Young people challenged to bring the buzz back to our high streets

Photo 24-11-2017, 12 39 45
Cel Spellman attends the Young High Street Challenge

More than 200 young people are being challenged to come up with ideas that will help transform six local high streets in Telford and Wrekin.

The Young High Street Challenge is a bold move to breathe new life into the high streets in Wellington, Ironbridge, Newport, Oakengates, Dawley and Madeley, as part of Telford & Wrekin Council’s Pride in Our Community High Street Fund which was announced in October.

Students from Adams Grammar School, Thomas Priory School, Charlton School, Madeley Academy, Ercall Wood Technology College, Hadley Learning Community, Burton Borough School and Wrekin College are taking on the challenge.

On Friday they have been invited to Oakengates Theatre @The Place to learn more about the challenge.  They will hear about what other towns have done to rejuvenate their high streets and turn them into destination venues as well as places to shop.  The challenge will culminate in an event in mid-2018 with awards for the best ideas and for one or more of these to be brought to life in the borough’s high streets.

‘Anything is possible’ is the message the Council wants to get across, which is a message backed by guest speaker Rob Forkan.  At the age of 13, Rob was travelling around Asia with his family when the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami struck.  He, his two brothers and sister survived, but their parents tragically died.

Rob was left with a desire to create something innovative in honour of their adventurous parents and a feeling that, since going through such a catastrophic event, what was the worst that could happen?

In 2012, Rob and younger brother Paul, founded the Orphans for Orphans charity and footwear brand Gandys Flip Flops.  From humble beginnings in a small south London flat, Gandys has gone from strength to strength, attracting Royal attention and a celebrity following.  In 2014, 10 years on from the tsunami, the brothers opened their first orphanage in Sri Lanka and in 2016 their first shop was opened in Spitalfields, London.  Their mission is to continue to use the Gandys brand to help underprivileged children around the world.

Councillor Paul Watling, Telford & Wrekin Council cabinet member for Children & Adult Early Help and Support, said: “I am really looking forward to hearing Rob talk at this challenge event.  His story is an inspiration and I love the ‘what’s the worst that can happen’ approach.  The one thing I would like these young people to believe is that anything is possible.

“High streets should be the heart of our communities – places for us all to meet, shop and enjoy ourselves.  We know there are challenges and we know that every high street is different, but we need to confront these challenges and bring back the buzz.  The Young High Street Challenge is about giving our young people a voice and an open brief to do just that.”

Watch video of the launch here.

View the gallery of photos taken at the launch here.

[First published November 2017]

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