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10 October 2013

10 October 2013

Yesterday I was lucky enough to be at City Hall as one of the judges of ‘City Pitch’ – a great new initiative bringing together groups of young people from around London to pitch their own ideas for small but vital funds for local community projects to a panel drawn from politics, business and the voluntary sector. As you’d expect, the ideas the young people came up with were varied, exciting and thought provoking…

A team of four young people from Dost in Newham – a project for young migrants and refugees aged 11 to 25 – wanted £700 to help them build a relationship with their local care home and run a multi-media project to record and share the stories of older people who were born in Newham and young migrants new to the borough. Teenagers from St Mary’s Youth Club in Islington wanted support to run an arts event that showcases young people’s talents in the area. And those from Hackney Quest hoped to put on a six-week programme of workshops in music and dance in the run-up to their 25th Anniversary, marked by a celebration event to showcase their learning and bring together people from across the generations, aiming to battle the negative stereotypes attached to the borough.

London Youth has been working with these groups for months to prepare them, helping them build as a team, understand their strengths and weaknesses and come up with an idea that will make a difference to their community. For most of these young people it was the first time they’d pitched like this in public.  The rest of the panel, which included Deputy Mayor Victoria Borwick, Keith Moor of the Santander Foundation and Iqbal Wahhab and Rebecca Roper from the Mayor’s Fund for London, were as impressed as I was, and we granted each of the groups  a donation to fund their idea, generously provided by the Santander Foundation.

After the presentations, as the young people and I enjoyed the amazing view from City Hall, we talked about how wonderful London looked as it continued to soar forward into the future: the new office blocks, the cranes in the distance, the busy roads, Tower Bridge opening to let the boats up and down the river, the financial hum of the City in the distance.

I wondered whether the young people standing with me would have the opportunity to be part of that thriving future. Did their future lie in a great career with a decent salary, evenings at the theatre or an art gallery inspired by what the city has to offer, long walks and runs and football games in London parks, the chance to explore every corner of London like it is their playground? Or will they progress into insecure, low paid jobs, feeling intimidated beyond their own communities and lacking access or engagement with sport and the arts?

At London Youth, everything we do is about supporting and challenging young people to become the best they can be and feel part of the progress of this brilliant capital city. We’re working with contractors in Lambeth to make sure young people are employed in housing redevelopment; we’re making high quality sport accessible for all across the capital; and we’re connecting young people to opportunities beyond what they thought possible – such as pitching at City Hall or speaking at the House of Lords. With strong partnerships such as that which we have with the Mayor’s Fund for London and Santander Foundation, we can make such opportunities possible.

But it is everyone in London’s responsibility to ensure that young Londoners from all backgrounds are able to benefit from its wealth and creativity. Are you playing your part?

If you’re passionate about making your corner of London more accessible to young people then get in touch.

You can also find out more about our work, including Athan 31 – our programme to enable young people to design, deliver and learn from their own social action projects – on our website www.londonyouth.org.