Fatal blow for Burnley's pioneering youth club

Prince Charles with Fran Monk during his visit at to the Fraser Street Project in Burnley

Prince Charles with Fran Monk during his visit at to the Fraser Street Project in Burnley

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A pioneering youth club that Prince Charles hailed as “incredible” has finally been forced to close down, 14 years after it was launched in the wake of the 2001 riots.

News that the Fraser Street Project has finally closed its doors comes as a bitter blow to the hundreds of young people who used the centre and the volunteers who have devoted years of their lives to making it a success, especially founder Fran Monk who has spoken of her heartbreak at having to make the final decision.

Fran Monk (right) and Amanda Chapman at the launch of the Fraser Street Project

Fran Monk (right) and Amanda Chapman at the launch of the Fraser Street Project

“This has been a very hard decision to make but sadly the Fraser Street project has come to the end of the road,” she said.

“This is not a decision I have taken lightly and, to be honest, it has made me ill.

“The sense of failure is overwhelming but we were faced with no other choice.”

Fran was hailed as a “supermum” along with her friend, Amanda Chapman, when the duo set up the centre to tackle the anti-social behaviour at the root of the trouble.

They could never have imagined what a phenomenal success the project would become, transforming an entire community, starting with 15 young people registering on the books which rose to 150 within months and at its height around 600.

Running breakfast and after school sessions and a base for young people to go to learn new skills and also enjoy trips out, the Project became a vital lifeline to youngsters from fractured families.

Operating on a shoestring budget since it began the Project relied on Government grants and donations from big charities to keep running but over the years the amount has plummeted from £150,000 a year to £27,000.

And as it costs £500 a week just to open the doors to cover heating, lighting and water costs, the project became unviable.

Mum of six Fran (50) added: “The number of volunteers has also dwindled because people have other commitments like work and families.” Amanda had to bow out of the project a couple of years ago due to family commitments, leaving Fran as the mainstay.

Fran said: “This has been my life for 14 years and I do not regret one moment of it.”

Local charities and businesses have helped the Project over the years they and it received a massive boost in 2010 when Prince Charles visited the centre to witness the benefits of the financial support it was give under his Business in the Community scheme. Fran and Amanda were heralded Women of Achievement at the Women of the Year awards.

But it was the day to day running of the Project that the dynamic duo were concerned with after securing funding from the Henry Smith social welfare charity to cover the rent of the building in Fraser Street.

The Project began by opening two nights a week to opening every day apart from Sunday. It soon developed into a hub for the community and was used by groups of young mums, disabled adults groups and was a place for local bands to rehearse in the recording studio that was set up there.

There was also a computer suite that dozens of teenagers made use of.

Fran said: “The young people who first started coming at the start of the Project are now adults and many have them have approached me to thank me for what the Project did for them.

“Many have said it kept them out of prison and one young woman said it equipped her with the skills to become a mum, something she could never have learned from her own mother as she was incapable.

“Hearing things like that does make me feel better but also regretful that we cannot continue with the Project as it is for future generations.”

Fran has sent out a big thank you to all the charities, businesses and groups who have helped the Fraser Street Project over the years including the landlord of the building who did not charge rent for six months last year and the Rotary Club of Burnley Pendleside.

Fran said: “The help and support we have received over the years has kept us going. We could not have done it without the generosity of so many people and I want them to know how many lives they have helped to change.

“The aim of the Project was to show young people things they could achieve in life and different paths they could take other than bunking off school and getting involved with drugs and alcohol.”

The Project, which achieved charitable status, has been offered alternative rooms and accommodation but none is suitable for a variety of reasons and Fran said it was impossible for the Project to move forward without funding and volunteers in place.

Fran has now asked that people support the family of Josh Dugdale, a youth volunteer at the Project, who died last year at the age of 19.

His aunt, Jane Collins, has organised a Hallowe’en fancy dress fund raising event on Saturday, October 29th, at the Inn on the Wharf in Burnley. All the proceeds will be donated to the Winston’s Wish charity that supports bereaved children and their families. The family are also planning to set up a charitable foundation in Josh’s memory to help young people and families who benefitted from the Fraser Street Project. Tickets are available by ringing Jane Collins on 07747035455.