Young people in King’s Lynn take over empty shop - and turn it into a drop-in arts centre

Elsewhere, young people have been looting shops. In King's Lynn, they've turned one into a drop-in arts and music centre, as teenagers set their own agenda.

Harrison Stanford can still remember the first time he got his hands on a guitar. He went to a beginner's session at a music store with his mates - and they ended up forming a band.

Soon he'll be upstairs at a former shop on Norfolk Street, offering youngsters the chance to strum their first chords.

'We're going to be running entry level music sessions on different instruments,' said Mr Stanford, 16, who plays bass and sings for King's Lynn-based band Jimmy Rockit.

'They ran something like this at East Coast Music five years ago. Me and some mates decided to go along and it went from there, we formed a band.'

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Peter Catlin is a creative apprentice at King's Lynn Arts Centre, which is running both the music sessions and activities downstairs in the former town centre clothes shop.

'The idea's to get kids who don't normally have the chance to play an instrument to have a go,' he said.

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Guitars, keyboards and sound equipment have been funded by a grant from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

When officials from the fledgling King's Lynn Arts Centre Trust went to a meeting in London to find out more about the programme a few weeks back, talk was how cuts in youth services across the country had impacted on young people.

Karen Creed, who now helps out at the trust, was one of the youth workers made redundant by Norfolk County Council back in May. Youngsters on her old patch in South Lynn say they have already noticed a difference, as the cuts begin to bite.

'When the youth service was around there was more for us to do,' said Cheyanne Hutches, 14 - one of a group of teenagers who will be running workshops at the outreach project in everything from T-shirt printing and nail art, to street dance.

Another teenager added: 'You see kids smoking on the streets and doing drugs and stuff now.'

The Arts Centre and other local organisations are doing their best to pick up the pieces. Ms Creed has been helping to train the group of young women to pass on their skills and enthusiasm.

Carla Roper, 15, said: 'It keeps children out of trouble, it helps them learn new skills and it can help with confidence.'

As they perfected their screen printing techniques, some feared last week's riots in London and elsewhere would impact on young people everywhere.

'It's giving the rest of us a bad name,' shrugged Stephanie Adriano, 17. 'If we're sitting round the park we're not there to trash it - we're there to chill.'

There were nods and the odd 'yeah, right' as Sasha Malkan, 15, provided a philosophical post-script.

'You can judge a book by its cover,' she said. 'But there's always a story behind it when it comes to young people.'

King's Lynn Arts Centre Trust will be running the outreach centre in the former Labels shop at the corner of Norfolk Street and Broad Street from Wednesday, August 17, to Sunday, September 11.

Music sessions cost �1 and must be booked in advance by calling the Arts Centre on 01553 779095.

Activities run from 10am - 3pm from Wednesday, August 17 to Saturday, August 20; and from Wednesday, August 31 to Saturday, September 3.

Follow the links (top right) for more on King's Lynn Arts Centre.

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