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If You Build It They Will Come

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By Helen Morgan

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Published on Facebook 29/6/2021
Last Updated 8/3/2024

 

However first you need money and lots of helpers.
This is the story of the Monday night youth club at the Public Hall

 

Way back in February 1963 the Ratepayers were calling for a youth club to be built. They put forward a proposal to the County Authority for a building, for the 1500 youths in the village at the time, to call their own. Going on to explain that Heald Green was rapidly developing, and the need was great. The appropriate County Council subcommittee then detailed the plan. It would set aside £35,000 in the 1963/64 budget to build and maintain a mixed youth centre and appoint a full-time paid leader. Fantastic news. However, the building was to be on the Heald Green/Handforth border. Our Urban District Council suggested County Council land on the corner of Outwood Road and Wilmslow Road. The actual site would become the sticking point  .

With nowhere to go the teenagers were loitering around the village using bad language and causing nuisance. The police were informed to keep a look out  . At a
Ratepayers meeting in March 1964 the proposed youth centre, that would now cost
£40,000, was criticised for being too large and impersonal. Also, it was to cover Cheadle and Gatley and Wilmslow and Alderley Edge wards. It was suggested that more local premises were needed for the teenagers of
Heald Green, only  .

The idea was now pushed into the financial year of 1965/66 and approval had been given to start the project. The Secretary of State for Education and Science had previously announced a Youth Building Programme for the country, so we were not alone in our quest. However, the name Handforth area was assigned to the project. It was expected that such a site would have a membership of between 600/700 and that nightly attendance would be around 230. From this the council estimated cost for the building was now £44,275  .

At the
Ratepayers AGM in February 1967 the youth club was discussed. There had been a public meeting in October 1966 addressed by Mr DJ Tivey, one of Cheshire Youth’s Organisers. Leaders of all the youth movements in Heald Green, based around the churches, had also met, and given the verdict that there was a great shortage of helpers in general. The Ratepayers were pleased that the Department of Education had scheduled the Handforth Youth Centre into the 1968 programme but were still hopeful of one in Heald Green  .

By September 1967 a new youth club was being considered around
Etchells Road, but it was unlikely until 1975!! Reports of vandalism continued, and the council made it clear that it, along with other anti-social behaviour, would not be tolerated and they would prosecute any offenders   .

Years went by and the Churches continued to do a fantastic job of providing some youth clubs on their premises. By 1969 the outlook was still bleak for a permanent building for our village. Mr I.K. Lawther wrote in the contact magazine in the Winter of 1969. He stated that the Cheadle Hulme Youth Club was open 6 nights a week (The Parish) and that the NEW
youth centre in Handforth was open and there was a bus service after the club closed. But why, he asks, should the teenagers of
Heald Green have to go out to surrounding villages? There was nowhere in Heald Green for them but why? He pointed to a lack of members and helpers. The Mercury Club at St Catherine’s was now shut, a disco at the Public Hall on a Tuesday was gone and Brown Lane Methodist church youth club had closed due to vandalism. He suggested that if the youth of Heald Green wanted a building of their own they would have to ask their own parents for help. He ended with the poignant statement of “the youth of today are the citizens of tomorrow”   .

Time moved on again. By Christmas 1973 a petition had been raised in the village with 1056 signatures on it and handed in to
Cheadle and Gatley Council who referred the matter on to Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council   . By Spring 1974 the idea was being considered by SMBC   . The wheels of local government grind very slowly and it took until 1976 for one
man to step forward. He was Dave Cooper, an Area Youth Worker, and after a good deal of work behind the scenes by him, there was hope that some sort of club could be provided. It would however need adult helpers and teenagers to help. There were now cutbacks in council funding, so a purpose-built premises was no longer viable. The churches and uniformed organisations continued to do what they could    . In June of that year the Ratepayers were considering extending the public hall so that the youth could have their own base   . During canvassing of the local elections in April the provision of youth
facilities had been a major demand from local residents. It became clear that money from the council would not be forthcoming to build a club. However, the
Ratepayers negotiated with the council, the free letting of the Public Hall on a Monday night for at least 12 months. Ron Stenson, our local councillor, and Ratepayer member was the driving force behind this. They had already agreed to the services of Dave Cooper.

At last, the ball was rolling, and the premises had been made secure. Now for the even harder bit. To find people to run it and help out weekly. On 20th July 1976 a public meeting was called for helpers and a steering committee for the youth club. All went well and from that meeting agreements were made to open a youth club by late September, with an enrolment date set for September 20th. Membership was for
Heald Green and Long Lane children from 3rd year upwards to 21.
Enrolment would cost 30p and an entrance charge would be 10p weekly. The call was made for anyone to donate suitable equipment. The new committees worked hard through the summer and the Monday Youth Club opened on Monday September 27th, 1976    . From the
Ratepayers, Norman Humphreys became the Treasurer and his wife Sylvia the Secretary.
I went for a chat at their house in July 2021 and asked them for their memories.

Sylvia recalled,
“Fundraising began almost immediately and was ongoing for somewhere purpose built. I don’t know where I got the idea for the pennies. It started off outside Mercury Market all the way down and back. Coins were laid down on the pavement and people used to come and give us change and sometimes a 50p. We also did raffles and we wanted a very big hamper. Diane Copeland and I walked around the streets around here, knocking on doors and asking for a tin. We also sold
Webb Ivory cards at Christmas for the commission, the kids loved that."

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Fig. 1 Left to right Debbie Burns, Dave Wood, Suzanne Hall, Martin Ralphs, Cathy Wallis and baby Karen Humphreys. 1976/77 
© Sylvia Humphries

Click On Image To View

 

Sylvia continued,
“There was nowhere to store equipment at the
Public Hall, it was really just a room for hire, and so we used to come home with a packed car full of stuff to keep for the following week. To help me, Ron Stenson managed to free up a typewriter from the Town Hall, so that I didn’t have to write all my notes freehand. Ron did a lot of hard work for the club and would visit perhaps every 4 or 5 weeks and all the kids knew him. The range of ages attending, from 13-20, caused few problems and all activities were for them all rather than being split up.

The biggest problem was vandalism and fighting. Kids from Handforth and Wythenshawe resented our club, which was purely for
Heald Green and Long Lane children. They used to come to wreck the place. They came over the playing fields and it wasn’t nice, even our own children used to fight. We were threatened a few times by Stockport that it would be closed, as they could not continue to pay for windows to be replaced. We struggled on.”

“Just before the youth club started there was absolutely nothing to do for the youth of Heald Green. We used to loiter the streets around Outwood Road shops and Heald Green Village. Then one night a man turned up out of the blue told us his name was Dave and he was a social worker. He wanted to know all about our hobbies and interests, he was a lovely man. He took us canoeing and a few other places including his flat to meet his wife. Then he took us to a few youth clubs out of the area. This planted the seed to get our own youth club. And with the help of Dave and I'm not sure but I think a petition, we got our very own youth club. Heald Green
Youth Club. Dave must be around 70 now, I’d love to know what became of him…

- Colin Wolstenholme, 2021

“Great fun all the girls in a line doing the same dance moves."
- Debbie White, 2021

“Getting your hand stamped, wearing baggy trousers with big patch pockets on the side."
- Dawn Barratt, 2021

There was a “tremendous response” and weekly attendance was around 200. In fact, membership had to be restricted due to fire regulations. Major fundraising projects were being arranged with the aim to still build their own club. Disco dancing, table tennis, snooker and other table games were available. There had been an Halloween Disco Dance, a trip to Blackpool illuminations and football matches against other local organisations. The Christmas disco was next, and the committee thanked all those businesses who had given prizes for the raffle. The request for more helpers was the only negative from Gregory Paulson, Chairman of the Youth Club Committee    .

Sylvia remembered the fun times too.
“Diane Copeland and her husband Bill, our neighbours, did lots of work for the club. They along with us and Dave Cooper took children in two minibuses for a wet weekend in Wales near Rhyl. Another time we hired two proper narrow boats, one for the girls and one for the boys. We went from Preston Brook to Chester and back. Again, it was a good holiday, not wet this time. The only thing that kept getting wet was Norman, as the rope kept getting caught around the propellor. He had to jump in the canal with a knife and cut it off! It was the older kids that went there.

During the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, 1977, all organisations were asked to take part in the village’s activities. We had two lorries, which a friend of Ron Stenson’s had for a haulage company, parked outside my house at 6am. Diane and I made every one of the flowers for both lorries out of toilet rolls and the chairs came from the hall. The Festival Queen and her attendants came from the Youth Club. She was crowned by Tom Normanton, MP. The parents of the girls paid for the material for their dresses, and someone made them all up. It was the most fun. There were three starting points. One was on
East Avenue up towards Queensway end with a steel band on. It was a super day and took an awful lot of organising. Never be able to do it now. The lorry with the steel band on it, whilst turning into Hambleton, took a tree with it!”
Ed: There were two Rose Queens in Jubilee year - Julie Poyner was the Rose Queen from St. Catherine's and Lyn Kerigan from the Youth Club  - and they each had their own retinues.

 

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Fig. 2 Jubilee Rose Queen, 1977
© Sylvia Humphries
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Fig. 3 Jubilee Rose Queen, 1977
© Sylvia Humphries
Click On Image To View

 

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Fig. 4 Tom Normanton MP
crowns Youth Club Queen Lyn Kerigan, 1977

© Sylvia Humphries
Click On Image To View

 

Sylvia continued,
“The Youth Club also ran a Senior Citizens Christmas party that was paid for out of the club’s funds. It was like high tea and the kids prepared and served it. In those days the visitors were elderly, but it got to the stage where the helpers were older than them! The
Ratepayers then took over organising it.”

“I can’t remember our own minibus. When Dave was around, he could always borrow one from other groups and that’s how we got around.”


Things were looking up. By the Spring of 1978 Ron Stenson, asked the whole village to get behind the club and help organise and fundraise to build a club. Land had been allocated on the corner of
Outwood Road and Wilmslow Road for a building, with a recreation ground and a path running from Queensway to Outwood Road across the fields   .

After 2 years since the club opened, the members had raised £3000 towards the cost of their own place. In November 1978 there would be house to house collections so that all residents could help contribute. The recurring plea for helpers, particularly men, continued   . I am not sure what went on at the public hall disco on a Wednesday night, but the

Ratepayers were keen to advise residents that the Monday club had no connection to it!!    .

By Spring of 1979, the total for the house-to-house collection was announced as having raised £377, taking the total to £4500. Guess what…. helpers are still being asked for    . A” Mile of Pennies'' fundraiser by the members, outside the village shops in September 1979, had raised £92. Fundraising events were to continue. Ron Stenson pleaded for helpers again and also stated that the quicker the funds were raised, the quicker that would free up the public hall for other users    . An appeal was also put out for a television and a netball team trainer. Interestingly, the Club was working towards buying a minibus    .

In the Summer of 1980 Ron Stenson was still asking for more helpers and appealing to the parents to give up one Monday per month. For the youngsters to have their own building a huge fundraising initiative was coming. “This is no pipe dream but cold reality”    . Over the summer the club was awarded £500 from Stockport Lotteries for a 12-seater minibus    . In the Autumn another fundraiser “length of pennies” had raised £71.10. The Club now had the minibus and were using it to go to Cheadle Sports Centre on Wednesday and Saturday evenings for table tennis and badminton. Mr Ken Ralphs has stepped up to give his time   . By Christmas 1980, Betty Campbell oversaw the forming a Trust Fund for all money raised. The land details had been finalised. Cheadle Drill Hall on a Wednesday and Moseley School on a Saturday were being used for sporting activities    .

In Autumn 1982 land on
Wilmslow Road between Queensway and Outwood Road, that had been kept aside to build a secondary school in Heald Green, was offered by the Council for housing development. Approximately 8 and a half acres would have 110 houses built on it. Four acres would remain as open space between the footpath and the school field    . This
was where the youth club was going to be built. Now in its 7th year, in the
Winter 1982 issue of the Contact magazine, great news was advertised. The plot of land adjoining Outwood Road school had been levelled in August, as stage one of the plan for a club to be built there. However, the use of the future building would now no longer be just for the Youth Club and helpers were still needed to fundraise and help at the public hall    .

It seemed now that the plan was coming together. In Spring 1983 plans were being drawn up and estimations made for the building work. The hope was to have foundations laid in early 1984    . However, by the summer the doubt is cast yet again. There was an urgent appeal put out to all societies in the village to fundraise for the Youth Club, so that progress could be made. Money was being “wisely spent” on plans and bills of quantities. Perhaps it was becoming obvious that not only was there not enough money, but also there were not enough helpers to man a building 7 days and 7 nights every week    . The Club was lucky enough to receive a lottery panel award of £500 for architect fees    .

In July 1984 a meeting had been held at the
Public Hall for residents to meet their local policeman. During the meeting both the police and villagers were concerned over the number of youngsters roaming the streets and causing trouble. They all believed that it would be of a huge benefit to everyone if a full-time youth club could be established. They were all left in no doubt though that funding a project came with enormous problems. Also, the present Youth Club, held only once a week, was still struggling for sufficient help    . Queries were raised about the fundraising. The Ratepayers made it clear that audited
accounts were kept and available at the AGM of the club. Fundraising and help were still needed to get the club built. Parents needed to help with this to curb vandalism, so that youths had activities worthwhile to do    .

By the Summer of 1985 outline planning permission had been renewed. The
Ratepayers were now hoping for a community approach. The views of residents nearby would have to be sought and there was a great need for more support to actually run a purpose-built club. Councillor Burns asked for more time to be given to Heald Green by youth workers, as the village did not have a council run club    . Was the plan beginning to unravel? The parents of the children involved were still not helping, let alone anyone else.

In Spring 1986, Fletcher Estate residents (Viscount/
Marquis Drive area) asked for the land around them to be cleaned up and the land where the youth club would be based, to be fenced    .  Sylvia said “Norman and I can’t remember when we left. My mother’s health had deteriorated, and it was becoming hard work. Dave Cooper gave us all advice at the beginning; enjoy it while you do it and give up when you don’t as your heart won’t be in it. The numbers dwindled down and down and of course you couldn’t get the helpers."

Norman was keen to point out,
“Stockport didn’t voluntarily give the land up. It was begrudgingly given up because the central and local government couldn’t fund the building. Heald Green Youth Club was like a money pit, throwing good money after bad especially with the amount of vandalism, and the advice to the Trustees in 1987 was to cut their losses and leave. The land when it was sold did go to a good cause, Johnnie Johnson Housing. We had nothing really for the elderly.”

By Winter 1988 a planning application to build homes for the elderly or handicapped was sent to the council for approval. This was the land designated for the youth club    . In Autumn 1990 planning permission was granted    .
Deanwater Court and Deanwater Close were built.

So ended the reality for a youth club facility based in
Heald Green for the children of Heald Green. Once the Handforth club had been built from the Council budget, there was nothing left for us. A valiant effort by all concerned should be acknowledged, but it was never going to be enough. The niggling aspect of who would take charge and run such a facility was
never far from the surface. The constant appeals for help seemed to fall on deaf ears and was really the final nail in the coffin for this project.

So what happened to Monday nights at the
Public Hall? In Winter 1990 John Harrison wrote that he was testing the water to have a go at restarting a youth club. Yes you guessed it he was asking for volunteers to help!!! He stated that some years ago the club had been run by a small group of Heald Green residents who ran a successful club for several years. Unfortunately due to a lack of help it had been forced to close    . Ron Stenson, Stephen Day MP and Trustee Beryl Peate remained in charge of all the funds that had been allocated to the Youth Club. In 1999 meetings and correspondence decided on the future of the funds. They were to be handed over to the Ratepayers' committee to be used exclusively for the benefit of young people within Heald Green and Long Lane via the four churches    .

 

36

Bibliography

  1. The Editor, February 1963, Accent of Youth, Contact Magazine, 1(2),pp.25

  2. The Editor, December 1963, Heald Green Jottings, Contact Magazine,1(5)pp.19

  3. The Editor, March 1964, Another Year of Progress in Heald Green, Contact Magazine,2(1) pp.3

  4. The Editor, June 1964, Proposed County Youth Centre Handforth Area, Contact Magazine, 2(2) pp.11

  5. The Editor, March 1967, Annual Report of Committee for the year 1966, AGM 1967,pp.3

  6. The Editor, September 1967, Heald Green Jottings and vandalism, Contact Magazine, 5(3)pp.7

  7. Mr I.K.Lawther, Winter 1969, Letter, Contact Magazine,26,pp.8

  8. The Editor, Christmas 1973, The Jottings, Contact Magazine, 42,pp.5

  9. The Editor, Spring 1974, The Jottings/Heald Green Youth Club, Contact Magazine, 43,pp.5

  10. The Editor, March 1976, Heald Green Youth Club, Contact Magazine, 51,pp5

  11. The Editor, June 1976, Aim for Youth Club in Heald Green, Contact Magazine, 52,pp.6

  12. The Editor, Autumn 1976, Heald Green Youth Club, Contact Magazine, 53,pp.3

  13. Gregory Paulson, Christmas 1976, Heald Green Youth Club, Contact Magazine, 54,pp.6

  14. Ron Stenson District Councillor, Spring 1978, Jottings/Heald Green and Long Lane Youth Club/Land for the Youth Club, Contact Magazine, 59,pp.8

  15. Norman Humphreys, Autumn 1978, Heald Green Youth Club, Contact Magazine, 61,pp.8

  16.  Norman Humphreys, Christmas 1978, Heald Green Youth Club, Contact Magazine, 62,pp.9

  17. The Editor, Spring 1979, Youth Club, Contact Magazine,63,pp.11

  18. Ron Stenson District Councillor, Autumn 1979, Councillors Report/Youth Club,Contact Magazine, 65,pp.4

  19. Sylvia Humphreys, Autumn 1979, Heald Green Youth Club TV appeal, ContactMagazine, 65,pp.7

  20. Ron Stenson, Summer 1980, Councillors Report/Youth Club, Contact Magazine, 68,pp.3&4

  21. The Editor, Summer 1980, Societies/Heald Green Youth Club, ContactMagazine,68,pp.8

  22. The Editor, Autumn 1980, Heald Green Youth Club, Contact Magazine,69,pp.8

  23. The Editor, Christmas 1980, Heald Green Youth Club, Contact Magazine, 70,pp.5

  24. The Editor, Autumn 1982, Sale of Land, Contact Magazine, 77,pp.8

  25. The Editor, Winter 1982, Societies, Contact Magazine,78,pp.8

  26. The Editor, Spring 1983, Jottings, Contact Magazine, 79,pp.4

  27. The Editor, Summer 1983, Societies, Contact Magazine, 80,pp.9

  28. The Editor, Winter 1983, Jottings, Contact Magazine, 82,pp.4

  29. The Editor, Autumn 1984, Are you a special person?, Contact Magazine, 85,pp.3

  30. The Editor, Christmas 1984, Jottings, Contact Magazine, 86,p3

  31. The Editor, Summer 1985, Youth Club, Contact Magazine, 88,pp.7

  32. Ron Stenson District Councillor, Spring 1986, Councillor’s Report, Contact Magazine, 91,pp.5

  33. The Editor, Winter 1988, Councillor’s report, Jottings, Contact Magazine, 100,pp.3

  34. The Editor, Autumn 1990, Councillor’s Report, Contact Magazine, 106,pp.5

  35. John Harrison,, Winter 1990, Youth Club for Heald Green, Contact Magazine,107,pp.3

  36. Various letters between Ron Stenson and Stephen Day MP

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