a live acoustic performance from SYEP member Chantelle Alexander.

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Addressing the crowd before he cut the ribbon to open the youth cafe, SYEP chairman Rev Canon Simon Stokes thanked all those who had worked to make the 'major and momentous evening' possible.

'For those of you who are aged over 18, this will be your one and only chance to glimpse the fun that the others are having every Tuesday night,' he said.

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The weekly sessions will be guided by members, alternating between workshops on graffiti art skills or DJing, and advice on issues such as drug and alcohol abuse.

The cafe will also act as a drop-in centre with support available from professionals.

Canon Stokes said: 'It's a great feeling to finally be open, and a relief too.

'This is a place for young people who aren't engaged elsewhere to come and socialise and spend time with others.'

PCSO Kane Casburn said: 'One of the main problems for young people was that they had nowhere to go, and nothing to engage with in the area. We hope the SYEP will give them somewhere to go and enjoy with their friends.'

Graeme Stewart, deputy chief executive of the Matthew Project said the role of community volunteers was key.

'Meeting young people in their community is so important. The young people can come to enjoy themselves, but they will then see these volunteers on the street, around their neighbourhoods, and suddenly they have a link to their community.'

The project has also received funding from the Big Lottery fund and the Norfolk Community Foundation.

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