Q&A: Behind the scenes with National Youthbike

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Published on 24 July 2015 by Gill

National Youthbike is a small charity with the objective of maximising the potential of every young person that gets involved.

Its chairman Tony Nightingale took time to talk to BMF and explain the project that gets young people involved in building bikes, helping them to develop a variety of skills in the process.

When did Youthbike start? What was the aim?

National Youthbike started 20 years ago when a group of youth workers and I decided that too many young people weren’t engaged with traditional youth work and educational opportunities. After some research, we decided to launch the first National Youth Custom Bike Building Scheme. This was a success, but the title was a little cumbersome, so it was relaunched as National Youthbike.

What types of children get involved in the scheme?

The scheme is open to anyone under the age of 21. We’ve had young people from grammar schools, comprehensive schools, Army and Air Force cadets, crime diversion groups, scouts, schools for young people with learning difficulties, individual families and youth clubs.

Many of the entrants are young people who might be considered ‘at risk’. Is it hard working with kids?

It’s as hard as you want to make it. The key is to talk with kids, not at them. Treat them as adults with little experience of life and you will be pleasantly surprised at what they can, and will, do.

What do the kids get from it?

They get a great deal. When a group come together for the first time, they don’t know what they’re capable of. They soon find out and gain confidence when their ideas are accepted. The title is National

Youthbike, with emphasis on Youth. Their creation must be their idea, not an adult’s. They learn from success or failure.

And what do the volunteers get out of it?

Volunteers always express pride in seeing the young people develop. On the final weekend, all the teams come together for a bike show, which is open to the public. Volunteers see young people who were shy at the beginning talking to adults about their project with new confidence.

How has the initiative changed over the years?

The scheme has not changed much. However, government cuts to local authority funding have become a problem. Most youth services have been cut, so we are looking at different ways of contacting youth provision. The average age of bikers is going up. If we don’t get young people involved then we are going to lose our lobby base and those in power who do not understand biking will sideline those who love it.

What do your current activities include?

We attend as many bike shows, conferences, etc. as we can. We also make appeals to bikers who have abandoned bikes they can donate for a group to dismantle and rebuild. As part of our fundraising, we organise a Blues and Bikes weekend in North Lincolnshire. This will take place in April next year and we have booked ZZTops, The Bonnie Mac Blues band, The Dave Thomas Blues Band and many more. The website for the event is: www.bluesandbikesweekend.co.uk

What is the best part about being involved?

The satisfaction at being involved with an educational project that also benefits the world of motorcycling.

And what’s next?

This depends on the number of volunteers and how successful our publicity initiatives are. We are looking for volunteers who are part of the schools service to help us with our publicity. When you see our stand at a show, please do come and talk to us. We only bite if invited to!

Tony can be contacted on 01507 527835 or at tony.nightingale@yahoo.co.uk