Girls create space where pop megastars show face

Megan Bailey, Shannon Bell, Tiffany Becher and Sammy Dodds with the new mural at the ATAC in Widdrington.
Megan Bailey, Shannon Bell, Tiffany Becher and Sammy Dodds with the new mural at the ATAC in Widdrington.

THERE’S a new crowd at a village youth centre these days — with Kylie, Rihanna and even Lady Gaga showing face.

For young women at the Area Training and Activity Centre (ATAC) in Widdrington Station have brushed up on their icons to create a stunning mural for a new girls’ room.

About 10 members of the youth club took part in the project, working with community artist Elaine Porter over eight weeks to design the feature.

The teenagers talked about what they would like to paint on the wall and came up with the theme of famous women who they look up to.

They then set to work creating the piece, which shows singers Jesse J, Kylie Minogue, Rihanna, Lady Gaga and Katy Perry, actress Marilyn Monroe and the Duchess of Cambridge.

Sixteen-year-old Megan Bailey, of Amble, said: “I painted Katy Perry once we decided who was going to go on the wall. It was really good. I’m not really artistic, but I still enjoyed it.”

Shannon Bell, 15, of Widdrington, was responsible for painting Rihanna. She said: “I’ve been coming to ATAC for years and it’s great that the girls now have their own space.”

Tiffany Becher, also 15, agreed. “There wasn’t really anywhere you could go if you were getting sick of the boys on the decks before and we just wanted somewhere for the girls to sit. It’s good to have this room and I enjoyed working on the mural. I would definitely do something like this again,” she said.

And 16-year-old Sammy Dodds added: “I really like the painting — everybody recognises who it’s supposed to be.”

The mural was kept top secret throughout its creation, with even committee members locked out of the room, but when the final artwork was revealed, they were all impressed.

Vice-Chairman Carolynn Lillico said: “The girls have worked really hard and they have done very well. It is excellent.”

Funding for the project was provided through Coquet Partnership of Schools Extended Services as part of the Coquet Youth Team’s work at ATAC.

Youth worker Lisa Waugh, who led the scheme, said: “The girls wanted a space of their own at the youth club because the boys tend to take over the majority of it. The boys go on the decks and take the back room up so we negotiated with the management committee and they said we could turn a side room into a space for the girls.

“We decided to paint it and came up with the idea of an art mural of famous women that the girls admire.

“It was quite a good project for their confidence and self-esteem.

“Now they have a nice space for arts and craft, to listen to music or just to sit and chat.”

Miss Waugh is responsible for a number of youth initiatives at the centre and runs its youth club every Thursday, from 6.30pm to 8.30pm.

When she began there were just nine members, aged 13 to 17, but now the membership roll is around 100.

There is also a Duke of Edinburgh project and every Tuesday during term time the facility has served as an informal learning centre for a Prince’s Trust group of eight Year 10 pupils at risk of exclusion from school.

Miss Waugh said: “All of the young people on that programme have four Level 1 qualifications now. I really don’t think if they had been in school full-time that they would have achieved that because of their behavioural issues.

“They are more settled here and they have a lot more freedom. We can allow them to do more than the school could and we treat them like young adults.

“We hope to run the project again next year and hopefully move on to Level 2.”

Plans are also in the pipeline to run a leadership programme for teenagers to encourage them to be volunteers.

ATAC committee member Brenda Fordy-Scott is delighted with the youth work that has been going on at the centre. “Young people come from all around the area, even from Newbiggin, Blyth and Alnwick, to use the youth club,” she said.

“It is great for ATAC. Most of the work has been done in partnership — we have provided the building and the youth team has led the service. It’s working very well for everybody.”

Youngsters recently enjoyed an ATAC summer barbecue and are now looking forward to a trip to Flamingo Land.